Read What Makes You Happy

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As someone studying French and English, books are pretty much my life. I’ve loved reading since I was a little kid. I remember toting around the seventh Harry Potter book when it seemed almost as big as I was. Although I have less time these days, I still read for fun, and Powell’s City of Books is my favorite place in Portland. But for a long time, I felt self-conscious about my reading choices.

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I always thought that English students were supposed to read Literature with a capital “L” in their spare time…the kind of books that are assigned in class. I felt insecure because most of the books I read are young adult (YA) fiction. I read to escape from the real world, and books like The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass are exactly what I need after a long day of analyzing literary fiction.

Our society has a tendency to dismiss things that teenagers like – especially teenage girls. (Take boy bands, for instance.) Because teenage girls are the main connoisseurs of YA fiction, it gets a bad rap. But there are amazing YA books that people are missing out on because of this mindset. And, honestly, so what if a book is “shallow”? If reading mass-market romance gets you through the day, then it’s time well spent.

I’m proud to say that I’m a literature student…and I read YA. Nobody should be ashamed about reading what makes them happy. Can you relate to this? What do you enjoy reading?

Homeschooling, Hens, and Happiness

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

When people find out that I was homeschooled, they tend to have a lot of questions. Once a classmate asked me, “Was it hard to go from homeschooling to college?” Good question! The answer is both yes and no.

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The stereotype is that homeschoolers are weird, and it’s true that I’m a little strange sometimes. I have a pet chicken, after all (who likes to perch on my feet and help me with homework). But homeschoolers are just normal kids. We talk, laugh, argue, and exchange memes just like kids at traditional school. I took classes at a homeschool co-op called Village Home, so I wasn’t a stranger to the classroom setting. And academics are never really the concern – people want to know about my social life.

Here’s the thing: Making friends is hard for anyone, not just homeschoolers. College is an adjustment regardless of where you went to school. I started classes at PCC during my last year of high school to make the transition easier, which helped a lot. By the time I transferred to PSU, I felt right at home.

What was the hard part? Sitting still in class for two hours! Truthfully, though, it was the little things that were the strangest – learning how to take the bus, figuring out how a cafeteria works, and taking midterms for the first time. In the end, homeschooling isn’t all that different from college. In fact, my two worlds collided when Pathos published these photos of my chicken, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Pixelated Page

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on physical books. My eyes wander off the page or I find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. For whatever reason, I don’t have this problem with ebooks. 

Nothing will replace the smell of a new book, but ebooks have perks of their own. You can search by keyword, easily highlight, and bookmark without dog-earing the page. It’s easy to enlarge the text. Plus, ebooks don’t take up valuable dorm room space or terrify you by falling off the shelf in the middle of the night (the dangers of being an English major).

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Not all professors allow digital texts in class, but many of them are amenable if you talk to them about it. As long as you’re not slacking off on Reddit during class, electronic devices are an excellent tool. The great news is that most public domain texts (that is, books that were published before 1920) are available for free online on gutenberg.org. Most libraries allow you to check out ebooks. You can also email PDFs to your ereader rather than printing them out.

So while nothing will replace my love for paper books, I’ve come to appreciate my Kindle. These days you can buy an ereader for as low as $30, like I did, which is less expensive than some textbooks! It’s easy to bring with me and have hundreds of books wherever I go… And I’ve gotten a lot less papercuts.

Puppies for Pronouns

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

I was strolling through downtown Portland last week when I saw a cute dog. Naturally, I squealed and darted over to say hello. “She’s adorable!” I told the owner. “May I please pet her?” She nodded, and as I crouched down to lavish attention on the dog, said, “His name is Chewy.” Realizing the dog was not female like I had initially thought, I corrected myself and said, “He’s the cutest thing ever!” Although I could have cuddled with Chewy all day, all good things must end, and he and I parted ways.

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This encounter reminded me of a Tumblr post I once saw about how people are quick to correct themselves when they mistake an animal’s gender, but not so much when it’s a person. My brain decided that “fluffy dog” meant “girl.” When I discovered I was wrong, I quickly switched to calling the dog “he” instead. 

This happens all the time with people’s pets and babies, and nobody makes a big deal out of it. But when it comes to people’s pronouns, suddenly it becomes a big deal to society. That’s a lot of fuss for a little word like he, she, or they

Dogs don’t care about pronouns, but people do. So why do we apologize when we misgender someone’s dog, but not when we misgender a person? My intention is not to compare people with pets. My encounter with Chewy simply made me think about how important gender identity is for people, and how important it is to respect people’s pronouns. 

Taking a Vacation From Vacation

Untitled design-3  by Claire Golden

When spring term started, the question of the week was, “What did you do for spring break?” All my classmates were busy exchanging spring break stories to find out where everyone had traveled. “What did you do, Claire?” my friend asked. 

“Well,” I said, “I slept for 15 hours straight and read a lot of books.”

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I used to think I would travel the world when I was grown up. But the older I get, the more I appreciate a quiet afternoon. I still dream of visiting Europe to test out my French major in the real world, and I fantasize about the Caribbean islands just as much as the next person. There’s so much to learn and see in the world, and traveling is absolutely awesome.

The thing is, vacations are tiring! Packing, traveling, and sightseeing take a lot of energy, and I find myself drained mentally and physically at the end of a trip. By the time I get back, classes are starting and I’m more tired than I was before. 

So I’ve learned to appreciate my time at home just as much as my time on vacation. I love the feeling of waking up without an alarm clock and having a completely lazy day. “Staycations” are the perfect opportunity to relax with family and friends and take a break from the chaos of everyday life. Or to binge-watch Bob Ross while curled up with your puppy.

The Perks of Summer School

by Claire Golden

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If you’re reading this, you made it through finals week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sleep for about three weeks and then eat a lot of cake – not think about summer classes. But this will be the third summer I’ve taken classes, and though my post-finals brain may protest, I’ll be happy to have something to keep me busy once summer boredom sets in.

What’s so great about more homework during the summer? I’m a former homeschooler, so I don’t think in terms of the “school year.” There’s no time limit for learning! It can be rough going from being a full-time student to having no classes at all, so taking a few credits can help keep your brain occupied. Plus, it means you can take a lighter course load during the year.

What I like best about summer classes is that many of them are online. Being homeschooled means I’m used to this format, and I love it. You can read the lectures at your own pace rather than frantically taking notes in person. Online discussions mean I sound way more eloquent than I do in real life (thank you, backspace key). If you’re going on vacation, you can work ahead in the syllabus so you don’t have to do homework on the beach.

Most importantly, you can go to college in your pajamas. Thank you, online classes, for helping me earn my degree in style.

Life Lessons From Cow Pigeon

by Claire Golden

I was hurrying to class last week when a flash of black-and-white caught my eye. Instantly all thoughts of looming finals vanished, and I grabbed my phone and ran across the Urban Plaza to snap a picture of Cow Pigeon. You may have read about Cow Pigeon in the Pacific Sentinel. This extraordinary bird has captured the love of PSU students, one of whom anonymously chronicles CP’s adventures on Instagram @littlecowpigeon.

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Why do people love this bird so much? Because he’s adorable, hilarious, and he makes people smile. He brings together the PSU community by giving people something to bond over.

He helps me remember that amazing things are everywhere if you keep your eyes open. I started looking, Cow Pigeon was everywhere – last week marks my 17th sighting of him. When I put my phone away and spend time in nature, I end up feeling so much better, and this bird helps me remember that.

Cow Pigeon reminds me not to take myself so seriously. On Valentine’s Day, I wrote an entry for PSULoveStory about my friendship with Cow Pigeon…and it got fourth place!

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The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this little pigeon is that it’s OK to be different. I get weird looks sometimes for getting so excited over a pigeon, but life is more fun when you get excited over the little things. Cow Pigeon is unlike any other bird in Portland, and that’s what makes him so special.