My children and I starting a new path in 2011. Photo by Katie Stirling
Last year I took a full-time job at the university where I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees. After several years away, being back where I spent so much time in my past has been both a wonderful and strange experience. The campus is a palimpsest, with layers of time and memory revealing themselves as I walk through buildings and down tree-shaded paths. There are the benches in the fine arts building where I took naps after art history class my freshman year; the school supplies area in the bookstore where I spent my hard-earned money on fancy gel pens to liven up my note taking; the building where I received my patriarchal blessing in a small campus office. Some of the places where I lived, worked, and studied have been completely erased—torn down to make way for new construction that still disorients me after being back on campus for a year. Eighteen years ago I was one of the new freshmen I now see walking around feeling simultaneously excited and scared (although I didn’t have a cell phone glued to my ear at the time). Continue reading
When I lived in the city I was accustomed to the kaleidoscope of smashed glass caught in the cracks and rough patches of sidewalk and road. Beautiful, but terrifying trash. I’ve stepped on enough broken drinking glass shards to know to keep my feet covered when I stepped outside. The day I spied a man running down my Baltimore street without shoes I looked once to see him, again in unbelief, once more in disbelief and again because why would anyone in their right mind run down these glass glittered streets without proper footwear? But up the street he ran anyway, not stepping gingerly, but in stride and purpose. Open and free. I just thought he and anyone else reckless enough to attempt such a task was crazy. Then I met one. Continue reading
As a student of rhetoric and an aspiring writer, I worry about words. I worry about the way they sound or don’t sound. I worry about nuance and assonance and consonance and rhythm. But mostly, I worry about the meanings (intentional or not) that we send with our words.
Currently, I’m serving as the first counselor in my ward Young Women’s organization. Which means, not surprisingly, that I spend a lot of time thinking about the messages that get sent to our youth, both inside and outside of the church.
One of the messages we send to our youth concerns their exceptionalism–the idea that they are, to borrow Peter’s words, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” This message isn’t particularly new: I heard it 20 years ago. And there’s nothing implicitly wrong with the message–as a church, we believe that the current generation(s) were held back in the pre-existence to come to earth today.
What concerns me, however, is how this (and similar messages) may get taken up and misinterpreted. One of the difficulties with chosenness is that it only happens in opposition–one is only chosen if another is not. Exceptionalism works the same way. To be exceptional, one has to be an exception. One has to be better than others. (The Free Dictionary defines it as “well above average; extraordinary.”)
Don’t get me wrong. I love the youth I work with. They are smart, strong, vibrant young women full of integrity and faith. But exceptional? I find myself increasingly resisting that concept. The moral standards our youth (and adults) hold themselves to are exceptional. But I’m not sure it’s healthy to extrapolate from this that we ourselves are exceptional. I think it sets a dangerous precedence and expectation. Continue reading
Vivid shoes (with orange pants, naturally) with the front door paint job they inspired.
I tear open the tape, and lift the cardboard flaps to pull out my newly delivered shoes: vivid royal blue. There is no hiding this color. They felt like a bold choice when I clicked “add to cart” two weeks ago. Now in my hands, they are not just a bold hue, but a brave one. Loud unrepentant bright hues always feel brave to me. “Look at me!” they invite- they catch the eye and hold attention. That same reason was why my toddler sported vivid orange shoes at the playground; when I let go and let him climb the structures above me, I could track him by his racing orange toes through the metal grates above me. I could always see those shoes, and find my straw haired boy.
I realized Friday was the anniversary of the first time since childhood that I had broken ground into bold colors. I bought a pair of lipstick red pants. The slim cut and flaming color beckoned attention to my lower half. I’m not sure how I managed to talk myself into trying them on, buying them, and summoning the chutzpah to wear them with a flattering black turtle necked top and four inch heels on Valentine’s Day 2002. In trying to be grown up I had been stuck in muted, sensible (i.e. grown-up) colors for a few years at that point. But pleased with the transformative powers of the outfit, I didn’t change out of it. The tamer colored pants and skirts I stocked my closets with never made my butt look this good, nor made me feel so self-assured. It’s hard to color-coordinate with a fire-engine and feel like a wallflower. Continue reading
Emily is currently readjusting to life in Utah, while working at Westminster College, and teaching communications courses at Salt Lake Community College. She recently won two ribbons for photography, and a ribbon for scrapbooking at the Utah State Fair. She’s looking for her next big adventure, and a handsome yet geeky sidekick. You can read about her adventures on her faith blog: http://fumblesinfaith.blogspot.com, or her daily life observations at http://emilylynn79.blogspot.com, or her snarky commentary on ugly clothes finds at http://ooglyduds.blogspot.com/.
I was so excited when my plane landed in Phoenix after coming home from a year in Peru. I had been counting down the days until I would return to the USA on my calendar. The day I was scheduled to depart was circled with a big inked circle that said “FREEDOM!!!” Like a prisoner, I felt trapped, anxiously awaiting my release date to sweet freedom. I couldn’t wait to be free for the next phase of my life to begin. I thought I was ready. Continue reading