I started graduate school last week! It’s a Master’s program of Rhetoric and Writing, and it means I suddenly have less time for blogging than I did before. But it also means I’ve been reading a number of books and scholarly articles that are prompting me to think more deeply on topics related to teaching and the writing process.
That might not sound, at first glance, like something that has to do with “finding our true selves in the people God created us to be.” However, I’m struck by similarities between best practices for teaching students to improve as writers and what I know about personal growth. We don’t all follow the exact same patterns for personal growth, nor do we all grow at the same pace and in the same way. Similarly, one-size-fits-all is not a great approach to teaching writing. There are, of course, certain things we look for in “good writing” — a strong thesis, structure that supports the thesis, integration of quotes and examples, etc. But to a certain extent, whether or not something is “good writing” also depends on the individual writer. Read more →
Think about your favorite novel, movie, or TV show. It probably begins with the main characters going about their ordinary lives. Bilbo Baggins lives peacefully in his hobbit hole (The Hobbit). Elizabeth Bennet is socializing with her sisters and putting up with a mother eager to marry her off (Pride and Prejudice). Luke Skywalker is moisture farming on Tatooine (Star Wars). A pastor is sailing with his family to a colony in the South Pacific (The Swiss Family Robinson).
Then Gandalf arrives with a party of dwarves. Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield. Droids arrive carrying secret plans that must be delivered to the Rebellion. The ship crashes on an uncharted island. Something changes, acting as an inciting incident to push the main character out of their normal life and into the events of the story.
We’re currently living in a time of great change. People are talking about what the “new normal” will look like and speculating about how much things will change now that there’s Covid-19 in the world. There have been many other times of great change throughout history — pandemics, the industrial revolution, natural disasters, colonization by European powers, terrorist attacks, the falls of empires, the birth of Jesus Christ. Some are terrible, some depend on your point of view, and a very few are spectacularly good.
We have very little control over how the world changes. But we do have some control over if and how we change in response to those changes. In many ways, we get to decide whether the effects of this pandemic will be an inciting incident for personal growth, a speed bump as we continue on much the same as before, or something that derails our path.
We would not have had a story if Bilbo stayed home, Elizabeth refused to speak with Darcy a second time, Luke didn’t follow R2-D2 into the desert, or the Swiss family had been rescued after only a week on the island. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore social distancing guidelines and go running off on a grand adventure. For us today I’m talking more about an internal adventure and a commitment to positive change.
Some of the greatest journeys we can go on are those of self-discovery, and they’re often prompted by change. The biggest moments that stand-out in my mind as times that sparked personal growth were starting college, beginning a dating relationship with a man I’d been friends with for years, and then the breakup which ended that relationship. Maybe this pandemic will be another one for me, and for many other people.
Whether you’re stuck at home and have some extra time on your hands or not, the changes in the world around us can serve as a reminder to look inwards and evaluate ourselves. We might ask questions like, “What impact am I having on the people around me for good or ill?” or “How can I become a healthier individual mentally, emotionally, and physically?” or “What do I want the next part of my story to look like?”
We can’t control when quarantine restrictions lift, who gets sick, or most other things associate with this pandemic. But we can control how we respond to the changes that are happening in our lives and the world around us. Let’s commit to making sure the great changes we’re going through now spark great next chapters in the stories of our own lives.
I haven’t quite finished it yet, but even just reading the introduction and chapter on my enneatype has given me some additional clarity on a couple issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. You might want to check this book out if you’ve been curious about the Enneagram or want some ideas for personal growth. I borrowed it from a digital library, so that might be an option for those who (like me) prefer to try out a book before buying it.
Most of us know that we can change. In fact, since you’re reading a blog where I talk about personal growth and development from a Christian perspective, I dare say most of you are actively trying to change for the better. We believe we can grow. We believe we can become better versions of ourselves. We believe in change and new beginnings.
But do we believe the same thing of other people? Do you think everyone you meet is capable of the same level of change that you are? Maybe you can say “yes” to these questions as an abstract idea. But if other people are changing and growing, do you suppose that you would notice?
I’m sure most of us would like to think that we hold space for others to grow. We probably also like to think we’d recognize change when we see it, but research indicates that most of us aren’t very good at this. To quote Psychology Today, “People tend to get attached to their initial impressions of others and find it very difficult to change their opinion, even when presented with lots of evidence to the contrary.” We tend to size people up quickly and then stick with our initial impressions even if we see proof that we were wrong. Read more →
I’m afraid this won’t be a very uplifting post. I do plan to end on a hopeful note, but I’m going to be talking about things that simply aren’t easy topics. These are some things I’ve been thinking about since the quarantine started, and I think it’s important to talk about them. I wanted to put that warning here, though, since I understand if you’re trying to avoid reading anything that might drag your mood down any further considering how much negativity we’re hearing right now.
Quarantine is being blamed for all kinds of things such as, “It’s ruining my life,” “It’s causing domestic violence,” “It’s making me hate my kids,” and “It’s causing a mental health crisis” (general examples, not actual quotes from anyone I know). Now, there’s no denying that the stress of a pandemic, and the changes resulting from efforts to stop the spread, are putting increased pressures on our lives. But maybe the quarantine isn’t causing all these issues. Maybe it’s making them so much worse that we’re finally noticing them on a wider scale.
It’s All About Me
One of the most disturbing things to come out of this quarantine (for me at least) is the realization that so many people don’t care about helping others if it inconveniences them. They don’t want to stay home because they feel healthy, and they don’t care that they could possibly spread the infection and lead to more deaths. “I have rights! If people weren’t so panicked they’d never have infringed on how I do things. It’s ridiculous that I have to stay home because other people are sick.”
This is so short-sighted I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this coronavirus really has been blow out of proportion and is no more serious than the flu. Even if that were true (and the facts so far say it’s not), if you could save just one life by obeying the stay at home order why wouldn’t you want to do that? and also take reasonable precautions when you do go out to avoid becoming infected or carrying the illness to someone else? Read more →
As an introvert who works from home, I’m used to being socially distant from people for the better part of each week. For most of us, though, the coronavirus quarantine is way outside our normal way of life. Even many introverts are discovering they miss being around people more than they thought they would. Humans are social creatures, and we all need other people to a certain extent.
For me personally, I know from a week spent house-sitting that I don’t do well if I’m completely isolated for more than a couple days. Thankfully I live with family, so I’m not too terribly lonely even with the quarantine. But I know there are many people who live alone, or who are stuck in situations where the people they live with aren’t safe to be around, or who are so extroverted that just having a couple other people in the house isn’t enough to keep them from going stir-crazy.
Thankfully, your introverted friends have been preparing for just this sort of situation. We’re full of good ideas for how to spend your time when you can’t (or don’t want to) be around other people. Since we’re stuck at home anyway we might as well make the most of it, so here are an introvert’s best tips for how to put your time in social isolation to good use.
Keep In Touch
As I’ve said before, introverts need people too. We all (to varying degrees) need a certain amount of human interaction to keep mentally and even physically healthy. Thanks to modern technology, there are plenty of ways to do that without actually being in the same room as the other person.
Phone calls are a great way to keep in touch. I used to hate the phone, but now I’ve changed my mind just enough that I’m happy to spend hours talking with a few close friends. If you really want to communicate with someone calling is a faster way with more immediate feedback than text or email. But if phones aren’t your thing (or, like me, there are only a very few people you feel comfortable calling), then write a letter or send an email or shoot someone a text.
Read A Book
Reading has long been a favorite at-home activity for both introverts and extroverts. If you have not been hoarding books like the apocalypse is coming and you might be the last library left in the world (I have 1,100+ books on my shelves), then you can order some online, download ebooks, or turn to our local library. Read more →
I really did plan on scheduling a whole bunch of blog posts in advance before going on my trip to France, but as we got closer to the flight leaving I finally decided packing clothes might be more important than writing another article. We’ll resume with a regular post later this week, but for now here’s a picture of me in Paris.