Happy New Year!

happy_new_2015

It’s 2015! It’s been one year since I’ve started this blog! Although I haven’t posted every week, I think it’s been a good record of 2014. I’m excited to see what 2015 brings me and my family. I’m looking forward to seeing my sister Rachel again and Sarah and Andrew’s wedding in June! In the spirit of new beginnings, I, like most people, have some resolutions goals that I want to accomplish this year:

  1. Get a better job.

I may have just gotten a raise (a whole 50 cents), but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m working at a job that doesn’t pertain to my future career. The transferable skills I’m learning are minimal at best. I need a job that will help me develop my administrative and training skills. I’m hoping to find something in Raleigh, but the FSU interview is still to come.

  1. Be smarter with my money.

I’m terrible with what little income I have. I saved close to zero dollars last year and spend WAY too much eating out, which isn’t healthy either. I need to save for graduate school and for Sarah’s wedding, not to mention my car needs some work done. I think a mechanic said something about my breaks two years ago…oops. Not only will being wiser with my money help me in the future, when I have actual bills, but help me learn self-discipline, which is arguably my greatest life struggle.

  1. Work towards a healthier lifestyle.

This goal includes me getting health insurance, losing weight and eating healthier. I’ve been without health coverage for about four years. The Affordable Care Act didn’t really make health care affordable for me either. But, it would be really nice if I could develop a relationship with a doctor that can help me take preventative measures so I don’t get diabetes or hypothyroidism (which runs in my family). Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is part of this, which is why I didn’t wait until January to join a gym.

  1. Continue my education.

You all know that I’ve applied to graduate school. Things are looking good in that direction and I hope to enter a program in the fall. What you probably don’t know is that I hardly ever read anything other than novels, unless I’m doing research. Many of my friends read literature that is more informative or analytic and written for the masses. “The World is Flat” and “Freakonomics” are two popular examples of this genre. I want to read more of this kind of literature because it will help me continue my informal education and allow me to explore some of my interests separate from novels. I won’t say it won’t be difficult, but I am excited to check off some of these books I’ve wanted to read for years.

Those are my big four and I’ve already started working towards all of them, except maybe the money thing. #retailtherapy. I do have some other smaller goals like joining a church, writing more fiction and taking violin lessons but that’s mostly creative.

Want to see my book list for this year? :)

JAN        How to Read a Book by Mortimer J Adler

FEB        Meet the Real Jesus by John Blanchard

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

MAR       Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

APR       Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett

MAY      Toxic Charity by Robert D Lupton

That the World May Know by James Dawes

JUNE     35 Dumb Things Well-Intentioned People Say by Maura Cullen

Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M Steele

JULY     Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum

AUG      Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

SEP      The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson

OCT      The Book Nobody Read by Owen Gingerich

NOV      How to Read Lit by Thomas Foster

DEC      Catch up month! You know I’m going to need one.

What are your goals for 2015? Whatever they are, good luck! :)

Cheers,
Beck

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Themes That Have Been Running Through My Mind

Don’t praise me.

I know it’s because of my insecurities with my body, but I hate it when people praise my efforts to lose weight. When I come home from the gym and my mom says, “I’m so proud of you for going to the gym!” I cringe and don’t respond. I don’t tell people when I’ve lost weight because I don’t want to hear them say, “Wow! Good for you! I’m so proud of you.” I know it’s strange, but I hate it because it brings attention to my large body and the fact that I need to lose weight. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to ignore this fact, and a person bringing it up, even in a positive way, bothers me a lot. People generally wouldn’t tell a thin person they were proud of them for going to the gym, so why tell me? Because I really need to go to the gym, right? But everyone needs to be active to be healthy, not just people who are overweight. When people praise me for working out, they think they are encouraging me to continue a healthy lifestyle by recognizing my efforts, but I’m not doing this for them or for their recognition. I’m doing this for me and my future. I don’t need or want their praise, especially if they are treating me differently than others (i.e. thinner people) who are behaving the same way. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for their concern or affection; I just don’t enjoy receiving that kind of attention.

How you spend your day is how you spend your life.

This theme was inspired by me watching the last Hobbit film this week, which wasn’t completely disappointing. After watching the movie, I remembered how obsessed I was with Lord of the Rings when I was in middle and high school. I devoted so much of my time and energy reading and learning about everything that had to do with LOTR and Tolkien’s universe. For what reason? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of LOTR made me happy. It was all I talked about and all I watched; it brought me into a community, it entertained, inspired, and motivated me. But in the end, this obsession didn’t really do me any good besides encourage a love of reading. Now I can’t help but think, what if I devoted the same amount of time and energy to something more worthwhile? Not my career or education, but Jesus Christ? What if I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Him? what He said and did? What if I made Him my inspiration and motivation? joined a community just as obsessed with Him as I was? How would my life be different? It wouldn’t just make me happy, it would give me real joy. It’s not quite as easy as all that. I need to work through my misgivings concerning the church and my own stubborn resistance to Him that we all share. But, reading and learning are things that I enjoy doing, and it’s not so much that I don’t find Jesus interesting as I’ve been desensitized by a lifetime of hearing the same standardized sermons over and over. So that’s where I’ll start, reading.

I need a new job.

On a much more practical level, I’ve been thinking and rethinking my situation and decided to seriously look for a better job. Earning minimum wage is terrible; earning minimum wage in a retail position is not worth it. I had a bad experience last week when I was sick and needed to call out. But even before last week, I applied to a handful of temp agencies in Raleigh. So far, I have not heard anything from them. I’ve also applied and have an interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Fayetteville State University. To be honest, it’s not paying much more than what I’m making now, but it is in my career field and would help me develop my professional skills. There are two things that prevent me from being super excited about this job. 1) It’s an hour away from Raleigh so a lot of time and money would be spent commuting. 2) It requires a one year commitment that I may or may not be able to complete. The job runs from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, but I’m planning to start grad school in the fall of 2015. I would be willing to defer enrollment for a semester (which would take me to Jan 2016), but an entire year? That’s a long time. Since nothing is set in stone for grad school, I’m going to the interview next week, but I don’t know what to do! My gut feeling, and my Mom, tells me to let this job go and attend grad school this fall, but what if I give it up and don’t get in? At the same time, I can’t stand the thought of working at Starbucks for another eight months before grad school.

I know things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ll just bake some cookies.

Merry Christmas!

Beck

Graduate School Personal Statement

I said I would post my final personal statement for grad school. Here you go! :)


Around this time last year, I was in the fall semester of my senior year at Elon University preparing to student teach in the Spring. I was taking seven classes and working part-time as a barista at a local cafe. I was also desperately struggling to find a place to live.

Homelessness does not happen all at once; it is a process. For me, it began when I lost a large portion of my financial aid package and was forced to give up my room and move off campus. A month later, I lost my job, which was the only way I was able to afford rent. That weekend, I moved my life into my ancient Buick. I commuted from Raleigh twice a week to refill my suitcase and get food from my mother’s apartment. The rest of the week I spent sleeping on friends’ couches, in my car, and sometimes the library. The majority of the financial support I received from my mother was spent towards gas, so I became adept at improvising meals. I attended events with free food, found faculty lounges with coffee makers, and made friends with dining hall workers who occasionally gave me leftovers. Although I was not sleeping outside, being completely reliant on the generosity of others for my basic needs brought me painfully close. I developed a system so I could stay in school; it worked for a short while.

Food and housing instability made every other aspect of my life infinitely more difficult. The stress, anxiety and isolation I felt was a constant ominous shadow looming over me. I felt unhinged and was not able to focus on anything for long. My academic performance suffered severely as a result. I was not able to successfully complete student teaching, and my GPA plummeted after that semester. For me, this experience impacted my final year so much as to change the course of my college career. I had to change my major and my postgraduate plans; I had to change my dream. I later realized that this loss led directly to a new passion and career in higher education.

It was not until a week before final exams that I found a place to live. The church I was attending at that time has a program that allows families to “adopt” college students, so they can have home cooked meals and a place to stay during holidays – I was in need of both. When they learned of my situation, my adopted family invited me to rent out their spare room for a nominal fee for the rest of the year and provide me with meals every day, an invitation I accepted gratefully.

This experience stretched me to my limit. I had to rebuild my identity, but recovering from so thorough a failure is not easy. I spent weeks trying to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent something like this from happening again. I had to work through resentment towards my circumstances, my professors, and myself. I had to take responsibility for my shortcomings and forgive myself. I decided that who I am is not what I have done; that what matters most is not that I had failed, but what I would do afterwards. I had to regain my confidence in my ability to not only be an excellent student, but a successful future professional. While all my friends were student teaching that Spring, I was taking the few remaining classes I needed to graduate. I made it my goal to finish my academic career strong; a goal I achieved when I made the Dean’s List my last semester.

I recently spoke at a panel hosted by the National Coalition for the Homeless at Elon University. It was difficult to talk about this experience publicly in front of my peers, some of whom I had classes with last fall. Afterwards, an audience member asked me what kept me from dropping out and trying again the next year. I told her that it was pure stubbornness. I knew if I did not finish then, I most likely would never finish my degree. For me, giving up and dropping out would have been a worse failure, even though it would have saved me from going through pain.

The compassion shown for me through this experience has deepened my commitment to working with college students to help them graduate, achieve their personal and career goals, and develop as individuals. Struggling with housing instability while in college opened my eyes to how inequities can lead to dire circumstances, and how difficult it is to thrive without a stable, safe environment. My background in secondary education taught me just how many students, especially minority students, struggle with access to resources and institutions of higher learning. This has cultivated my interest in social justice, access, and multicultural education; topics I hope to pursue intellectually and practically while completing my graduate degree at <school>. My ultimate goal in pursuing a higher education administration degree is to work with high school and college students to further their education and provide support that will enable them to fulfill their potential.

Since graduating, I have been able to act on my commitment by working as the Dean of Residence Life during Duke University’s 2014 Summer Session. This four week academic program allows high performing students the opportunity to either earn a college credit or take a non-credit class and live on Duke University’s campus. This position was my first glimpse into higher education at the administrative level. I was able to learn about the challenges and rewards of working with a team to carry out residential programs, and practice receiving and acting on feedback in order to improve my work performance and develop professional skills. I believe this experience and others in residence life have prepared me for a degree in higher education. The program at <school> will enable me to build on these experiences and skills and prepare me to become an advocate and future leader on college campuses.


What do you think? How are my chances?

Beck

PS: I know I’m making up for a month of silence in twenty minutes. Whatever. #mylifeisbeck

November in 800 Words or Less

Where have I been all November?

Happy Halloween! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

I’ve thought about writing many times this month, but haven’t made the time to do it, partially because I’ve been busy and partially because I’ve been lazy. Getting used to a new work routine that changes every week has not been fun. I do enjoy some things about my job, but I don’t get to do those things very often. I really want to find a better job that will pay me more than minimum wage.

To celebrate my birthday, my sister and best friend went out to dinner and drank wine. I got Caged, which was hilarious. This was followed later that week with a family dinner that was surprisingly pleasant. No one was fighting or drunk, there was an ice cream cake. Success.

Capture

On the 19th, I spoke at a Faces of Homelessness panel at Elon, my alma mater. I met with the other speakers and some current students for dinner before the panel. One formerly homeless man asked me how many times I had spoken and he looked shocked when I said this was my first time. Then I learned the event was being filmed. I suddenly grew really nervous. I didn’t really know what I was going to say. I had printed out the Pendulum article I wrote in the spring and the blog entries I wrote as well, which I thought would help. The truth is I have often doubted whether what I went through was actually homelessness or something else. One of my former professors blatantly told me I had no right to use that term, so speaking about my experience on a panel about homelessness made me feel a bit like a fake. Hearing the stories of the other speakers made me think what I had gone through was not really that intense or tragic, even if it felt that way to me at the time.

When it was my turn, I started with something about invisible homeless and then spoke about what and how it happened last year. I honestly don’t remember what I said afterwards. It was so difficult to say those things in front of my peers, some of which I had classes with last fall. Did I mention the room was packed? People were sitting all around on the floor and near the door. I didn’t know where to look. I finished by saying that what I went through was only a fraction of what the other speakers had been through and could only imagine how much more difficult it would have been had it not been for my friends and church.

There was a short question and answer session after we shared. I was asked what the school said when I told them. I answered by telling her that there wasn’t anything they really could have done but that was an area of improvement for the school.  Another person asked me what kept me going through the experience. I told her that I was plain stubborn and knew that if I didn’t push through, I wouldn’t have graduated. I also mentioned that my faith in Christ was a huge source of hope and comfort as well as solution for my situation.

After the event was over, people came up to me and shook my hand thanking me for sharing. One guy kept saying how “gusty” it was for me to talk about that in front of my classmates “especially at Elon”. The wife of Elon’s president also spoke to me and said she remembered reading my article in the spring and wished me luck in the future. One student gave me a hug and said that my story moved his friends deeply, even though he had dragged them to the event and they had previously made fun of homeless people. It was so reassuring hearing things like that from the audience. I could tell a lot of them were close to tears, although I can’t claim credit for that. This has given me the courage to claim my experience and speak at further events about homelessness.

I haven’t had the courage to watch the video yet, but I believe there is a video in this Pendulum article.

There are two more things I want to mention in this post. (1) Starting a diet and workout regime during Thanksgiving week is probably the worst week of the year to start anything requiring physical activity and calorie counting. #getswole (2) I APPLIED TO GRAD SCHOOL!!! I should begin to hear back from schools mid-December. Let us pray.

Beck

PS: My friend and future brother-in-law, Andrew, started a blog this month. Check it out y’all. He’s super well-read…like, better than me. #jealous

Working Hard and Hardly Working

This past week has been productive and fun, a rare combination. I visited Charlotte for the first time since the spring last weekend! It was really nice to see home again; I only wish I could have seen my friends as well!

Oh! By the way, I got a job! It’s nothing fancy, just a barista position at a local Starbucks, but I really like my manager. I’ve only worked a few days doing online training and coffee tastings. I have to admit I’m really bad at coffee tasting. Without cream and sugar it just tastes like dirt, but of course I can’t say that to my manager so I’m making stuff up and guessing. Hopefully, I’ll get better at tasting the more subtle flavors of dirt in the coffees. I have to open tomorrow, which means an early morning. I will be up before the sun. Yayyyyy…

Last night, Sarah and I met some of her work friends at Natty Greene’s Brewery in Downtown Raleigh. It was really fun getting to know some of her friends. The beer was good too! I got the wildflower beer which was a lighter beer with citrus hints. We went for Thirsty Thursday though so there was a really long wait and lots of college babies around. haha

I just sent out my requests for letters of recommendation for graduate school. I’m slowly making progress on my list of steps to achieve greatness. I also took a practice GRE…at night…with no preparation at all so I could see where I am. My scores were actually somewhat expected; really good in verbal reasoning and really bad in quantitative reasoning. I’m definitely going to study the math portion extensively before taking the actual test in a few weeks.

Wish me luck!

Beck

News Items and Leftovers

I was approached by the Director of Community Organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless about my article in the newspaper. He invited me to speak at a panel called the Faces of Homelessness in November at my school. Anytime you get approached by an organization that calls themselves a “coalition”, you say yes; that shit is cool. I guess I’m a cover girl for homeless people now. Homelessness never looked so hot; or as my sister would say, “You’re like the Kardashian of Elon.” Except that I’m getting noticed for not having a place to put my clothes, not for taking my clothes off. Hahaha

cry2

A friend and classmate asked me if she could post my story on the blog, Elon Awareness. I said yes, of course, and I was grateful for the invitation. It’s a really great blog, you should read some of the posts; they speak so much truth.

I’m applying for jobs, which I guess is not really news considering I’m a senior. I thought I would mention it since it’s taking up so much of my time. I’m really glad I don’t have a full schedule this semester; otherwise I would struggle to find time to do it. I’m looking for positions in nonprofits, higher education, and secondary teaching. I’m also researching graduate schools, but I won’t be ready to apply until early fall. There’s a residence life fellowship that I’m really interested in as well. Not that I don’t want to get away from my college, but it’s a really great opportunity to explore higher education as a career. I’m completely torn between secondary and higher education! My dream job would be at Project LIFT Charlotte. It’s an amazing nonprofit organization that deals with education and I really want to be involved in some way next year. They are doing some great things in my hometown.

This brings me to another preoccupation I’ve had this week: I miss teaching. I really miss teaching and talking about education. I’ve been helping my sister with her TEACH Charlotte application and interview and have realized just how much knowledge I have about pedagogy and classroom management. But it’s all going to waste. I’m not using any of it and it makes me sad. When I think about how I could be student teaching instead of taking classes, it makes me angry about everything that happened last semester. I took all the classes and, even though I did not pass one or two, I learned the content, but I’m not getting credit for any of it. When potential employers look at my application, all they will see is a low GPA and that I was kicked out of my program. I’m afraid no one will give me a chance. I can’t even ask my education professors for letters of recommendation because I failed. Who wants to recommend a student who failed their class? I feel that if ever my name is mentioned between professors, they shake their heads and say, “What a waste of potential.” I hate that, because it’s not true. I guess I shouldn’t care what they think, but I don’t like the idea that I disappointed them. Okay, so I’m still working through leftover feelings from last semester, but there’s no set mourning period for broken dreams, I’m still within my rights.

Let’s end on a high note, shall we? A few weeks ago, my boss over at Duke asked if I was available to go to China in August to be a Teacher Assistant for a Leadership class for high school students. I said I was available and very interested. I don’t speak Mandarin, so I’m not a prime candidate, but I do hope I can go despite that. I would love to learn more about Chinese culture, and it would be great to have the opportunity to see some of my former residents that live there. Cross your fingers!

Beck