Community of Action

1IMG_4856by Steph Holton

In my last blog post, I talked about failing my student commencement speaker audition, and since then I’ve realized that the things I’d hoped to be able to say to my graduating class are still words that I want to share, and ones that are just as true here as they would be on that stage. So to all of my PSU classmates, I’d like to say:

“Four years ago, when I stood in front of my high school graduating class of 121 students, I talked about the future. I talked about taking the lessons we’d learned from our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and going out into the real world to—eventually—do great things.

“Today, with this… marginally larger audience, I want to talk about the amazing lessons I’ve learned from you, my fellow students, and the great things you’re already doing.

“In our time together at PSU, we’ve seen newsworthy accomplishments—like our engineering students launching a balloon more than 20 miles in the air in order to bring the 2017 solar eclipse to the desktops of viewers worldwide, and students of different skin colors, religions, and nationalities rallying together swiftly and peacefully to stand for our rights to safe communities, women’s healthcare and affordable schooling.

“And then there are the more subtle, everyday accomplishments. It’s not uncommon to see complete strangers sharing their opposing viewpoints in the middle of the Park Blocks, or to inquire about someone’s pronouns, and then use them correctly. And even though at PSU we recognize that conversation, understanding, and respect are basic tenets of good citizenship, and that we still have a lot of room to grow in these areas, they’re not common practice on every campus. PSU is special because we don’t look past each other’s differences. We embrace them. We recognize that our different backgrounds and beliefs and aspirations are assets in our collective pursuits for a better world.

“Four years ago, I left my little Montana valley town for the stumps and bridges of Portland, and I’ve learned here that more than anything, it’s the small, everyday practices—recycling, asking others’ opinions, embracing difference—that make us all activists. I am so proud to be a part of this community of action, and I want to thank you for teaching me to appreciate the amazing things we’re doing right now.”

Almost Good Enough

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

I recently applied to be a student commencement speaker. On paper, I’m pretty qualified for the job. I did three years of speech and debate, I recently presented a paper at a conference and I even spoke at my high school graduation, all with a fair amount of success.

When I had the opportunity to audition for this role, however, I bombed. My knees shook the whole time, and near the end of my speech—which I knew so well I could probably say it backwards—I completely blanked and spent several seconds in awkward silence. A week later I got one of those “thank you, but we decided to go another way” emails.

Failing really sucks, especially when you get so close to something, and then fall short. I was disappointed when I got the email, and for a moment I felt like I shouldn’t have tried in the first place; if I hadn’t tried, I couldn’t have been disappointed about being almost good enough. I also tried to justify my failure; maybe I’d bombed because it’s infinitely more terrifying to give a speech to 15 very distinguishable faces than to a faceless crown of several thousand, or maybe if I’d just run through my speech one more time…

Then I realized that I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you as a PSUChronicles student blogger for the last three years, and it’s been right for me. I think a lot of times when we fail, it’s not that we weren’t a good fit for a position, it’s that we maybe weren’t the right fit. And if we don’t try things we might fail at, we’ll never find that right fit.

I’m still a little sore at myself for messing up my audition, but that’s life. The only thing we can do when things like this happen is to forgive ourselves and keep trying. As for me, I’m going to keep trying in the way that I know best—through writing—and as graduation swiftly approaches, I want to say congrats to my fellow graduates, and to all of you, thanks for reading.

We met on Tinder

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

Some people have really cute how-we-met stories: “We’ve known each other since childhood. It was fate,” (my grandparents); “I hired him to break a horse for me,” (my parents); “We met on a boat and it was like flying and Celine Dion was singing in the background,” (OK, yes, that last one is Titanic, but you catch my drift).

A lot of people get caught up in both having a story better than “We met on Tinder” and avoiding the perceived shame of being on Tinder in the first place, to the extent that they will either concoct an alternate story to share with family, or even avoid getting serious with a match because they think they’ll meet ‘the one’ in a grander fashion.

But I’m here to say: Own your story!

Despite the size of the student body, it’s not super easy to meet people on the PSU campus. It’s just as amazing to say that two people happened to meet out of crazy chance through an app than it is to give credit to Celine Dion. And if you’re not on Tinder to meet ‘the one,’ own that, too. Even though I’ve been off Tinder for a year and a half (and in terms of technology that might as well be a decade), I think I can still say the golden rule of Tinder is to be honest—on your profile and with yourself—about what you’re looking for. You’re obviously not alone. And if you do happen to meet ‘the one,’ don’t be afraid to say ‘we met on Tinder.’

Networking Nerves

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

 

For Spring Break this year, I did not go to Mexico or Miami or even out to the Oregon coast. Instead, I traveled farther inland  to attend a conference where I made better connections with students in my department and networked with professionals in my field across the Pacific Northwest.

I was extremely hesitant to commit to this trip; it meant that I would be doing very anti-Spring Break things like getting up early, wearing professional attire, and because I presented a paper at the conference, putting together slides and stressing over the finer points of my research right up through the end of the week. Honestly though, these were minor factors. My biggest mental roadblock in attending this conference was the dreaded idea of networking. Going up to professionals and introducing myself over and over again, especially in a fairly small community where everyone seems to already have connections, is not only hopelessly daunting, but seems exhausting.

I learned a few things once I arrived at the conference.

First, a lot of professionals are more than willing—excited even—to talk to students, so don’t feel like you’re a pest if you go up and introduce yourself. If that idea truly wigs you out, go to a talk or a panel by a professional you want to connect with and email them after the conference, mentioning that you’re interested in their research. We live in a world of digital networking, after all.

Second, don’t discount your student connections. In the not too distant future, we are going to be each other’s network, and the best thing I got from this Spring Break was better relationships with the other students in my department.

And third, put yourself out there. Like I said, I didn’t really want to go to this conference at first, but I knew it was a great opportunity. When I went the extra step and contributed to the conference as well, I gained not only connections but added to my own professional experience.

NWAC Table Rock 2 NWAC Table Rock 1

A few of my fellow Anthropology Student Association members and me at the top of Table Rock overlooking Boise, ID after the Northwest Anthropological Conference.

 

 

 

Don’t ask me what’s next

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

Last summer at a large family gathering, I heard my recently-graduated cousin get asked the same two questions over and over again—what’s next? And do you have a job? And over and over again, I heard him give the increasingly uncomfortable answers—I’m still figuring it out, and no. I, however, had no desire to ask him either of these questions, mostly because the thought of them being directed at me filled me with an almost existential dread, and at the time I was still an entire year from graduation.

Now though, I’m only one term away from graduation, and the terror of interrogation is ever mounting.

I envy my classmates who have it all figured out—jobs they can keep after graduation, apartments they don’t have to move out of. But the reason I envy them is probably different than the ones you’d imagine. It’s not the stability factor. It’s that they’ll have an answer to give their families when they’re ask what’s next?

I’m at least a little bit okay with not knowing what’s next. As much as I’d like knowing I’ll have a stable income once those student loan payments kick in, I’m also kind of excited by the fact that I could be anywhere six months from now. But I still don’t want to be asked what’s next? I’m not going to have a satisfactory answer, and it’s only going to make us both feel bad. You can definitely ask what I’m excited for post-graduation, though.

So you say have senioritis?

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

Students make up a lot excuses to get out of, postpone, or apologize for their school work. In the last 15 and a half years, I’ve heard and made my fair share of them.

Senioritis very much sounds like one of those made-up excuses, because you certainly can’t account for it with a doctor’s note, or, honestly, any other form of evidence save for an Urban Dictionary definition that, in my opinion, is right on the nose: laziness, lack of studying, repeated absences and a generally dismissive attitude. “The only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation,” it states.

Some highly motivated students will deny the reality of this condition. But to the rest of you, who, like me, are looking toward graduation this spring, I am here to say: I see your senioritis, and I know you can stop the Netflix playback and power through.

Finishing up degree requirements, writing a thesis or completing a capstone, and trying to make plans for life after a diploma can leave a student feeling serious burnout. Denying that burnout is not going to help anyone make it down the homestretch. But if you recognize that your needs as a student change from freshman to senior year, you can create a plan to stay on track wherever you might be in that journey.

There are innumerable tips one could follow to be a successful student – drink lots of water, sleep, use a planner, prioritize both study time and time for health and wellness – but the bottom line is to figure out what works for you and give yourself a break every once in a while! Senioritis is real.

More than calories

img_4856 by Steph Holton

Food is the one great unifier. For starters, it quite literally sustains life. But the importance of food goes beyond mere calories.

In a world with such remarkable cultural diversity, it is sometimes difficult to find common ground. Every single culture has customs surrounding food, though, and therein lies an opportunity for shared experience. In the simple act of preparing a meal, one is communicating a willingness to expend energy nourishing a companion, and also a desire to share what is potentially a meaningful aspect of one’s life—a favorite food, a traditional mode of preparation, even the excitement of acquiring a new culinary skill.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and households around the country are already prepping for that magnificent turkey-centered feast—making grocery lists, contacting all the relatives, delegating side dishes. We’ve made Thanksgiving primarily about gorging ourselves. (Don’t get me wrong; I too purposely wear bigger pants to Thanksgiving dinner.) But I also think that on a day so dedicated to food preparation and sharing, we have an opportunity to do something more, like expressing awe for the unique story and the genuine care that goes into every dish on the table.

College students often don’t have the luxury of traveling home for Thanksgiving, so I think this message rings even more true among us who, perhaps for the first time, are spending the day with friends and bringing together a multitude of traditions into a new shared experience. Personally, I’m greatly looking forward to the experience.