A List of New England Things

“You know you’re a ____ if” lists and “20 things about _____” articles are popular right now. Being bullet point style, they’re easy for Millennials to skim, and they appeal to our sense of identity. Inspired by these attractive albeit shallow articles, I’ve constructed a list of New England identifiers.

Not all of these apply to me personally, having been socialized in Evangelical circles and a private Christian school in Connecticut, but I’ve seen or experienced nearly everything on this list. Keep in mind that these are generalizations and that most of them center on Connecticut.

I could read into many of these and write full blogs for almost every bullet point, but I’ll limit my analysis in this blog and let you get into that in the comments below.

  • New Englanders are known for being “cold” and unfriendly, but at least we’re direct with what we feel.
  • Atheism pervades everything. Even most Catholics are nominal only; my dad would call many people “practicing atheists.” God is never mentioned or welcomed. But people are more receptive than you might expect, if only you initiate. This applies from religious conversations to simple hellos.
  • We’re known for our gorgeous foliage, but we experience all four seasons to their fullest extents, roughly three months each and each one vibrant in its stage of life.
Eating DF ice cream with my mom in Cheshire, CT, the month before I left for college in the Midwest.

Eating dairy free ice cream with my mom in Cheshire, CT, the month before I left for college in the Midwest. Summer 2013.

  • Apple and pumpkin picking are regular autumn activities.
  • Effectiveness and productivity are how we work. We may be running around all the time, over-busy and workaholics, but we get the work done.
  • We have nasty beaches with no waves. Our water is brown.
  • Hiking is readily available, from nature trails within minutes to mountains within a few hours’ drive. And by hiking, I mean forests and hills and rock faces and curvy trails, not flat nature walks.
  • We say “I’m all set” instead of wordy expressions such as “I’m finished, thank you” or “I have what I need.” At least, that’s what I say, and I’ve never met anyone from another region of the States who says “I’m set”!
  • In Connecticut, we eat lots of pasta. Carbs and other simple, unhealthy foods are staples for many.
  • We have a lot of American Italian influence in CT as well.
  • If you’re not Italian (or in addition to being Italian), you’re a “European mutt,” meaning you have some English and probably two to four other European countries in your heritage. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were able to trace your lineage back to a figure from early America!
Spending the end of my time in CT with my dear friend Mia, who is 3/4 Italian and 1/4 Swedish. I'm English, Scottish (my dad's side of the family, so the New England side), Irish, French and a tad bit German (my mom's side of the family from Philly). August 2013.

Spending the end of my time in CT with my dear friend Mia, who is 3/4 Italian and 1/4 Scandinavian. I’m English, Scottish (my dad’s side of the family, so the Connecticut side), Irish, French and a tad bit German (my mom’s side of the family from Philly). August 2013.

  • We are taxed through the ROOF. Literally, look at how many houses are for sale or foreclosed. Everyone’s moving South.
  • We know snow. We can get it feet at a time, depending on the winter. And because of that, we don’t know so much of summer. Our schools probably get out the latest out of all the regions in the States, basically bestowing only two months of summer vacation. But we have record snow days in winter!
  • Many people are wealthy and go skiing in winter. But we’re not all financially rich! For example, I lived in a blue collar community.
  • We keep to ourselves and don’t usually know our neighbors. Town sports through local community centers connect youth and their parents well, however.
  • We were Abolitionists some 150 years ago, and we don’t experience much publicized racism, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  • We’re mostly White people, and as for Connecticut, we’re fairly suburban. In my experience, the racial and class differences between the cities, suburbs, and rural areas are clear.
  • People will go to Cape Cod or Rhode Island for vacations, but they neglect all Connecticut has to offer.
  • Nonetheless, historical landmarks abound in New England–the Nathan Hale homestead, Noah Webster’s house, Plymouth Rock–the list goes on.
My friend and I parting ways after attending a yearly Christian summer camp in Massachusetts. August 2013.

My friend and I parting ways after attending a yearly Christian summer camp in Massachusetts. August 2013.

  • We also have a variety of museums from the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Butterfly Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery, to name a few. Keep heading east in Connecticut near Rhode Island for more options dealing with marine life.
  • Speaking of Yale, all eight Ivy League schools are located in the Northeast. In the six states that officially compose New England (ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI), we have four of the eight: Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale.
  • We’re also known for our seafood and clam chowder, especially in Maine.
  • People go boating on the weekends.
  • We do not have a lot of (contemporary) Christian radio stations (if any), and, at least in southern New England, we only have one country station per region. Pop music it is.
Saying goodbye after visiting some of my cousins in CT, who also enjoy Country 92.5 FM. May 2014.

Saying goodbye after visiting some of my cousins in CT, who share my appreciation for Country 92.5 FM. May 2014.

  • We have amusement and water parks for children (ex. Lake Quassy in CT) and for the whole family (ex. Lake Compounce in CT and Six Flags New England, located in Massachusetts literally a couple miles from the CT border. Bizarro, formerly known as the award-winning steel roller coaster Superman, is housed at here, with its 221 foot drop, 77mph speed and lengthy three and a half minute ride. It’s my favorite.)
  • We root for the Patriots each football season, but as for baseball, you’re either a die-hard Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees fan. In Massachusetts you practically have to be a Sox fan, and nearby NY takes the Yankees, but CT is a total mix. Be careful with whom you side!

Have any New England-isms to add? Comment below!

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Why I still love journalism

When I first began college, I looked for a church. At the third one I visited, the large church held a college Sunday School before the main service. One of the adult men helping with the group joined my group of friends and asked us all our names and majors. When my turn came, I introduced myself and said I was studying journalism.

“That’s a dying field,” he replied.

I was shocked. I literally did not know what to say, and he made no attempt to redeem himself. Instead of welcoming me as a new student and encouraging my interests, he unapologetically decried my dream.

Partly due to this shocking and discouraging encounter, I did not return to that church. I did continue to pursue my journalistic dream, however, by joining the school paper, where I later became News Editor.

This summer I am interning at a magazine called Today’s Christian Woman to broaden my journalistic experience since I had previously only done News. Part of my role as an intern is to look for excerpts from books, which we then post online to stamp our approval for that author’s work. In doing so, I recently read “Starting Something New,” a non-fiction book by Beth A. Booram, a spiritual director living in Indiana.

Booram walks the reader through 14 steps of “birthing a dream” from the idea, through discernment and waiting, to birthing and sustaining. She includes helpful reflection exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader process God’s leading in his or her dream.

My dream centers on the Democratic Republic of Congo and journalism. God has made this clear in many ways this past year, and those two things immediately came to mind yet again as I read Booram’s questions at the end of her second chapter, “Brooding”: What do you spend the most time doing? What do you spend the most time thinking about? Where do you find yourself giving the most effort or caring the most? What excites you? Causes you the greatest joy and satisfaction?

(Racial reconciliation also emerged as an answer to her questions about where I put my emotional energy.)

To the man at that church I visited, I know journalism is changing. For example, while I love the look of ink on my hands from a print newspaper, I recognize that online is taking over print as a primary news source– in fact, I contribute to that! Yes, print journalism is not as popular as it used to be, but News itself, though evolving, is still thriving and will always exist in any democratic society. Perhaps rather than dying or even going through a midlife crisis, journalism is merely going through puberty.

I also recognize that journalism does not pay well. Every journalist knows this, but we report because we love the field. I don’t know what the man’s main job was, but if he was a pastor at the church, he may not have made bank either. Church ministry is not an easy field, so I would hope that the man would understand loving a career for what it is and its purpose rather than the monetary benefits it produces.

In all honesty, I had a rough year being News Editor for my paper this past year. I had a love-hate relationship with the job, but after having gone through all the late work nights and stressful meetings and decisions we as a staff overcame, I do not regret it. I am proud of our team, and I will miss being a part of it next year.

When in the rough times this past year, I almost considered leaving journalism, but that didn’t feel right. I know God has called me to journalism in some form, and I want to honor that. I know I will thrive living out my God-given dream and call: journalism in the DRC.

I don’t have every aspect of this dream spelled out, but part of having a dream is the anticipation of it. Butterflies flutter around my core because I know I’m going to be doing what I love even if I don’t know what that looks like yet. My dream’s form may change over time, and that’s okay too. Currently the thrill is in the anticipation and preparation, in the trust I have that God will work it out for His glory.

Connecting people across racial lines

According to Gallup Strengths Finder, my number one strength is connectedness. Months after taking the Strengths test, I am beginning to realize how true that is. I love connecting people to each other!

For example, I found joy in introducing my friends Sarah Han and Sara Hahne to each other and seeing their reactions as they finally met the other girl on their campus for whom they are always confused. When my Honduran-American friend visited me at Wheaton, I introduced her to my friend who was a missionary kid in Honduras for most of her life, and they conversed in Spanish while I stood back and watched, glad they could speak their home languages together.

Throughout my life, I have felt like a mediator. I was never part of the “in” crowd, but I had good relationships with adults, and I could reach out to the new kids at school. I connected with the outcasts and the lonely. In my freshman year of college, one friend described the main group on my dorm floor as being a pack of wolves. She called herself a lone wolf. I was in between, connecting with both sides, she said. I was pleased at this and thought of myself as a mediator because I do not like to leave out anyone.

Perhaps there is a difference between mediating and connecting, but we can consider that another time. For now, I want to share who I would most love to connect.

Most of my friends now are from the Office of Multicultural Development, a hub and “home” for minority and third culture kids at Wheaton College, IL. Everyone is welcome, regardless of race or culture, which is why I hang out there all the time despite being a White American.

Since I am a White person involved with minority issues, I hope I am in a position to mediate between the majority and the minorities. Perhaps White people will listen to me when I say that #blacklivesmatter because they may be more comfortable around me. Once this trust is established and conversations on race have begun, I can urge them to talk to minorities about minority issues since I am not one myself and have not had the same experiences. I can connect the two parties and help integrate our school into a more harmonious place for the glory of God.

As time passes, I increasingly realize how much joy I find in connecting two people or parties. I love when they are delighted to know each other. I love seeing people make their own connections, and I am glad when they become acquaintances or friends. Something clicks, and I am thrilled.

Why am I writing this today? For one, I did not want to study for finals. Secondly, I was reflecting on the joy of connectedness. Thirdly, as I wrote, I realized that I long for unity and harmony in the world.

Because of Christ Jesus, Christians of all cultures and races can attain this. He has made us one in Him. I especially long to see people of differing cultures and races connect and unite, whether they be East Asians and New Englanders, Blacks and Whites in the States, Puerto Ricans and African Americans, or people of the same race but differing socializations or cultures. We all have some form of common ground, and this commonality is what connects us. When people connect, opportunity abounds for Jesus to be shared and glorified. After all, He is the great Mediator connecting the world to God!

Today I write because am happy and because I hope someone will read this and consider branching out of his or her comfort zone and to make new friends of a different race, culture or background who can challenge and love him or her well.

People have so much to give.