Global Worship

I’ve had the privilege of being a part of Ambassadors Football for several years now, an international soccer ministry. They put on soccer camps all around the world, and it is currently camps season in the US. Footballers from all over the globe come to the States to coach the camps, from small town Ohio, to London, to a village in Liberia. They come here for five weeks in total, one week of training and four weeks of camp. We have about 70 coaches at our training week this year, the training week being referred to as TREC (Training, Resourcing, and Equipping Coaches).

Every day at TREC starts out with corporate worship, believers from 25 different countries coming together to praise our Father in song. This is typically led by the host church’s worship team. On the last day of TREC, however, worship was led by some of our South African coaches, and being led by some of our own created an even deeper sense of unity as we started our day.

For those of you that are not familiar with South Africa, the nation has 11 official languages, some of the more prominent being Afrikaans, English, and Zulu. Seeing as this is so and that South Africans were leading worship, we sang praises to God in several different languages. While I like to think that I am knowledgeable and good with languages, I am not fluent in Zulu or Afrikaans. Luckily for me (and the rest of the room), the translations were written beneath the lyrics.

As I stood there worshiping beside my brothers and sisters from across the globe, I feel like I caught a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. Represented in that room by 70 people were 70 unique testimonies, 25 countries, and even more languages (apparently being trilingual is a common thing in the rest of the world). Despite the differences between us, cultural and otherwise, we were all united there for one purpose: to glorify God.

I was moved as I listened to the songs and the quiet prayers in Afrikaans, French, and other languages that I didn’t recognize.  I caught sight of a bigger picture, of a bigger and more glorious God than I had fully realized before. We know conceptually that God is more powerful, more magnificent, more creative than we could ever imagine. Yet in that moment I was surrounded by His power, majesty, and creativity from all over the globe, and I was in awe. I still am, and I pray that I will never cease to be.

Friends, I wish that I could recreate that moment for you, that you might experience it for yourself. But unless you join us in ministry next summer, I don’t know how to do that. Instead, I urge you to ask our Father to give you that glimpse, for He is actually able to do so. I urge you to go beyond conceptual knowledge and to go deeper, to belief, to awe.

Our God is staggering and awesome, in all senses of the word. Not only that, but He is gracious enough to let us enter in to His kingdom, to become His children. His glory is all around us. We only need to open our eyes, fixing them on Him and things above, and He will reveal to us more than we could ever imagine.

How My Internship at The Borgen Project Motivates Me to Help People Across the World

I am interning as a journalist this summer at The Borgen Project, a national campaign fighting poverty on the political level. Since interning at the nonprofit, I have realized how we can advocate worldwide change.

The Borgen Project believes that our nation should be doing more to address global poverty. By contacting our nation’s leaders and urging them to make poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy, we not only help to secure our interests in the U.S., i.e. improve national security, expand our markets and create more U.S. jobs, we also help people across the world though thousands of miles separate us. I have realized how the efforts of one person can multiply and create global change by contacting congressional leaders about poverty reduction legislation and mobilizing others to do so as well. Congressional leaders care about the views their district has about bills, and the more support a bill receives, it has a greater chance to reach The United Sates House of Representatives and eventually the Senate.

As a journalist for The Borgen Project, I cover how the world tackles poverty and improves lives for those in the most impoverished areas. I also write about the good news, the triumphs for poverty reduction efforts, and the improvements in education happening globally. I have learned more about the nations in our world than I could have ever imagined, and it has motivated me to make a positive difference for people across the world as a journalist at home.

Founder of The Borgen Project, Clint Borgen, was a volunteer firefighter during the Kosovo War. Based at a refugee camp, Borgen saw that the U.S. needed to do more to address global poverty. After graduating college and working at the U.N. in 2003, Borgen created The Borgen Project as an organization to help fight global poverty on the political level. As an intern, I see the progress that not only the organization has made but our nation as it addresses poverty and fights for our nation and the world’s people.

In 2016, The Borgen Project helped pass The Electrify Africa Act, Global Food Security Act, and the Foreign Aid Transparency & Accountability Act by advocating the voices of the American people and holding meetings at congressional offices. I am honored to be a part of an organization passionate to help our world’s people, and I urge you to join me and advocate worldwide change.

Perception: Coffee Shops and Book Covers

Image result for starbucks book creative commons

So I’m sitting outside at a local coffee shop (confession: it’s just Starbucks), and I’ve been stationed here for some time trying (and failing) to write a blog post. It was quiet and serene when I got here. Well, as quiet and serene as it can be when you’re positioned on the corner of two main roads. Slowly but surely, the place started to fill up, the customers inside spilling into my outside space. With more bodies come more noise, and to me, that means more distractions.

I am first joined by a couple of women who look to be in their early 40s, the typical soccer mom type. (In my head, one drives a Nissan Pathfinder and the other woman drives a Honda Odyssey, in case you were wondering.)

Next to the scene are two high school girls. They come out to the patio and sit down, and the only thing going through my head is, “Oh, great. More humans. My favorite.” (Spoiler: humans are not my favorite.) One girl was wearing all designer brand clothes, complete with an MK handbag and Birkenstocks. The other was nicely dressed as well. They were also drinking some non-coffee beverages at a coffee house. There’s just something not right about people who don’t like coffee.

In my already less-than-chipper state, I was expecting the girls to be another nuisance to me. I had assumed that their preppy selves were going to talk for ages about their pretty high school drama, also expecting them to talk loudly enough for me to hear their every word even though they were tables away.

Much to my surprise and delight, only half of that was true. The girls were talking loudly enough for me to hear them, but their conversation was much better than I imagined. The first words out of their mouth were about a Bible study that they were in, and then they were talking about needing to find a Blue Letter Bible. Not at all the topics of conversation that I would have guessed. My initial assumptions about these girls were incredibly wrong, making me feel ashamed and hypocritical, but also glad. As a matter of fact, my whole demeanor changed after overhearing their uplifting conversation.

I was judging them based off their appearances, something that drives me crazy when other people do it. You know, the judging books by their covers thing. (I still stand by my judgement of people who don’t like coffee, though. That one is valid.)

I was being a grouch because I allowed the circumstances of my own life to affect how I viewed the world and others, subconsciously choosing bitterness instead of joy. Because, friends, that’s the thing: joy is not just an emotion, but a choice. It is not always an easy choice. No, as believers it is frequently not an easy choice at all. It is much easier to look at the evil and destruction in the world and allow ourselves to become discouraged and bitter. I would know, because it happens to me. Friends, understand that these sorts of things happen when we aren’t expecting it, when we aren’t watching.  That’s why 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be alert, that we might not fall, and Colossians 3:2 reminds us to always have our minds set on things above, not on earthly things.

So, brothers and sisters, I leave you with some verses to marinate in. May they be an encouragement to you no matter what season you are in. And remember, as cliché as is seems, books are not always their covers.

1 Thessalonians 16-18, NIV Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 12:12, ESV Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Philippians 4:4, ESV Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

James 1:2 -4, NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.

Living out the School of Education’s Mission

 

If you tuned in to last week’s post, you’ll remember that we discussed the School of Education’s mission and motto, SALT (Service, Academics, Leadership, and Teaching). However simple it may seem, the acronym reminds us of our calling as educators. As a matter of fact, the calling stems farther than educators, but to all believers.

SERVICE

As followers of Christ, we are all called to serve, and we are each called to serve in different ways. As believers, we are called to serve our neighbors, whoever they may be. As educators, we are called to serve our students, their families, and the community. Note that we are called to serve all of our students, even the ones that drive you up the wall.

At Nyack, we believe that individuals can serve better when they know better. That is why education majors receive thorough and comprehensive instruction, which they can then implement in their field experiences and student teaching. Throughout the education program’s curriculum, teacher candidates are taught about student and community diversity, various teaching methods, and how to utilize the methods in various situations to reach all students. By doing so, our teacher candidates better understand those that they serve, that they might serve them better.

ACADEMICS

Academics is obviously a crucial part of teaching and education in general. As teachers, we must not only throw information at our students, but to show it to them, why it matters, and how to apply it to their lives when applicable.

Education is not about being able to pick the right answer on an exam, though today’s school system might tell you otherwise. Education is about seeing and understanding the big picture, about knowing why to choose that answer on the test. Without that deeper understanding, education has lost its purpose. We need to change the focus of education from a student’s GPA to their effort and willingness to learn, showing students that their worth is not determined by their SAT scores.

As educators, we need to take state standards and teach them effectively, showing our students why the information matters beyond the scope of a test score.

LEADERSHIP

Teachers are the primary leaders in the classroom. As such, they need to both lead and encourage their students, modeling for them how a great leader should act. In essence, their behavior should model that of Christ, just as every believer’s behavior should.

Educators need to lead their students by example, showing them how to respond to conflict, how to interact with others, and how to respect one another and their opinions.

TEACHING

It is no surprise that teaching is a part of the acronym. Because it is so obvious, I feel like we often lose sight of its importance. As teachers, we need to be cognizant of our students and teaching methods, and we then need to evaluate what methods work best for a given class. Our goal as educators is not simply to teach, but to teach effectively and thoroughly. That is best accomplished when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, evaluating what instruction practices and curriculum are the most beneficial for our students.

For more on what it means to be SALT, check out the School of Education’s webpage.

24 Tips to Save Money in College

College is expensive. Based on experience, I can tell you that saving money and making the right choices are two of the most important skills.

Here are 24 tips to make saving money a little easier: 

1. Budget your money. What are your expenses? How much money do you make? Allocate your money into categories for your expenses, and what is left over can go into savings, an emergency fund, and/or miscellaneous.

2. Know the average prices of items so you can comparison shop. 

3. Don’t make impulse purchases.

4. Save your change and keep cash on you.

5. Take a shopping list with you to the grocery store and stick to it.

6. Buy quality clothes so they last longer.

7. Be honest with your friends about your budget and when you can’t afford to do things.

8. Start looking well in advance for big purchases.

9. Dry your clothes on a dryer rack.

10. Ditch bottled water and get a Brita filter.  

11. Use your local librarys services, especially to borrow books for English courses.

12. Make the most of your groceries before buying more.

13.  Borrow or buy used textbooks. Do you know people who have taken the course? See if they are willing to let you buy or borrow their book. Or buy used college textbooks on sites like Amazon or Chegg.

14. Buy or rent an e-book. E-books are usually cheaper than the hardcopy.

15. Limit eating out. If you live on campus and pay for a partial or whole meal plan, use it.

16. Don’t shop hungry when you shop for anything. You are more likely to stop somewhere for food if you are hungry when you are out. Instead, carry a snack in your purse or backpack.

17.  Know your expenses and what you can spend more for and what you cant. It will help you budget your money.

18.   Buy used if you have a large expense (if the item is still in good condition or quality).

19.   Keep track of your checking and savings accounts to know how much money you have versus how much you are spending. Avoid overdraft fees.

20.   Use coupons on items you buy. You will be surprised at how much money you save.

21.   Always ask if there is a student discount.

22.   Get an on-campus job.

23.   Apply for scholarships.

 

24.   Spend money on the right things. You may want to spend more money on something if it is a good investment and will save you in the long run.

When Being Salty is a Good Thing

What do potato chips, pistachios, peanuts, and popcorn have in common?  They all derive their most memorable flavor from the magic of salt.

Food would be both bland and significantly less sweet without salt, and the same goes for life. Well, at least metaphorically. (I know, I know. That salt-makes-things-sweet bit doesn’t make sense. But trust me, it’s true. Well, trust science. Check it out.)

If you’re well versed in trivia, biblical or otherwise, you know that salt is used for its preserving, healing, and seasoning properties. In Biblical times, salt was a hot commodity for trade, right up there with gold. While now not as rare or expensive of a commodity, salt is still useful and valued today.

Here at the School of Education, we value salt more than most. Now, I’m not talking about being snarky or about good ol’ sodium chloride, but S.A.L.T., our acronym to live by. SALT stands for Service, Academics, Leadership, and Teaching.

As you might have guessed, our SALT model comes from Matthew 5:13, part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus instructs his followers to be the salt of the Earth, essentially instructing them to encompass the preserving and healing qualities of salt.

In an open letter to future teacher candidates, Dr. Looney writes:

“Teacher candidates are instructed to be ‘the salt of the earth’.  This summarizes the belief that candidates and professional faculty in the School of Education strive to become, by God’s grace, individuals who reflect the properties of salt.  They are to season and enrich the lives of others.  They are to become the preservative of hope and encouragement to others.  Ultimately, they are to become healing agents serving others who need help overcoming the difficulties of life.”

We are all called to be the salt and light of the Earth, yet we so often forget our calling. That is why we constantly need to remind ourselves of the standards we are to live by, remembering that they are heavenly standards, not earthly ones. Furthermore, teachers are to be held to an even higher standard, as they are responsible for educating the future generation(s). This is a call that is to be taken seriously and should be understood completely.

Salt is used to heal wounds, add flavor to food, and preserve the perishable. It is versatile. We are to be the same.

Join me next week as we take a closer look at what it means to be the S.A.L.T. of the Earth and of our campus.

Top 10 Writing Tips from Stephen King

In March, I met Doug Heuck, publisher of Pittsburgh Quarterly. His best advice to me as a writer is to read not only great literature but books on writing.

One book Heuck recommended is Stephen King’s On Writing. King’s book takes an honest look into his journey as a writer and the art of writing. I underlined, bracketed, and wrote notes throughout the book, and since reading it, I have grown as a writer. On Writing is a must-read for any writer working toward his or her dream.

10 favorite quotes:

  1. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out” (57).
  2. On learning from writing Carrie: “The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea” (77).
  3. Avoid passive verbs: “I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe” (123).
  4. “The adverb is not your friend. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or picture across” (124).
  5. “I would argue that the paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing—the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words” (134).
  6. “So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience different styles” (147).
  7. “The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary” (179).
  8. “I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven” (190).
  9. On creating multi-dimensional characters: “It’s also important to remember that no one is ‘the bad’ or ‘the best friend’ or ‘the whore with a heart of gold’ in real life; in real life we each of us regard ourselves as the main character, the protagonist, the big cheese, the camera is on us, baby” (190).
  10. “But once your basic story is on paper, you need to think about what it means and enrich your following drafts with your conclusions” (208).

Teaching: A Calling vs. Profession

So, you’ve made it this far, to college. By this point you probably have a fairly good idea of what you want to do with your life. (Well, at least I hope you do.)

Now that you know what you would like to pursue as a profession, do you know your calling?

They might be the same thing, and they frequently are. But it is certainly worth taking a step back to check.

A profession can be anything, genuinely anything. People get paid for the craziest things. For instance, there is a hotel in Finland that has a ‘professional sleeper’ to test the quality of their beds (I am currently working on my application for that position, in case you were wondering).

A calling, on the other hand, is more than just a job. It is a conviction from God for a particular purpose, to a particular thing. My personal calling is to become a teacher, specifically to become a missionary in Africa. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance your calling is teaching as well. You and I might have similar callings, and yet each calling is unique, specifically created for you by God Himself.

There is something very important that I want you to understand: Whatever your profession, whatever your calling, it is a ministry. And there is no ministry without sacrifice.

Teachers sacrifice more than most people realize for their students, be it their time after school or their own money to provide supplies for their classroom. Speaking of money, the lowest salaries are often offered in areas in which amazing teachers are needed the most.

The best career advice I have ever received was from my eighth-grade science teacher, and that was to choose a career based off of what I love to do and not based off salary. He is agnostic, so he missed the part where you should choose also based off of what you feel that God is calling you to do, but he still had a very valid point.  You can live off of $50,000 or $500,000, but know that your happiness is not linked to the number of zeroes in your paycheck.

If you’re only going into education for the money or because you think it will be an easy job with summers off, I suggest you change your major right now. I say this partially because you are wrong in that way of thinking. There are far easier jobs and there are jobs with far better pay. Some careers combine both of those things. If education is your calling, you will soon realize that neither of those things matter.

Teaching is not just a profession, not an easy paycheck. It is stressful and taxing, not for the faint of heart. Teaching is also not for those who just randomly decided on it one day or chose it as a last resort. It is for those who make the deliberate decision to answer the call to become an educator, a mentor, a friend. Being an educator is so much more than just a profession. It is a call to ministry.

Is Nyack the Place for You?

To everyone questioning whether or not they should call Nyack College their home next semester:

I can’t answer that question for you, though I wish I could. It would make things a lot simpler for both of us. Knowing the answers to tough questions would also make my finals a lot easier. Alas, I do not have that ability and am forced to stay up late cramming the night before and wing it, just like everyone else. (Yes, even the Ed. major doesn’t always practice the best study habits. It’s okay. Just don’t tell my mom.) Even though I can’t tell you exactly where you should go, I can tell you that I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all college. If it were that easy, no one would be panicking towards the end of high school every time someone asked them where they would be continuing their education. Luckily for me, God let me know relatively early on that Nyack was the place for me. Crazy, I know.

My college decision was easy for me the minute I first set foot on campus, and it was one that I was fully confident in after time spent in prayer. For me, Nyack felt like home as soon as I arrived, though my journey getting there wasn’t all that smooth.

If I’m being honest, I initially wasn’t too keen on the idea of coming to Nyack. For starters, it was impossibly far from home (my mother wasn’t a big fan of that bit, either). Additionally, it wasn’t one of the colleges I had considered or heard of before God spoke to me. Since I was in elementary school, my family and teachers had been telling me that I would be famous one day because of my intellect, and that I was to remember them when I was a CEO or running the UN. That was a lot to put on a kid, but I took it on anyway. In essence, I was being prepped for a prominent, pompous college so that I could make a lot of money, not so that I could grow in my faith and become a teacher, and a missionary no less. But none of that grooming mattered to me when I first visited Nyack.

I found a sense of peace and serenity, a sense of belonging, when I arrived on campus. Although I am sure that being surrounded by the beauty of Rockland County and the Hudson River helped, I know that that is not the only contributing factor. The love and joy that radiates from the staff and student body is something that I have never experienced at another college or university. The levels of care and commitment that our professors exhibit are truly remarkable, and they make me proud and feel privileged to call Nyack College my home.

Nyack is not going to be found on a “Top 5 Ivy League Schools” list, but it is on my list of “My Top 5 Favorite Places” list, as well as “Places that Feel Like Home.” Nyack helps me grow as an individual and as a Daughter of God, and those are things that I value more highly than anything else in a college. Nyack makes me proud to be a Warrior, not only for the college, but for the Kingdom.

So, dear student, I don’t know where you belong. But I never doubt where I do.

Warm regards,
Your favorite dinosaur

How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

Most companies ask you to submit a cover letter along with your resume. A cover letter is your formal pitch to the hiring manager, and it highlights your skills and experiences relevant to the position. I have devised a guideline based on a cover letter I have submitted to a company and then received the position. It follows the standard format for cover letters. I wish you the best of luck!

Cover Letter Guideline

Your contact information (center or align left)

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Date (align left)

Employer Contact information (align left; include all information you have)

  • Name
  • Title
  • Company
  • Address
  • Email address

Salutation (align left)

  • Dear (employer’s full name)
  • Do not write “To Whom It May Concern” because it shows that you haven’t done your research or know who will receive your letter. So, if you don’t know, research. If you still do not know, write, “Dear Hiring Manager”.

The Body (align left)

(Do not indent paragraphs, but do leave a space between each paragraph.)

First Paragraph

  • Say the position to which you are applying.
  • Mention where you found or how you heard about the position and express your interest in the position.
  • If this is for an internship, describe what you hope to gain from the internship, i.e. strengthen your skills and grow professionally.

Middle Paragraphs

  • Describe what you offer the employer and your qualifications that match the position.
  • As you mention your various qualifications, explain the unique experiences and knowledge you have gained from your experiences. Do not repeat your resume. Think of yourself as a salesman. Show how your qualifications connect with the position.

Conclusion

  • Restate why you are a good fit for the position. If this is for an internship, express you are confident that your qualifications and experiences have prepared you for the position.
  • Write that you have attached or enclosed your resume and any other resources (list them) the employer requested.
  • Write that you look forward to discussing your qualifications, and thank the employer for considering you for the position.

Sign off (align left)

Examples:

  • Sincerely
  • Best regards
  • Thank you
  • Thank you for your consideration

Keep a space between your sign off and signature.

Signature (handwritten or typed)

Email Subject Line

If emailing your cover letter, include a subject line that lets the employer know the purpose of your email, that you are applying for a position.

  • Write the position’s name, and it is a good idea to include your name.
  • Keep it simple and professional.

I hope this blog post has helped and been useful to you. Feel free to review various cover letter samples and tips for formatting and writing your letter.

Top 5 Community Service Options for Teacher Candidates

In my last post, I talked about the requirements regarding admittance into Nyack’s School of Education. This week I would like to expound upon that a little more and give you some ideas regarding your community service hours.

Each teacher candidate must complete at least 30 hours of community service with the given age group for their specific certification. I, for instance, am an Adolescence Education major, so I will be spending my time with 7th-12th graders. I know that I specifically wish to teach middle school, but I do not have to stick with middle schoolers for my community service. In fact, the group that I’m serving doesn’t have to be comprised of only those within my certification age group; there can be some elementary schoolers and other ages in the mix as well. There real focus is on spending time with my certification group.

If you aren’t sure what ages/grades your certification covers, check out my last post.

After speaking with the Dean of Education, Dr. Looney, I comprised a list of some common community service activities that Nyack’s education students have done, as well as adding a few suggestions of my own.

1. Go to Church!
As a Nyack student and child of God, I’m hoping that you are an active member in a church. Serving in the body is one of the most common ways that Nyack students serve their community. Depending on your major, serving in the nursery or Sunday school can be an amazing way to complete your 30 hours. Some opportunities within the church include:
-Sunday school teacher
-Youth group helper
-Kids ministry volunteer

2. Help with VBS
Many churches have Vacation Bible School (VBS), and this would be an excellent opportunity to gain experience. If you are not yet comfortable enough to be responsible for a group of small humans, this might be your best bet. Since this environment is filled with men and women who are experienced children’s ministers, you can look after and teach children while being looked after and taught yourself.

3. Become a Camp Counselor
There is undoubtedly a camp near you that is in need of counselors this summer. Bonus: You get to be filled with nostalgia and relive those amazing summer camp days while helping kids create their own! (I didn’t really go to camp, but I’ve heard stories about the amazing memories and nostalgia thing).

4. Become a Coach
I have been volunteering with Ambassadors Football for several years now. They are an international soccer organization that uses soccer to share the Gospel. I have joined them both as a summer camp coach and an intern, and I recommend the experience to all of my fellow footballers. They are still taking applications for summer soccer coaches. The kids range from age 6-16, so it’s the perfect fit for nearly every major. For more information, check out their website.

5. Become a Tutor
There are students everywhere in need of help, and you are the perfect person for the job. After all, that is going to be your future job. You can find a tutoring center near you this summer, or you can be a tutor at the Nyack Center, a community center with an after-school program for local students.

Whatever experience you choose, go into it with an open mind. Throughout my years as a coach, VBS teacher, miscellaneous volunteer, etc., I have found that I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.

Being Twenty-Something

A few years ago, I researched poet William Butler Yeats for an English assignment. I countlessly read and reread his poem “The Second Coming”, and since then I have not given his poem much thought until I read Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of Didion’s most famous essays, many of which are set in 1960s California, her native state. The title is taken from a verse from Yeats’ poem: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Didion chose her title to capture the grand scope of how she feels about the era and her life, a time in which “things fall apart”.

As a twenty-year-old still finding herself, Didion’s writing widens my eyes to the world – its beauty, ugliness, and character. I not only discover parts of myself but see how people, places, history and the era we live in affect our spirit.

Didion writes in her essay “Goodbye to All That” about her time in New York, “One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.”

It is true. Everything seems heightened in my twenties, whether it is the stakes of the future, my own or the world’s, or my experiences. I am entering adulthood and learning about the world more than ever before.

While Didion wrote her essays in the 1960s, many of their truths are timeless. Sometimes moments appear idyllic, and other times things fall apart. So, we write. We write to process, remember and move on.

In Didion’s essay “On Keeping a Notebook”, she explains why we must write things down to help us “remember what it was to us”, the moment, the people, the experience. She says that when she writes, for example something at seventeen, it helps her remember herself at seventeen. It helps her “keep in touch” with who she was, and that is “what notebooks are all about”.

Keeping a notebook has helped me isolate what it is that inspires me and remember the moments, albeit the seemingly perfect ones or those amid chaos. I admire that as Didion dissects her life and history, her criticism and praise are neither in contempt or disillusion but in truth.

Didion writes in “On Keeping a Notebook”, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive or not.” Perhaps that is why in another essay called “On Going Home” she writes about a time she returned home and looked through her drawers and found remnants of her childhood.

Didion says: “Paralyzed by the neurotic lassitude engendered by meeting one’s past at every turn, around every corner, inside every cupboard, I go aimlessly room to room. I decide to meet it head-on and clean out a drawer, and I spread its contents on the bed.”

While home for the summer, I emptied my drawers, dumping their contents on my bedroom carpet. I found a collection of ticket stubs from the theater, a bracelet my roommate gave me, and just like Didion, a bathing suit I wore the summer I was seventeen. The belongings remind me of the people I have been, and some I’ve kept as memorabilia whereas others I’ve let go.

There is a time for everything, and each moment reveals something not only about ourselves but our generation and ultimately what it means to be human.

After reading Didion’s essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, I have a new understanding of Yeats’ poem. If we can look on the world and on ourselves with eyes that can see the good and the bad, see their worth, we can understand the spirit of humanity.

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