Waiting for the Sunset

What’s the greatest affliction with our generation?

It’s an important question I think. For me, I think it’s instant gratification. My generation has been hard wired with impatience: real time uber tracking, instant replays, 2 minute kuerig coffee, instant messaging. We get everything in bite-sized pieces at 4G speeds and it’s changing the way we function.

I know I can’t sit down to read a book uninterrupted by an internal to-do list or distracting pings from my iPhone immediately pulling me away from being present and patient.

But today. Today we sat on a rock waiting for a sunset and every minute that we waited and watched, we were rewarded by ever deeper hues of pink and purple and half an hour later we were still in awe of the beauty before us. All of this simply from being present and waiting.

I think that the mentality of immediacy and of constant movement is difficult to fight. Resisting is not unnatural, but it’s also counter-culture, but finding the space, in our minds, and in our time, in our relationships to stop, wait and be present can bring us beautiful moments (like sunsets) that we would have missed the full bloom of if we had moved on before that moment was finished.

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Talking About Not Talking

The Internet has become an expansive platform for discussing ideas of all kinds—including politics. Despite that, politics and social issues are not the majority of what we engage with on the web. Facebook, for example, has become a platform for discussions and information about current event and news. Unfortunately, more than half of the “news” that comes on my wall is about celebrity news and non-political issues. I have seen more Kim Kardashian articles and photos in the past month than I ever want to see again and the conundrum of the blue and black or white and gold dress took over the Internet for weeks.

On the other hand, many political issues get shut down because they cause controversy and harsh discussion. The most political I have seen Facebook be recently is rejoicing or sighing about the announcement of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. The issue is that this is the extent of political knowledge for many. Other candidates are unknown and Hillary is getting attention because she has long been in public eye due to status and scandal.

As a Communication Studies major interested in public relations, it makes me wonder if the role of a journalist or a PR professional is to educate people or to play to their interests. There is no need for celebrity gossip, but I know more about that than many of the large issues going on in the world, like the current status of ISIS.

I bring this up because I think it changes, at least in my mind, what I want my goal to be when I enter the job market one day. Many would be horrified with how social media in particular is used, but I think that it stems from skewed expectations. Providing people with information does not mean they will interact with it, especially when it is in competition with things that are easier to understand, more relatable, and closer to our lives. Perhaps the role I want to take when I become a working professional is to tell stories in such a way that it makes people want to engage with the larger narratives about life going on (like politics and international issues) and help them better engage with the ideas in a constructive, civil way that encourages further public discourse rather than ending it.

How To Write A Resume

Now is the time of year to be writing a lot of cover letters. Summer jobs, internships and long-term positions require this document. Despite this, I have found that not enough time is spent at college preparing students on how to write necessary professional documents, like cover letters, well.

So, I have done some research and organized the information to give some tips on how to write a good cover letter. This is simply a variation of a lot of what I have seen and much of it paraphrases information from the links that I have provided below. The largest point to remember is that the goal of this document is to get an interview or get a job and how to do best depends on who you are writing to.

Getting Started

Questions

  • What is my objective with this cover letter?
  • Who am I writing to?
  • What are the objectives and needs of my audience?
  • What specific benefits can I offer to my audience?
  • How can I best express those benefits?
  • What areas of my resume do I want to highlight?
  • How can I use the cover letter to highlight my resume?

General Rules

  • Be succinct: limit the letter to a single page
  • Single-space your cover letter and leave a space between paragraphs
  • Tailor the letter to the specific job/company
  • Be clear, use active voice, use professional language

Structure

  1. Contact Information

Yours: Provide your contact information at the top of the page. Keep visual continuity with your resume and use the same font for both. Your contact information should include your name, address, phone number and email address.

Theirs: Provide the company name and NEVER write “to whom it may concern.” Try to be as specific as possible; names are the best. If you cannot find out the gender of the person the letter is addressed to, avoid Mr. or Mrs. and write out the full name instead. If all else fails, use “Dear Hiring Professional:”

  1. PARAGRAPH 1: Establish Intentions and Interests

 Start by identifying why you are writing. This includes what position you are applying for (and where), how you heard about it (or who recommended it), and any other pertinent information. Next, let the company know why you are interested in them in particular by identifying aspects of the company that you are drawn to and why. (EX: I am interested in your company’s mission to create clean energy because that falls in line with my personal views and goals)

  1. PARAGRAPH 2: Show Your Skills

This is the section where you use an example from professional or relating work you’ve done that showcase skills or qualifications that would be beneficial to the company. Identify some needs/requirements you notice the company has for its employees and use the example as an opportunity to show your skills. You want to explain why those skills would benefit the company.

In this section, the most important thing is to “show” not “tell” your skills. This means letting the example or information show that you have leadership or communication or team-building skills rather than telling the reader directly that you have leadership skills (For example “I have a PhD in __________” is more persuasive than “I am smart”). The former approach is more substantial, provable and quantifiable. Provide any statistics relating to your example (EX: I oversaw 20 people; I created 300 logos).

  1. PARAGRAPH 3: Show More Skills

Balance your body paragraphs with soft skills and vital qualifications. The first body paragraph can be an opportunity to show qualities/examples of work that fall in line with what the company wants. The second paragraph could be an example to highlight things like leadership skills, conflict-management skills, etc. Follow a similar pattern to the first body paragraph for continuity. 

  1. PARAGRAPH 4: Say Thank You, Rename Goals, Follow Up

In this paragraph, show enthusiasm for the position by telling them that you want this specific position, restating why you would be a good match for the company and being clear about the plan of action you will take. Here are some phrases you could use when expressing your interest in the position:

  • “I am convinced that I want to work for you company as ______”
  • “I will do what it takes to be a part of your company as ________”

Let them know if you have attached anything to the cover letter (EX: audition, portfolio, writing sample, Curriculum Vitae, etc.). Then thank them for their time/consideration.

Lastly, establish a call to action, whether that is telling the company you will contact them or that you expect to hear back from them. Include a time frame. Be sure you will do what you say you will do. Provide your contact at the bottom even if you have it at the top; this document is about accessibility, clarity and persuasion. Some examples include:

  • “I will contact you within the next week”
  • “I look forward to hearing back from you within the next few weeks; my contact information is below”
  • “I would like to further discuss with you the position of ________ in person; I will contact you by next week if I do not hear back”

Tips

  • Look at several examples
  • Have multiple people look over the cover letter
  • Proofread!
  • Research the company beforehand

Here are some helpful links/ references that this guide was built on:

http://career-advice.monster.com/resumes-cover-letters/cover-letter-tips/5-simple-steps-to-a-successful-cover-letter-hot-jobs/article.aspx

https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CoverLetters.html

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/723/03/

Change, Loss and Hope

This week has been full of interviews—interviewing others applying to be resident assistants, being interviewed for various jobs—and it is reminding me that an era of my life is ending.

The past two years I have spent my life devoting my time to designated groups of people (my residents) and it has shaped my world in major ways. In a few months, I will not be connected to the same groups of people in the same ways. For the first time in my college career, I will live off campus. I will be living with 3 other people instead of 25. I will not be a part of Student Life. It makes me sad as I am grieving the loss of part of my life.

Grief has been on my mind lately. I think that if we want others to empathize with our loss, it needs to be through something as big as death or people cannot relate enough. Despite this, I have recently experienced less physical deaths that have been just as difficult to deal with as the literal deaths of loved ones in the past. I had been fighting to keep a relationship alive for a few months even though it just kept backfiring on both parties involved. While that period of hurt was difficult, it has not compared to the loss I have felt in the past few days since that relationship ended for good. That is shocking. We as humans feel loss for a number of things. It is an emotion that is constantly recurring, but it never really gets easier to deal with.

The point of the melodramatics is this though—change is hard, regardless of ending something old or bringing into life something new. In a lot of ways, experiencing change is like experiencing grief and loss. We do not like it, but healthily dealing with all of these is so necessary to grow. We cannot remain stagnant if we want to understand what living is about. I know that knowing this does not make it easier making that transition, but hopefully this next thought does.

We are not alone in our transitions. Man is made to live in community with others and draw on the support of others. It may seem difficult, but I have learned that people are more willing to “sit” in my situations with me more often than I thought they would. So draw upon others’ love and experience to realize that community is a powerful support in times of change. The best we are expected to do in those hard times is to learn and grow.

Sexual Orientation in the Church: Why “Just Love People” Isn’t a Good Enough Answer

The sexuality debate is a difficult one for anyone in the church. It has been for me for certain and my response for a long time has been “I think we should just love people and let God do the judgment.”

Thinking about it now, despite my eager heart to love, I was not looking at this issue as critically as I should have. My response of loving people and ignoring the theological ethics meant that I was not passionate enough to fight for the issue. This is important because to others, regardless of loving people, figuring out the place of LGBTQ members in the church is a very big ethical issue because I need to express to a world that believes that I either hate the gays or fully support the gay lifestyle that there are alternative options to believe in.

For me, by saying that we should love one another, I was really saying that I think LGBTQ individuals are valuable equals who should have a place in the church, but in a way that got me out of explaining my beliefs.

That they are human and that we are all sinners disobeying God’s law daily should be enough to express why we should allow members of the LGBTQ society in the church, but I have learned that people need more support than that. To me, that is sad, but it told me that I need to still explore it more critically than I had before if I want to be an ally to people that I love.

The past few weeks, Whitworth has hosted several speakers to talk on tis various issue leading up to the voting of a campus-wide issue: should openly gay faculty and staff be protected under Whitworth’s policies?

The speakers gave me the opportunity to see several views on the issue and gave me information to consider critically and thoroughly this complicated issue.

Dr. David Gushee, who came from Mercer University to speak on the issue, made an especially large impact on my thinking. He offered alternate interpretations of Biblical texts condemning homosexuality and provided a Biblical narrative that includes members of the LGBTQ community in it.

His main argument rests on the crux that the main problem with modern interpretations of the Bible is that we have stripped it of its ancient, culturally-appropriate context and significantly reduced the meaning by translating it from the linguistically complex languages of ancient Hebrew or Greek into English.

So, for example, “homosexual” could refer to the sexual relationship between an adult teacher and his adolescent pupil common to the Greek era, which is different than our current understanding of two consenting adults. Gushee explained other linguistic and cultural ambiguities that together could repaint the picture we see of homosexuality in the Bible to one that accepts the idea of two adults of the same gender-orientation consenting to a romantic relationship.

His conclusions are still extremely controversial, but they provide an alternate narrative for Christians to compare their beliefs with and see how they align.

For me, Dr. Gushee helped me to articulate that we are all sinful children in need of love and redemption. So, the church should not be turning away anyone; but, I am still working through my response to more complicated questions like should we be asking these individuals to change or should we allow them in religious offices of authority? I have learned time and time again that the Bible is a lot more complicated than I can conceive and am competent to be an expert on its meaning. More than that, I have learned that there are so many things that the human race has yet to begin to explain about the world we do exist in. So it is okay to not know your opinion on a topic, but in that state of “not knowing” try not to remain complacent.

These topics are not easy and knowing what is morally right is extremely difficult, but that is why digging deeper into them is more important than ever as the world is moving on and the moral standards are changing. Knowing is not as important as pushing ourselves further to engage in difficult issues. We owe the humans of the world at least that.

Find Your Voice: A Letter

FullSizeRenderDear beauties,

It is not spring yet; in fact, it is not officially coming for another month, but today I walked outside and got a small glimpse of the spring to come. I know this is cliché and more than likely an exaggeration, but give me my “basic white girl” (a term for another day) moment when I say that I live for spring at Whitworth. It is a time of growth and sunshine—in more than just the physical sense.

I have learned that nature can be a very accurate metaphor for life. Like it, we go through seasons of stasis, of growth, of blooming, of disaster. Sometimes our external surroundings reflect those internal seasons we are experiences and more often than not they do not, but when spring starts to peak its head around the corner on our little campus, it is difficult not to see the characteristics of this natural occurrence in our lives.

It takes time to learn what season people are in and to see them in their best and in their worst times, but I like to think that I have seen glimpses of that in all of the girls on our hall. I have seen struggle and pain and joy and fear and frustration in the lives of you twenty-five (now twenty-six) women that I have been getting to know since September. I have seen you support one another and grow an immense amount.

I see you being advocates for things you hold dear: adoption, body image, Jesus, volunteerism, the environment. The list could easily go on. Especially in the past month I have seen you ladies step out in confidence to speak up about these ideas, putting on events, sharing posts on Facebook and Instagram, and sharing stories in person. Like the spring, you are blooming in confidence and becoming leaders. The best part is, I see you empowering yourselves and I do not get to claim any part in cultivating that.

This ability to be brave about your passions is so important. I recently had a conversation with my friend Sarah who talked to me about a recently learned message of visibility. In order to let people know what we can be a resource for, we need to tell them. We live in a culture that likes to criticize and that can make it difficult to speak up about things that have not been deemed important enough or too controversial to bring up without getting torn apart.

Here is my advice: if you are afraid to speak, find someone with the words to defend your passions and causes for you, but do not stop there. Keep doing so until you have gathered so many words and ideas that you have built up your courage. Have the courage so that you can speak for yourself with the cache of knowledge on how to explain why you believe that we need to create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ Christians or why fighting for a greener world is so important for our future or why more people need to know the signs of an eating disorder.

Speak up because those conversations are important and because those conversations pull people out of their emotional winters into spring knowing that there is support. I am thankful for the grace I have received from you all over the course of this year; this is a message that I am sharing because it is one that I am trying to practice better myself. We are all growing and I know that I have a lot of growth still left to do. Hopefully I can do better at empowering you to find your voice and show you that you have the ability to impact others just by showing up in their lives, because it is true.

Lastly, like spring, we need to remember that this is not our only one. It may be an especially fruitful one or not, but either way we have the hope for the future to bring us another one without fail. The growth I have seen this year is amazing. Thank you for being so passionate, so willing, so vocal. Keep growing and know that your growth is not unnoticed.

Love,

Addy

Shades of Grey in Love and Truth

50 Shades of Grey has finally made its film debut this Valentine’s Day weekend and I have mixed feelings—mixed in that I physically feel ill thinking about this movie and its worldwide popularity, but incredibly joyful about the number of proverbial sirens I have heard regarding the true nature of the story.

Women and men alike are voicing a condemnation for domestic violence like I personally have never heard before and it is awesome. I need all my fingers and toes to count all the fantastic blogs that have had better things to say on this topic than I.

But there is a still a problem beyond the fact that people are seeing this movie. While 50 Shades of Grey has been a good thing for empowering women to name and condemn sexual abuse and domestic violence due to the extreme case that it presents, those undertones are still present in many of the films, literature, and real life love stories that we have come to adore and surround ourselves with.

This is important because of the major impact that film and literature have on the way that we live our lives; for many, books are the basis for many conscious and unconscious decisions about life. The real life love story that each person develops takes time and everyone experiences it differently, falling closer or farther away from what a “perfect love” should look like.

Let’s take a moment to look at what a “perfect love” looks like. Well, from a Biblical view, it means a pure, forgiving, selfless, giving, unending love. The radical part about this is that I do not think you necessarily need to be a Christian to agree that those are good things. If we know that, we should strive for those things. We are certainly guaranteed to not uphold those things all the time, but they make good goals when entering into a relationship with someone, romantic or not.

Because of this, issues of manipulation, lying, abuse, cheating, and soft porn, which are all subtle, ingrained norms now for functional relationships, are dangerous in how they affect our perception of love. It is even more troubling that it happens by and to both men and women. Take a classic American love story for example; The Notebook seems to be a cannon for love stories, and yet a main plot point has to do with the main character sleeping with a man she has not seen in years despite being engaged. The issue is not that she did something wrong, but that aspect of the relationship was not addressed by the main character with the man she was engaged with or with the man she ends up marrying. The implications for this on what is okay for a relationship is huge, and unfortunately not in a good way. It essentially expresses that love is not honorable; in fact, this idea begins to define love through the lens of this movie.

True that love may seem like shades of grey in our lives, but that may be because we are basing it off of what we see, not what we know. Romantic music and great lighting can be easily convince myself that this is what I want in love, whatever “this” is. The truth is though, I think what we truly want is a love that casts out fear, not one that entangles us in it. That requires a lot of hard work, honesty, and true love for the other person—all which are good things. We just need to be careful that we are not confusing the struggles of being human with seeing dishonesty and manipulation as love.

As an R.A., and essentially an overprotective hall mother, this is a huge concern for me. Empowering ourselves starts with the discernment to see what is going on; this goes for men and women alike.

My hope out of all of this is that we begin to see the differences between how love is presented to us and how love should be so that when God’s perfect love comes our way, we let it fill every fear-sized hole instead of trying to pervert it into one of the compromises we make it out to be. Hopefully, then, we can strive for a good love unblemished by the values that 50 Shades of Grey or any other movie sharing any degree of these values conveys is what love should look like.