Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Spiritual Autobiography

by Alexis Teevens '13

I have written quite a variety of papers. I share some memorable titles below with the hopes that you can forgive my obsession with the colon.

  • Secret Subversion to Open Totalitarianism: The Evolution of the Enemy
  • Vulnerability as a Danger: The Threat of Children to Established Religion
  • A New Member of the Family: Influence of Pediatrics on Parenting
  • A Peck on the Beak: Formal Construction in Group of Chickens
  • Benjamin Franklin: A Constant Presence on Your Newsfeed
  • “Silenced with Victory”: Feminists for Media Rights v. WGAL, 1975-76

And that’s just a sampling. Generally, I have enjoyed assignments more as I've gone further in my education because I get to address issues I genuinely care about, and (I hope) my writing has improved. But my favorite assignment, and the piece of writing I am most proud of, was one I completed for my freshman seminar.

My freshmen seminar was titled “Faith Narratives,” and as an English seminar, it involved a lot of reading and writing. I struggled with the first assignment, but I figured out how to write about a novel using a thesis statement, and after a semester of practice, I felt ready for our final paper.

Until I got the assignment. Professor Ugolnik asked us to write our own Spiritual Autobiography using texts from the class. That was it. It definitely didn’t sound anything like the papers I had spent the semester learning how to write.

I was not pleased. First of all, I considered myself an agnostic, so I felt like I could not possibly write a spiritual autobiography. I called my mom and ranted about how unfair the assignment seemed. I had not spent all semester working to improve my analytical skills so that I could write about myself or about my spirituality (especially since I was convinced that it didn’t exist).

But something changed as I started writing. I realized that being spiritual did not have to mean that I was religious; it could just mean that I had a better understanding of my own thoughts and actions. I had never been an avid journal keeper, and I had never been particularly self-reflective, but this assignment forced me to think about where I stood after a semester at college.

I wrote about how tough the transition from home had really been, despite the fact that I hadn’t talked to anyone about it. I wrote about how I missed being called Lex instead of Alexis, how I missed watching Sportscenter every morning while I ate the cereal that DHall never had, how I missed playing Apples to Apples and Guitar Hero with my high school friends.

Through writing about these things I missed, I understood what I needed to do to be happy. I ended up arguing that “The struggle to find a balance between attachment and detachment in life dictates the ability to find love and happiness. It is necessary to give some things up in order to appreciate others; with every loss, there is a gain, and vice versa." I admit it is a little convoluted, but it's also something that has stayed with me.

No other assignment has taught me as much about myself as my final paper for Faith Narratives. No paper has stuck with me in the same way, and no other paper has made me understand the power of writing and of self-reflection. This was the first paper that opened my eyes to the beauty of finding a personal connection to literature, and it was the first thing that made me realize it was OK to miss home.

Without that paper, I don’t know if I would have found my voice. I don’t know if I would have understood that writing can be a scary process when you really put yourself into it. I might have missed out on learning to love writing all kinds of papers just because the hope always exists that you’ll discover something new about yourself and your beliefs, no matter what the topic. 



  • Alexis Teevens