Cheryl McGrath writes: When I was asked to write “my story” in article form, I hesitated. As someone who works in content marketing, I am all about angles, and so writing a Wikipedia entry about myself isn’t my style.
But how do you organise your life into 900 words, even if you are only 32 like me?
That’s when it occurred to me that a heap of my story is bound up in what I write about.
As a blogger, I have chosen to orient my blog around three key topics: faith, mental health and creativity. The reasons for those specific topics? That’s all anchored in my story. So, that’s what I’ll share here. Not a biography, but a picture, of me and my story, using the lens of three really important areas in my life.
Why I write about faith
I grew up in a loving home where Christian community was part of my every day. I went to Christian school, had great Christian friends and our family was heavily involved in church activities.
But, as is often the way, I began to question as I grew older. By the time I entered my early adult years, I was primed for finding my own way.
A catalyst for that was the jarring transition from Christian school into the open sea of university life. I studied Arts, which meant that I was steeped in relativistic thought and deconstruction. On top of that, I was meeting people from vastly different backgrounds to me and who had their own ideas about the world.
All this had a strong impact on me. For one, it crystallised my thinking about my own faith. For another, it gave me an outsider mentality that I’ve never quite lost – feeling at odds with the casual atheism around me, but feeling equally out of place in Christian circles, where I felt “not good enough”.
In hindsight, it’s this outsider mentality that has become the beating heart of how I try to glorify God in my writing.
Though uni life wasn’t always easy for me (and I did live up to the cliché of wearing black and reading Nietzsche), what I appreciated was the open exchange of ideas that I experienced. I also appreciated the chance to step outside my “tribe” and see from an outsider’s eyes.
So many negative things in the world today are down to a lack of those two factors – inquiry and empathy. It’s a lesson I’ve never lost and informs what I write about to this day.
Why I write about mental health
Like many (most?) people, I have dealt with mental health issues and have been close to others who have, too. Not surprisingly, I was deeply affected by my family’s move from the United States to Australia. While I have no regrets about where I am now, I did struggle in my tender tween years, where it’s never good to be different.
I have also had times in my life when I’ve battled a flagging mental outlook. My late teens and young adulthood are muted in my memory because of an all-encompassing eating disorder. And it took me years to realise I am of the temperament where I am prone to depressed thoughts, although I am working and improving.
All of these are areas where I’ve experienced varying levels of understanding. Not everyone gets what each of these is like to experience. There is plenty of misinformation out there (“eating disorders are diets gone wrong”, or “Christians should distrust psychologists”).
That’s lit a fire in me to use my own experience to share with others, and it’s why I have written extensively about my own struggles, particularly with eating disorders and with the public mental health system. I’d love to see a day when sharing about these things isn’t seen as “brave”, so much as “everyone’s got issues, so let’s talk about them”.
Why I write about creativity
For me, my ability to be creative is something I try to use to make the world a better place.
As a kid, I had modest ambitions of being a “bestselling author and illustrator” (my exact words). Many’s the day I would lovingly staple together pages of a new, illustrated story to give my dad when he came home from work.
However, as I grew older, my confidence in my creativity waned, and I knew that writers live on peanuts. And so, I pivoted, and decided to study my Masters in editing and publishing.
It wasn’t until much later that I fell back into writing. A job redundancy in 2015 had derailed my editing career, and it was then that I was offered work as the communications coordinator at CMS Victoria, a Christian mission agency.
This was a turning point. I was given a chance to grow valuable skills (such as writing and content marketing) – areas that are now my career. But I also had the chance to dip my toe in the water of writing for faith audiences, and I began to ask myself if that might be my own mission. Not exactly evangelising, but to publicly challenge and to question, and maybe give others a springboard to do the same.
I also developed a deeply held conviction that everyone has something that they were meant to create. Whether it’s sewing a pillowcase or building a house, we all have abilities we’ve been given and we can glorify God though them.
You can also read my old archive of articles that I wrote as a columnist for Christian Today.
My story is far from over. But I already have lots to be grateful for.
(Cheryl McGrath – 2017 and 2018 Australian Basil Sellers Award winner)
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html