A Sunshine-Filled Summer

by Beth Royston

Anyone that knew me while I was attending high school in California would be shocked if they saw me voluntarily leaving my house during the summertime. In my defense, when it’s super hot almost all year long, one can get rather tired of that weather. I’ve never liked the heat, but living in Portland has definitely changed my perspective. I am always grateful that Portland actually has seasons, and I find myself looking forward to every one, because there’s things I can only do during that season coming up. This summer, I will actually leave my house and voluntarily be under the sun! If you’re looking for fun summertime activities, I’m here to finish off my list of seasonal jaunts with one tailored to celebrate summer.

Attend a festival!

Portland has some awesome festivals and events over the summer. Portland Pride, the Soapbox Derby, tons of concerts, floats on the river, and more. There’s something for everyone, and there’s great ideas here on Travel Portland. I’ve done a bunch of these, and it’s always a blast! My favorite event ever has to be the all-you-can-eat ice cream festival in the city a few years ago. Pure heaven.

Get outside!

Summer is a great time to go camping, and there’s plenty of places to go. Even if full-on camping isn’t for you, there are still swimming holes and gorgeous short hikes close to the city. You can swim in natural rivers, kayak, and visit waterfall trails when nature is in full flourishing mode. I highly recommend seeing if any hikes that end with a swim might appeal to you!

Berry picking!

You’re really missing out if you’ve never gone berry-picking. There are a ton of places fairly close to Portland to drive out to, and afterwards you can make a jam, a pie, or just cram bucketfuls of berries into your mouth. You’ll probably find other U-Pick farms while you’re driving about, and I’ve come home with homemade lavender products from a lavender farm and more fun goodies that make me excited to go exploring every year.

Attend a Thorns game!

I’ve written before about how much I absolutely love going to Thorns games at Providence Park. And great news — the Thorns are coming back after the pandemic! In June, ticket sales will open for summer games, and it looks like all attendees are required to be vaccinated. Personally, I’m over the moon, and can’t wait to go!

There are plenty of fun things to do this summer. It feels like there’s a different energy in the air — people are ready to get out and enjoy the sun, especially after all this time locked up. While it’s critically important to still follow state regulations and be safe — acknowledging the pandemic left lasting scars for some of us — I’m so excited to get out. I’m graduating and will soon be enjoying the purchase of my first car. This is my last post for PSU Chronicles, so thank you all for reading and following along with my posts while I’ve been at PSU! Best of luck out there, and enjoy your summer!

Moving Forward, Looking Back

by Beth Royston

Somehow, we’re a few weeks away from the end of spring term. I’m about to graduate, and it feels really bizarre. While I don’t necessarily feel like a completely different person from when I started, I recognize that I’ve grown a lot through the things that I accomplished and the trials that I went through. I also don’t feel as thrilled about graduating as I thought — this past year was really difficult, and it’s caused some burn out from school. Graduation definitely feels bittersweet, as I was really looking forward to being able to walk. However, I absolutely respect that Portland State is holding off on the in-person ceremony due to safety concerns. To help celebrate my own accomplishments as I prepare to graduate, I wanted to remember some things that really marked personal growth for me during the years.

Shifting my attitude towards life

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m a very type-A person. I have a folder that has the things I’d like to accomplish in the next five years of my life organized by season — if that’s any indication of how I think. Planning is soothing to me, and helps me feel like I’m in control. But frankly, a lot of things happened while I was in college that I couldn’t control, even though I planned otherwise. It freaked me out. I definitely had a crisis or two where I felt like I didn’t know who I was and I wouldn’t ever recover from what was happening. But I made it through. I not only got through life taking crazy twists and turns, I can feel that my own attitude towards life has become more relaxed. There’s definitely things that I’d like to be proactive about and make happen in my life over the next few years, but I’m learning to slow down more. There’s a lot that fulfills and sustains me that I want to spend time on, and I have plenty of time to accomplish the things I want to accomplish. I definitely suffer from worrying that I need to do everything important I’m ever going to do before I turn 25 — a sentiment that I’ve seen reflected in a lot of other people my age. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be up to in the next few years, and that’s okay.

Making it through college

I didn’t doubt when I started that I would get through college — I love school. But a lot of things happened that really tested my perseverance. The worst part was the massive mental health struggles I had in my junior year when I was incredibly physically sick. Trying to be a good student during that time was really taxing, and continuing to get up and go everyday while I was feeling so awful was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I got through it, despite being really sick, despite the pandemic, despite other things not going so well. I’m also graduating with honors, which may not mean much to others, but after how things went for me I feel incredibly proud of myself.

Starting a business 

I’m really proud of myself for starting a business in 2020. While it’s been a blast, it’s also a lot of work. I wasn’t particularly intimidated to start, but it’s a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. It’s taught me a lot and humbled me a lot, and while I don’t intend on making my side business my main source of income, I want to try to grow it even more this year. I’ve learned a lot about how to improve my products, and made a lot of advancements that are very important to me, like making my packaging process as eco-friendly as I can. 

Other accomplishments

I finished the first draft of my book in college, which has been a lifelong dream. I got engaged to the person that makes me the happiest in the entire world, and felt our relationship strengthen over time. I’ve come into myself a lot more, and feel like I know who Beth is a lot more clearly. My sense of self is already strong, but I hope that I only continue to hone that over time. I grew a lot, in directions that were healthy for me to move in. That’s definitely what I appreciate the most as I prepare to graduate.

Subscription Services!

by Beth Royston

I love receiving packages in the mail. Even if I know what it is, it’s still exciting, though never quite the same as a mystery piece of mail. In the pandemic especially, sometimes I’ll turn to a little retail therapy, but that doesn’t quite scratch the itch of a package arriving where I’m not entirely sure of the contents. I’ve tried a few subscription boxes lately that fit perfectly in the middle — I know when they’re coming, but not exactly what’s inside. Here are a few that I’ve tried personally, or friends have tried, as well as some that are on my future-subscription list.

Atlas Coffee Club 

I tried a subscription to Atlas Coffee Club, a coffee subscription service, as a gift to my partner. There are many coffee subscription services out there and most consist of options for you to choose your roast, grind style, and delivery frequency. My partner enjoyed trying different coffees from all around the world, and was impressed at how quickly the beans arrived after they were ground. Each Atlas shipment also included a postcard about the coffee’s origins. Overall it was a super cool way to try some things my partner might not have come across normally!

Check Atlas Coffee Club out here

Book of the Month

I love to read, but find myself busier and busier. Sometimes finding time to read is difficult enough, and if I don’t have anything new, it seems like I don’t have time to peruse my local bookstore and find something I’d like. A subscription service I want to try is Book of the Month! You can choose from up to five selections for them to send to you each month, and you can always skip a month if you’re not ready. Their books are specially curated and it seems like a great way to stick to reading more!

Check out Book of the Month here.

Sipsby 

I love tea. I’ve dabbled in making my own personalized blends and vastly enjoy trying fun flavors. While my tasting experience is a bit limited by the fact that I can only ingest decaf (thanks, caffeine intolerance) I was thrilled to hear about Sipsby, a tea subscription service. Sipsby is similar to a coffee subscription service, but sends you many different types of tea in a personalized box each month. You can specify what kinds you’d like and if you’d like decaf! 

Check out Sipsby here.

Hunt a Killer

You might have heard of this one. While I personally haven’t tried it, my roommates are true crime fanatics and love Hunt a Killer. It’s a murder mystery subscription box that comes with all the clues you need to crack a case, spread out over several episodes. It’s a blast with several people playing, and comes with a lot of really well thought out material to make every box a fun and thrilling experience.

Check out Hunt a Killer here

A Stellar Spring

by Beth Royston

It’s time for me to share another season’s worth of favorite activities again! A lot of these activities are open all year long, but the bright colors and fragrant blooms that come with springtime makes them particularly special.

Visit the Rose Garden!

Located in Washington Park, which is also home to the Oregon Zoo, the International Test Rose Garden is a stunningly beautiful trip. It’s host to more than 10,000 rose bushes and is truly a perfect visit for anyone that’s a fan of spring. There are some absolutely gorgeous varieties of roses that I never knew existed, and every time I feel like I see something new! Plus, you can make it a day trip with Washington Park’s other activities.

Cherry Blossoms at the Waterfront Park!

Perfectly instagram-able, not everyone knows that a large majority of the trees in the downtown Waterfront Park are actually cherry blossom trees. They bloom every spring, and pictures don’t truly do it justice. You can stroll along the park while observing the blossoms, appreciating this official sign that spring is here! For anyone that’s ever wanted to travel to Japan to see sakura season, this is a wonderful experience.

Check out the Portland Japanese Garden/Lan Su Chinese Garden! 

Located in Washington Park and downtown Portland respectively, these two attractions are open all year long, but are particularly beautiful in the spring (I can also vouch for the beauty of the Japanese Garden in autumn!). Seeing lush gardens so full of life always makes me happy after winter, and you can see them at the height of their beauty.

See the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival!

Tulips galore! Located in Woodburn, this extravaganza of tulips is a perfect way to celebrate spring. The best time to see the tulips is the first few weeks of April, but the festival is usually open until early May. They have an immense variety of tulips and other flowers to see and purchase, and also hot air balloon rentals! I hope you’ll keep these Portland spring attractions on your mind this year!

A Peaceful Respite

by Beth Royston

Video games are not only a huge hobby of mine, they’re also a form of stress relief. They can serve as both an art form and a way to decompress. I play a lot of games normally, but over the past year that we’ve been in the pandemic, I find myself turning to more calming management-style games. They’re distracting and perfect when I need to relax. I thought I’d recommend some of my indie favorites in case you’re also looking for your next fix. I tried to include several, but realistically, I could go on forever. These are either games I’ve played myself and have given a happy stamp of approval, or that have received raving reviews from friends. I could also recommend several other games that wouldn’t quite fit the management tag, but that’s a list for another day. 

Stardew Valley

Personally, I feel like Stardew Valley is super well-known, but I still haven’t played it! I’m hoping to remedy that soon. However, almost all of my friends have played, and no one has anything negative to say about it. In Stardew Valley, you take over a farm and make it the best it can be, while getting to know the townsfolk and exploring a gorgeous world. Stardew Valley has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 290,206 reviews. It’s available on multiple consoles, but if you play on PC, you can find a lot of mods that people have lovingly made to enhance your experience.

Slime Rancher

Slime Rancher features you taking the role of Beatrix LeBeau, a rancher living on a foreign planet who spends her days wrangling various types of slimes and exploring the Far, Far Range. Slime Rancher is super charming, with many different environments to explore and cute characters to meet. You can combine slime types and grow their favorite foods, while keeping an eye on the changing market prices. In my opinion, Slime Rancher does an excellent job of balancing exploration with management that actually feels necessary and real! You’re required to pay attention to your ranch and venture out in order to advance the game. It also has a timed mode and a relaxed mode so you can customize your experience. Slime Rancher has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with over 54,461 reviews and took me about 20 hours to play through.

Potion Craft

Potion Craft isn’t released yet, but you can play the demo. It looks like a unique, promising concept. You play as an alchemist in a small town, taking the townspeople’s various requests for potions while trying to figure out how to make most of them through wild experimentation. What charmed me the most was the art style of the game — it looks like a medieval text. I found the demo extremely fun to play and spent time exploring what happened when I added various ingredients together. I’m really looking forward to spending hours in this game, managing my little alchemy shop when Potion Craft releases.

Spiritfarer

I’ve saved the best for last. Spiritfarer was my personal game of the year in 2020. You play as Stella, the newest Spiritfarer replacing Charon, and sail around a beautiful world in your massive vessel with your cat Daffodil. Your goal is to find lost spirits in the world and help them pass on, while discovering more about yourself. You complete charming tasks, like cooking, gardening, building workshops and spirit houses, and chasing adorable nebula rollie-pollies that sink onto your boat like falling stars. (Extremely important note — you can hug Daffodil at any time!) Spiritfarer is ultimately a game about loss, death, and grief, and it definitely made me sob every time I helped a spirit pass on. With the disclaimer that it’s a sad game, it definitely struck a chord with me as a sentimental, beautiful work of art about how those you love will never be far. The soundtrack is incredible, the quests are charming, and I literally cannot say enough about it. The developers are releasing new spirits this year, which has motivated me to start a new playthrough and experience it all over again. Spiritfarer has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 7,340 reviews, and I have almost 40 hours in the game — but disclaimer, I did spend extra time getting all of the achievements. 

I hope that this list gave you some inspiration for calming management games to try! 

Quintessential Conventions

by Beth Royston

Ah, conventions – gatherings for people who share a common love of comics, anime, or other uniting things. Where else can you walk giant circles around one building all day, squeezing past people in impossibly intricate armor cosplays, trying to get in line to buy an incredibly expensive burger? I love conventions, and have truly missed their presence in my life this past year. I can’t wait for them to be back again! I’d like to provide a little tidbit on what to expect if you’ve always been fascinated by these gatherings of greatness or have ever considered attending. This is by no means a comprehensive list of every piece of advice or every convention in the area, but hopefully it’ll get you started.

Where do I start?

There are usually a “main three” in Portland my partner and I like to frequent — Rose City Comic Con (RCCC), Wizard Con Portland (WC) and Kumoricon. RCCC and WC are more comic-oriented, while Kumoricon is more anime-oriented. My partner and I aren’t super into comics, and I’m not into anime, but we feel like there’s an inclusion of many sources of media at these conventions. All celebrate pop culture, and offer merchandise for video games, tv shows, books … you name it. There are some smaller cons in Portland we haven’t checked out yet, and we’re interested in checking out some Oregon conventions outside the Portland area. We’ve also attended Seattle’s PAX West in the past, which I highly recommend if you love everything video games like we do. My partner and I are interested in checking out some other Washington conventions in the future as well.  RCCC, WC, and Kumoricon are all in the fall or winter, and PAX is in the summer. Convention tickets usually range between $40-70 for a full weekend pass, but of course, this varies. You can also purchase a one-day pass if you want to test the waters.

Do you have to cosplay?

No, absolutely not. There are plenty of folks in their regular clothes. However, cosplaying is really, really fun. You can start small and purchase your entire costume online, or pick a character that wears everyday clothes that are easy to find. Or, you can get a little more advanced and try out sewing and/or crafting parts of your costume. It’s rewarding and exciting! It’s a highlight of convention season every year to recognize folks in costume from media my partner and I both love, and also, to be recognized! Having a starry-eyed con-goer ask to take your picture is a pretty sweet feeling. There’s usually a lot of workshops and panels during a con about cosplaying and how to make props if you’re interested in learning. If you are cosplaying, I recommend checking out social media or convention forums to see if there are any meetup groups for the media you’re cosplaying from! Usually there will be a costume contest at a convention, and that’s a great way to see the amazing talent on display.

What is there to do?

A lot! My personal favorite part is browsing the artists’ alley. There are so many cool posters, keychains, stickers, and a ton of other kinds of merch I won’t even think of before I see it! There’s usually a lot of stock for things that are current and popular, but there’s a particular excitement that ignites inside me when I see merchandise for something older, or less well-known. I’ve scored some truly awesome finds, and it feels great to support local creators. You can also attend panels, which are usually on a variety of topics, and simply people-watch. I love walking around and seeing everyone’s cosplays, as well as being asked for pictures. Always ask someone before taking a picture, and don’t touch anyone’s cosplay or body without their consent. There’s plenty to do the entire weekend, but you can always try just going for one day if you’re unsure about how you’ll like it. 

I hope you’ll give convention-going a try if it sounds interesting! This year, it’s a goal of mine to try selling my handmade soap in an artist’s alley.  For now, I simply dream of going back. Hope to see you there!

A Clearer Future

by Beth Royston

Well, I received my news. For those of you who read my previous post Learning to be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable, I wrote that I felt like I was spiraling, unanchored, waiting for decisions and news that would help me shape what my life was going to look like next year. A few weeks ago, both my partner and I found out that we didn’t get into our chosen graduate program. Honestly, I was devastated. I had wanted to get into that program since I started college, and it felt crushing to receive that news. However, I’ve spent the few weeks afterwards in a state of odd peace, which I didn’t imagine I would obtain. 

I’ve done a lot of thinking and realized that while I would have loved to go, this decision may be for the best. My partner and I have both had a rough time with online school, and as we near graduation, we’re both feeling pretty burnt out. A break sounds nice right about now. We’ve also spent the past four years on part-time wages, and being able to find full-time jobs and actually have some savings will be great. We also have become really interested in buying a car, and that would probably be really difficult on our current funds. It’s actually achievable next year with the chance to work full-time, and getting some more experience in our chosen fields is never a bad thing. 

I was introspective and realized that I was so averse to taking another gap year because I’d already taken one —and it was a bad experience. I first decided to take a gap year in between high school and college, and moved from California immediately  after graduation. I had no friends in Portland, and lived alone. I was really lonely without my pets for the first time. I loved my job and saved up a lot of money working there, but I didn’t really do much else other than work. I was incredibly depressed, and understandably didn’t want to repeat that. But I’m in a much different position now than I was then. My life is fulfilling, and I have a lot of hobbies and people around me that bring me joy. There’s so many things that I’m looking forward to doing now that I’ve lived in Portland for five years and have regular favorite spots. Of course it’s normal for me to be upset about not getting in, but I’ve been really pleased to come to peace with it, and realize the many silver linings that are appearing. I’m feeling optimistic about maybe getting my novel publishing-ready this year, and I really want to try taking my online business to a convention! A year of resetting sounds pretty great right about now, with how awful this year has been. We’ll both apply again next year, but it feels like a lot of pressure is off. I’m mostly grateful to just have an answer, so I can begin formulating a picture of what next year will look like. 

A New Fit Experience

by Beth Royston

Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to try something I’d always been curious about — working with a personal trainer. I was fortunate enough to try purchasing sessions with a personal trainer from campus Rec, with the hopes that I could get assistance developing an at-home routine that would help me get a little more fit. Due to the pandemic, I wasn’t playing sports anymore and I’ve never been a fan of running. I was hoping that being able to exercise in my garage with someone to motivate me would be a novel experience that would be just what I needed.

Looking back on my sessions, I am definitely glad that I tried it. It’s a lot easier for me to stay motivated if I have someone to check in with, and I was grateful that I could ask questions and figure out what reasonable goals were with a professional. Before I committed to purchasing sessions, I was able to meet with my trainer to discuss my goals, and feel out if it was a good fit. I think it helped me to have clear goals, like something that I could easily fit into my busy day, but my trainer was able to help me clarify those goals even more and get specific. Finding relatively short but intense workouts that I could do at home helped me minimize the personal excuses that I’ve always come up with — I don’t have enough time, or I don’t want to go to the gym, et cetera. I also did realize that I think I honestly prefer sports as my form of exercise. I’m just not a big gym person, and while working out at home is definitely better, sometimes it still feels a bit too similar. I’m definitely going to keep up the workout routine that I developed up until the pandemic is over, but I’m looking forward to being able to join a sport again and have that be my go-to. I would say overall that I recommend the experience if you can try it and do want to check it out! 

A Wonderful Winter

by Beth Royston

I wrote a post previously on my favorite autumn activities (see: An Aspirational Autumn). I thought I’d continue the series by logging some of my favorite winter activities! It’s definitely been more of a secluded winter with the pandemic, but I’ve been pleased to find out that I can still carry out some of my plans. So without further ado, here are some of my best recommendations to carry you through these chilly months.

Check out the Portland Winter Light Festival!

Held every year in early February, the Winter Light Festival is a glorious assembly of light displays and art. It’s usually spread out through different locations in the city. This year, the Festival took the form of separate installations around the city. I unfortunately didn’t make it out to see the art this year, but I’ve gone in the past, and I absolutely recommend it! Check out their website linked here.

See Zoo Lights!

If you love going to the zoo, check it out in a new fashion with Zoo Lights! Held around the holiday season, this event at the Oregon Zoo takes place in the evening. While most of the animals are asleep, you can see brilliant and cute light displays, and the infamous tunnel of lights which is a worthy photo-op. They have many food carts still open, so you can still get a warm beverage and a snack. I definitely recommend checking it out at least once.

Venture out into the snow!

I was beyond thrilled to have snow this year on Valentine’s Day weekend. If you also enjoy the snow, I definitely recommend making the most of it! You can have a snowball fight, build a snowman, or simply take a lovely winter walk. My fiancee and I walked to our local park, found a hill, and tossed ourselves down it on our stomachs like penguins since we didn’t have sleds. It was so much fun, but be careful if you’re out in the snow not to slip! If you don’t have any good footwear, you can purchase snap-on treads for your shoes that will vastly increase your traction in the ice. 

Try taking a trip to the coast/sea lion caves

You may not find this enjoyable if you dislike winter weather, but if you don’t mind it, take a trip to the Oregon coast. During the off season, the beaches are pretty vacant, and hotel rates tend to be lower. My partner and I went in December, and we absolutely loved how quiet it was. The scenery at the beach was still gorgeous. Neither of us are huge sunning-yourself beach people anyway, so we didn’t mind at all. Also, consider heading down south to Florence to visit the sea lion caves, which are the largest sea caves in North America! Unfortunately, they closed this year due to the pandemic, but it’s a bucket list item of mine to go. The best time to go is during the winter, when the sea lions huddle inside the cave to stay warm.

However you spend your winter, I hope it’s safe, warm, and fun! 

Starting Line Advice

by Beth Royston

Somehow, almost four years of college have passed. I’m about to graduate in the spring. I was recently thinking back on my entire college experience and how the pandemic changed so many expectations I held about how it would go. I thought about what had gone the way I’d expected, and what hadn’t at all. For anyone that might be about to embark on their own college journey, I’ve compiled my tips on staying afloat into a list, with the hopes that it might help soothe your worries about what those next four (or more!) years will look like.

Figure out your own rules

College is vastly different from high school in a lot of amazing ways. You’re much more on your own, which is really freeing — but can also be really intimidating. To succeed, it really helped me to nail down exactly how I liked to study, how early in the morning I could bear to go to class, and when and where I liked doing my homework. Those provided parameters for scheduling classes and figuring out when I was going to get things done. Abiding by my own rules made it a lot easier to feel productive. Personally, I became a better student because I could actually take classes I was interested in, and also because I was allowed to make more decisions about how I wanted to learn.

Stay flexible.

I’m happy to say that I generally don’t have any regrets in life, except doing some pretty cringey things in middle school. But seriously, staying flexible has helped me ride the highs and lows of college life. I’m type A to the point that I have the next ten years of my life generally figured out. However, life has a funny way of not going the way you plan it to, and this includes college. Hello, pandemic! While it’s okay to mourn changed plans and grieve missed opportunities, the best thing you can do is make the best of what you have. Keep to your goals, but be open to how you get to the end changing, as long as you get there. 

Try new things.

I’m a naturally extroverted person, but it was still nerve-wracking to do some of the things I did that were outside of my comfort zone. Even if I didn’t end up liking that club or left the event early, I still could say I tried it! I made some great connections and hilarious memories by just being open if something seemed even remotely interesting to me.

Talk to your advisor early and often.

I talk to my advisor at least once a term. It helped me feel comforted that I was on track to graduate. I would seriously recommend checking in with your advisor at least once a term, and early — before it’s too late and you can’t get in to ask them your registration questions. They are also usually able to connect you to resources on campus that you may need, and give some career advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advocate for yourself. This also extends to asking for help when you need it. There are so many resources on campus to help you succeed, take advantage of them! 

My college experience was definitely not what I thought it would be. To be transparent, there were a lot of things that I wished I could try that I never got to, and being sick nearly all junior year made me feel like I was missing out on a lot. And then, of course, the pandemic caused my entire senior year to be online, and I felt like I was missing out on even more. I was looking forward to so much, and have been grieving that loss. However, I couldn’t control any of that. I remember the happy memories I made in college — the friends I met, the food I ate, the countless hours spent at the farmer’s market with my partner. I do count myself lucky because I want to attend Portland State for graduate school, and that will be three more years at the campus I love so much. Above all, I’m a very different student now than I was in high school, and I feel like I succeeded by advocating for myself and staying flexible throughout these years. I hope that these tips help if you’re just about to start Portland State, or elsewhere — and welcome to college.