The (Good) Friday Four

1. This Freshly Pressed post from Homeschoolers Anonymous made my day yesterday. Lyrics from popular Christian songs are compared to lines from 50 Shades of Grey, simply to make the point that many contemporary Christian songs are sometimes more sensual than they ought to be… and end up being taken the wrong way. Many times, I’ll hear a song on the radio and think it’s about love between two humans, then later, I’ll find out it was actually about God. Weird… and kind of creepy.

2. Speaking of creepy, I’ve been lurking on the Camp NaNoWriMo forums. Many writers are still plugging along, but I keep hearing stories about cabins where most of the writers have perished after having scribbled a mere 1,000 words or less. If you’re participating, don’t become one of those ghosts around the campfire!

3. The season of Lent ends on Sunday, and I’m almost reluctant for it to end. This has been the most peaceful Lent I’ve had in a long time because I tried to step away from a lot of the noise in my life. I have managed to avoid many areas of the Internet that have previously distracted me (mostly news and music sites). The challenge after Lent is to continue to implement the changes I’ve started and not fall back into old habits.

4. Even if you are busy, write 100 words a day. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you do that every day for a year, you could write a short story every month! The more you practice writing in brief formats, the better you will be at condensing your thoughts. Also, if you blog, it’s good to know that shorter posts seem to be read and shared more often. On the Internet, most people can’t be bothered to read and write long posts.

I hope you all have a lovely Easter!

Living at Home

My peers are called the “boomerang” generation because many of us moved back home with our parents after college instead of striking out on our own. Most of the time, we “boomeranged” back because we graduated in the midst of an economic recession, and finding a job after graduation was more difficult than in years past. Or perhaps we didn’t do as well in college as we thought, so we had to live at home and work to get our finances in order so we could return to school or get our own place.

Although more and more people are living with their parents after age 21, the “failure to launch” still has stigma attached to it. When you’re in your mid-twenties and you tell someone that you still live with your parents, it’s easy to imagine the thought bubble above their head: some trollish-looking 40-year-old person still living in mommy’s basement with nothing but the dim light of a computer screen (and maybe a naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling) to see by.

Like many other life choices, where to live and whom to live with shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are right and wrong reasons both for moving out and for living at home, so I don’t see why the stigma still exists. In years past, the magical age for moving away from your parents was 18, when you graduated high school. Now the magical age seems to be 21, when you graduate college. But these numbers are arbitrary and don’t reflect reality: Not all 18- or 21-year-olds are equally mature. I don’t think those who stigmatize 20-somethings who still live at home realize that.

Service

Oddly enough, this post was inspired by a meeting at work. We were discussing how we initially wanted to get away from the notion that our department is primarily a “service provider.” We wanted to own more of our own projects and create our own opportunities, not always depend on other departments to bring in our workload. However, we’ve since made peace with our image.

What seemed strange to me (a natural “people-pleaser”) was that someone might not find happiness in providing a service to someone else. It’s true that you might not get as much input on the project as you want and you don’t have full control over every aspect of production and schedule. Besides, it’s the corporate world, and no rainbows and butterflies can be found there, but still…

Providing a service to others requires that you put them and their needs first, no matter whether that service is preparing food, doing laundry, building houses, or editing. Service isn’t glamorous; you have to contend with demanding clients, unrealistic and unreasonable requests, and the knowledge that your best might not be good enough. The important thing is, service keeps you humble, and as a society, we need more chances to find humility.

Letters

I’ve been seeing a lot of open letters on the Freshly Pressed page lately, but I could never write one myself. I’m not in the habit of writing letters (or even long emails) in the first place; they’d mostly be a bunch of irrelevant attention-seeking rants.

Therapists sometimes tell their clients to write letters and never send them. I’ve done that plenty of times before, not because a therapist told me to, but because I wanted to get my feelings out. When I read the contents of the letter back to myself, I could never believe how petulant and fussy I sounded, critiquing other people’s actions when I didn’t even have the guts to act at all. Writing a letter seems so weak… hiding in the folds of the paper… and not sending a letter was even weaker.

Then there’s the matter of the “open” letter — a letter that everyone, not just the intended recipient, can read. I could not post an open letter. I wouldn’t want my concerns with just one person out there for everyone. If I was addressing a group of people, a business, the government, or some other kind of entity, then it could be a little easier. But in that case, the letter wouldn’t be as personal or as important, and the need to write the letter wouldn’t be as urgent.

Letters are more personal than emails, although you could put the exact same content in a letter as in an email. You take time to physically write the letter. You choose the stationery, the writing instrument, and the return address label. You use your own handwriting, not the default font on some word processor. You seal the envelope, stick on the stamp, and walk it to the mailbox. And you wait for a response that is so much more special because it didn’t arrive instantaneously.

That almost makes writing a letter seem appealing. :)

Digital Brains

I read this scary article about a week ago. It’s about how the Internet and other electronic media may be re-programming our brains to skim and scan words rather than to deeply read them and process the information. When we read online, our eyes search for interesting words or phrases that leap out, and if nothing interests us, we go on to the next website or our Twitter feed, skim the text there, go to Wikipedia, look something up, give the article a cursory scan… and so on. Then when we find something important or worthwhile to read, the same thing happens… our eyes are still moving rapidly, skimming, scanning… and our brain can’t absorb what we’re seeing.

I realized that it’s harder for me to focus when I read on the screen. To actually get something out of what I read, I have to either consciously force myself to slow down or print the article out and read on hard copy. Unfortunately, this “shallow reading” that we do online is affecting the way we read printed text. When we sit down with a copy of a classic novel or a nonfiction book, our eyes leap over the words, scan the page… and we don’t really focus on the book’s plot or content. Our brains are always jumping ahead to the next thing.

The article goes on to discuss how we might even start losing our ability to understand complex sentence structures, because most of what we read online is broken up into shorter, less complicated sentences. That doesn’t bode well for students or those who have to comprehend difficult material for their jobs. I suppose we’ll have to re-train our brains before the Internet does…