Art With A Side Of Psychology

By: Adair Bingham

Now that I’ve graduated from Portland State University and I’m moving on to the next big thing, I’ve made it a goal of mine to finish up as much personal art as I possibly can for my ever-changing and evolving portfolio. Since graduating high school, I’ve challenged myself to finish at least two sketchbooks a year, if not more. This goal has largely taken a backseat since my progression into digital art, and I don’t often feel the incentive to doodle on paper, but I’m going to make a serious effort to pick it back up and keep at it. I honestly can’t think of anything more satisfying than flipping through a sketchbook that’s been finished cover to cover and I want to see how much I’ve improved since completing my last one a little over a year ago.

So, my new goal is to to complete a halfway decent and a mostly finished portfolio by the end of summer, if possible. There’s a long way to go but I know that I can see it through if I push myself hard enough. In my previous post, I mentioned not being entirely sure of what to do with my psychology degree. That’s still pretty true. So, at least for the time being, I’m waiting on it before potentially pursuing anything with it to make sure, to make sure I don’t make any impulsive decisions. If possible, I want a career that’ll allow me to combine my degree with my passion for art—  and make something out of that, which is what I’m aiming for! I’ve always done things with a bit of unconventionality, so why not? I don’t see why that wouldn’t be an option for me. 

There’s a world of possibility out there, from art therapy to other professions that will let me use my art skills in ways that relate back to my degree. Besides, who knows what else may happen along the way? New opportunities show up left and right all the time., There is always something waiting for me, it’s just up to me to go out and find it.

The Last Chapter At PSU

By: Adair Bingham

Last week, I officially received word that I’ve wrapped up my four years at Portland State University with my bachelor’s degree and am now moving on to the next chapter of my life. As much as I would like to further my education and apply to graduate school, I just know deep in my bones that I’m not quite the right fit for it and that I wouldn’t be particularly happy there. Squeezing out four years for my bachelor’s in psychology was a chore all on its own and I can’t even begin to imagine taking on more school at this point. Undergrad was tough enough, and I really can’t envision myself moving on to graduate school, especially when everything is still so unpredictable right now. For example, in my Capstone class, it was nearly impossible to get in touch with the community partner I was assigned to work with. Emails were magically lost left and right and I was essentially alone in tackling a huge project with no guidance whatsoever. I love the world of academia and I haven’t entirely tossed another form of schooling out the window, but I’m fairly confident in saying that this term was my final chapter at PSU.

I’m definitely caught in limbo, so to speak. It’s surreal to say that I’m a senior and just on the cusp of graduating — if not actually graduated, which I likely will by the time this is posted. Time has gone both exceptionally fast and unbelievably slow all at once, and I’m honestly pretty angry about graduating during a pandemic, let alone trying to mentally map out my future during one. I think one of the scariest things about it is feeling like I’m always one step behind everyone else, like I’ve missed something important or critical along the way. This feeling is only exacerbated by the shaky and uncertain feeling going into the “real world” with my degree in psychology. I know that having a college degree is necessary these days and that I should be proud of myself for earning one alone, but I’m still a little shaken up just thinking about it. I often tell myself that, no matter what happens, that the skills and knowledge that I’ve gleaned while in school will serve me for a lifetime and for that I should be grateful. 

Majoring in psychology was a risky investment, and even though in the long run I am thankful that I stuck to it until the end, I really do wish I had taken some more time to consider my major before applying to this school. For new students, I highly implore you to explore yourself before sticking with a major and for undecided or transitioning students, it’s never too late to try something new. I am passionate about psychology, I truly am, but without a master’s or a doctorate I am uncertain where I’ll even use my degree, aside from it being just another bullet point on my resume. The world is a rough place and while I believe that education is very important, I don’t think it should be the be-all or end-all that it is for employment. Right now, I don’t have any plans to pursue either a master’s or a doctorate, and don’t really have a choice to be anything but content with my bachelor’s at the moment. I know that it’ll come in handy one way or another, and that I’ll be able to use it, even if it may be in an unconventional manner. While this may be my final chapter at Portland State, there are a lot of other doors that have opened up and it’s up to me to find them, and then it’s on to the next adventure, whatever that may be.

A Year Of Online Learning

By: Adair Bingham

I’m just about to hit my anniversary of a full year of online learning. Online school wasn’t entirely a new concept to me before the world essentially went into lockdown last year, so I thought that I would be more than prepared to handle an entirely online course load at the start of spring term last year. A full year into it, I realize that I was not equipped, either mentally or physically for what the pandemic would do to the world of higher education. 

Online learning is a chore. A very exhausting chore. To be frank, it requires a lot of mental strength and a lot of willpower to not tab out of Zoom or D2L and open up something more interesting. Last year, I had a lot more resolve to stay put and stay on task with my school work. These days I find myself just looking for any kind of excuse to open some other online window and work on a personal project instead. I mentally justify my slacking off by claiming that, “At least I’m still working on something.” I get my schoolwork done and square everything away in a timely manner, but it’s proven to take more energy than I ever thought it would. 

About a year ago, I was pretty optimistic about virtual learning and the online classroom, but Zoom fatigue is real. For me, Zoom completely sucks the fun and engagement out of education and nothing about school feels even remotely (pun intended) the same as meeting physically in the classroom. I miss packing my bag and making sure I had all my ducks in a row before heading out to class. I miss the sense of fulfillment walking back to my dorm after class concluded. All the little things like that, I’ve seriously come to miss. All that said, I’ve developed some strategies for making the best out of the current virtual setup. One of the most helpful things, I’ve found, is that I need to set up my current workspace to make sure that it actually feels like a workplace. My own workplace, in particular. That means I need an organized desk, a laptop, and office supplies within arm’s reach, as well as miscellaneous collectibles and oddities at my side. I like to feel grounded when I work and I’ve found that personalizing my space is the best option for that, and, in turn, ensures that my online learning goes as smoothly as possible, even though a possible end is in sight. I can only hope that, should things go smoothly in the upcoming months, that students will be able to return to campus in the fall.

Tools Of The Trade

By: Adair Bingham

I look back on my old art a lot. I probably look back on it more than it deserves, truth be told. Flipping through my sketchbooks from four years ago really helps me to measure the progress I’ve made in my work and helps me gather some confidence when I’m feeling beaten down. I’ve always considered myself to be an artist, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started to take art a bit more seriously, and actually put time and care into what I was creating. At the end of 2018, I decided to take things a bit further and finally transition to the world of digital art.

My current tools of the trade are a Picasso Simbans Art Tablet and the program Autodesk Sketchbook, a completely free art program that comes loaded with stylish brushes, advanced settings and a lot more. The transition from traditional to digital art was (and continues to be) a jarring experience, and even two and a half years into it, I find myself trying to learn how to properly use the programs and the tablet itself. I still color on the wrong layer, select the wrong tool and go out of bounds on the canvas. I can say for a fact that the tip of my stylus has essentially been ground to a pulp with all the thick lines in my art. Still that’s what makes it a fun challenge. With each mistake that I’ve made I’ve learned twice as many skills and tricks for the medium and I can only go up from here. 

I’ve got my own style and method to doing things — some might call it garish, some might say it’s cute — but even in all its messiness, I’ve come to like it. I still feel like a total novice a lot of the time, no matter what people say. At the very least, though, I can tell that I’ve made progress and that’s something to be proud of. Everything that I create has a piece of me in it, and I think that’s special all on its own. I know that I’ll find my niche and put more of my work out into the wild.

Three Tips To Maximize Your Academic Year

By: Adair Bingham

It’s amazing just how much can change in a few, short years. Change is one of the main things that’s been on my mind lately and it’s taken up a good deal of my thoughts for a few months now. There are things I wish I had done differently and then things I take great pride in concerning these last few years, but what I wouldn’t give to stop thinking about the things I regret. Logically, I know there’s no point or reason in dwelling on these, after all, they’re in the past, but still I spend time fantasizing about what I could’ve or should’ve done differently. To try and divert from this, I’ve compiled a list of three pieces of advice I wish I had when I started my academic career. 

  1. Meet new people.

While I’m beyond grateful for the friendships I have formed while at school, I can’t help but wonder just how much bigger my friend circle could be if I had reached out a bit more. It wasn’t until my junior year that I finally started to beat back my social anxiety and meet new people by simply reaching out to those that seemed cool or interesting to me, and I seriously wish I had started working on overcoming that hurdle much earlier. Although we’re still in the midst of the pandemic, it doesn’t hurt to reach out through Zoom or email, should someone happen to catch your eye. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help.

You don’t have to go through anything alone and there’s always a resource available to you, the only thing you need to do is reach out for it. This is something that I seriously wish I had learned earlier. Things feel so much easier when you have people to talk with, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, no matter how small your concern may seem. Portland State offers a few things at your disposal, such as SHAC and the Writing Center. For medical concerns and one-on-one, group, and crisis counseling, SHAC is the place to go. On the other hand, academic matters can be taken up with the Writing Center. You have the power to curate your own experiences, and when you find yourself floundering, there are people and resources that can help. 

  1. Take every opportunity that comes your way. 

College presents you with a handful of new opportunities every day, be sure to take as many as you physically (and mentally) can. From heavy courses and long, usually sociable days, being a student means days chock-full of opportunities hiding in every person you meet, every email you read, and in every class you take. Don’t be bashful and take any opportunity that may present itself, no matter how small it may seem.

Naturally, this isn’t a “be all, end all” triad of things to try out before a new academic year (or just new life experiences in general), but it is a collection of things that would’ve made my university experience that much better. Maybe they can help you.

22 And So Much To Do

By: Adair Bingham

A few weeks ago I turned 22. Turning 22 has been the reason for a lot of self-reflection and critical thinking lately, especially regarding the passage of time. Four years ago I was “celebrating” my birthday in my English class, surrounded by people I haven’t seen or heard from since. One year later, I was celebrating by eating in the university cafeteria with my sister. And two years after that, I was celebrating at home for the first time in three years. 

The passage of time is a difficult concept to swallow, especially as I age during this pandemic’s lockdown. Sometimes I still feel like an oblivious teenager and other times I feel like a hardened old man who’s seen it all. Recently, one thing that’s given me much strife has been my interests. I’m a self-proclaimed cartoonist and animation is one of my biggest interests, but I can’t help but feel that I’m “too old” to be invested in them these days. Although I know that there’s no age limit on interests or fun, there’s always going to be this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m “too old for this”. Like my unyielding imposter syndrome, this is something that haunts my thoughts more often than not, even though these things have played a substantial role in my life for years. Sometimes it feels as if everything I enjoy or partake in is heavily criticized by literally everything and everyone, especially as I’ve gotten older, and I often feel pressured into finding a more mature hobby.

To try to beat these pestering thoughts, I’m often reminding myself that “I’m only 22” and that I have all the time in the world to enjoy these things, and hopefully make a career out of them. As I mentioned earlier, there’s no age limit on passions and I should really be embracing my avocations, rather than trying to hide them all the time. The only thing that I’ve learned in doing so is that my interests and hobbies make me who I am, and, to put it bluntly, I’m absolutely miserable without them. Interests and hobbies don’t magically disappear as you age, and, like yourself, they need to be nurtured and cared for, too. There’s no need to self-sabotage your happiness to appease others just because they may not entirely understand something you enjoy.

One of the most important things that I’ve learned since entering my 20s is that, sometimes, the smallest things really are the most important. My love for animation was sparked at a young age and hasn’t dwindled since, and it certainly isn’t leaving anytime soon. So, rather than being ashamed of the things I love, I’m instead using them to inspire me to pursue my path and shape my future on my own terms and nobody else’s. These were things that widely influenced me as a youngster and I would ferociously argue that they inspire me more now as an adult. With so much left to do and as I find my footing in the world, I can’t fathom doing it without my passions guiding me along the way.

Cautiously Optimistic

By: Adair Bingham

The year 2020 has come and gone. I think it’s safe to say that “good riddance” doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of what a horrid year it truly was. Going into 2021, I’m going to do my best to not jinx anything. Rather than establishing half-hearted resolutions and plans this early on in the game, I’m simply trying to take everything as it comes and hope for the best possible outcome, no matter what’s thrown my way. If anything, I can at least reassure myself that, “If I survived 2020, I can make it through another year.” 

Last year tore all of my foundations down and forced me to rethink all of my plans — plans that I had for 2020 and for the greater future. I’d been looking forward to attending conventions, possibly manning a booth at one of these said conventions, and the simple pleasure of enjoying my spring break. All of that was rudely interrupted.

So, this year, I am going to let life take the wheel and guide me as it sees fit. I need to make peace with the fact that it’s perfectly normal for things not to go according to plan. And that it’s perfectly OK to have no plan whatsoever. After all, as we’ve learned so well, things are always subject to change.

I have no intention nor desire to conjure up resolutions that will likely never see the light of day. One of my most silly resolutions was my desire to try and take on more academics. The desire for that dissolved quickly, especially as the pandemic hit. As such, I don’t intend to come up with any grand or even small resolutions this time around. Rather, the only thing that I hope to change is my perspective regarding my current circumstances. I’m set to graduate in roughly three months with my bachelor’s degree in psychology and I’m equally terrified and excited about what comes after. These three and a half years have come and gone exceptionally fast and I still can’t even begin to swallow the fact that my degree is within arm’s reach. In just a few short months, I’ll be a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps that’s all the change that I need for the new year.

If there’s any phrase that can sum up how I’ve decided to navigate these upcoming months, it’s “cautiously optimistic.” I’m hoping for the best until things go back to normal — or at least some semblance of normal. From small goals to big goals, I’d like to take everything lightly and not dive headfirst. No strict resolutions or half-baked goals — all I want for myself is an attitude adjustment and a healthy dose of optimism.

Beating Back Senioritis

By: Adair Bingham

As fall term ends, I’m entering my last months at Portland State University. Another term of remote learning was by no means ideal, but I’ve managed to make the best of it, despite senioritis setting in. 

For those unfamiliar with the concept, senioritis is a colloquial term for a student’s supposed decrease in motivation during their last year of school, and I’d argue that it is a very real thing. 

In my case, the virtual classroom environment has not helped. Staying up to date with my readings, homework, or even just remembering to go to class has become a hassle. School itself feels distant now. Everything feels more abstract when they all take place on a computer screen. My entire sense of schedule almost feels non-existent. I often forget what day of the week it is and motivation feels slim when there’s no conceivable way to physically go to class. Who would have known that something as small as a few cups of coffee in the morning before heading to class was such a factor in my work motivation. 

Instead of working, I find myself doing literally anything else and school assignments have become infinitely more grueling. I’m constantly dozing off and I’m usually caught up in my own mind. If not that, then I’m aimlessly binding my time with game emulators. I’m still committed to my coursework, naturally, but school increasingly has found its way to the back of my brain. I often find myself more preoccupied with other thoughts; some important and some not. These days, I find myself more interested in over-analyzing the little nuance of character interactions from my favorite franchises. It’s even got to the point where I’ve had to dump all of these thoughts in word documents of their own, their word counts often far-exceeding those of my required assignments. Strangely, though, these documents help to remind me of why I work so hard in the first place and always see things through to the end. They have been a valuable tool in beating back senioritis and have overall made work not only tolerable, but also enjoyable. 

This isn’t my first time tangling with senioritis — after all, I was a senior once before. I have my own method of madness, so to speak, to navigate this strange phenomenon, but that isn’t to say that it’s any less of a hassle to deal with. What works for me is to keep myself occupied at all times, whether through extracurricular activities or simple leisurely hobbies; anything to keep both mind and hands busy. It’s when I stop that the feeling sets in, and I can’t afford to lose gumption now that graduation is in sight. 

I find what’s effective for me is to set goals that I know are attainable. By this I mean small things that I know I will be able to carry out between now and my up and coming graduation, like finishing my next storyboard or modeling one more character. These rewarding projects are small enough for me to complete in a few months, but also engrossing enough to keep me working at a reasonable pace. I find that the extra work grounds me and gives me more incentive to finish the other things on my plate, such as school. Having more to do, at least for me, helps me to set a working pace for myself. 

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from this affliction, though, is the somewhat surprising lesson that I tend to work harder if there are more things on my plate. I forget a million things a day, but I can’t forget just how hard I’ve worked to get where I am or let senioritis get the best of me, especially this far in the game.

Graduating With Imposter Syndrome

By: Adair Bingham

I don’t know what I’m doing with my degree. Short and simple. I don’t have a clue. I haven’t really had a solid grasp on what I’d like to do with my bachelor’s degree in psychology for a while now. I am on track to graduate this spring and that sentence alone scares me. But whether I like it or not, it’s happening and fast. One of the most jarring things for me is the fact that I’m actually graduating. Back in my senior year of high school when I was applying for universities, I struggled with feeling adequate for any kind of school, no matter what kind it was. Imposter syndrome ran deep in my bones, and even now, despite my academic standing and honors, I still sometimes feel like I never quite belonged at Portland State in the first place.

Imposter syndrome is an annoying and tiresome hodgepodge of feelings that causes chronic self-doubt and a sense of inadequacy. At any second, I feel that I’ll be exposed as some kind of fraud, that I was never truly supposed to be here to begin with. I often feel that everything I’ve accomplished was by chance or by accident. Its tormenting thoughts are persistent and unbelievably exhausting, and often result in what can only be equated to a guilty conscience. I often feel bad or unworthy when receiving accolades, especially from my school, even if I know that they were well-earned.

While these kinds of feelings are unfortunately a normal and expected part of life, that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with, especially if you find yourself pestered by them on a daily basis. It’s unbelievably taxing on both body and mind, especially if they’ve made themselves at home in your brain. I’m not unique in feeling this way, it’s commonplace for many without a doubt. I came to be familiar with imposter syndrome at a relatively young age because I was an artist. Much like my struggles with my major, I was unfairly comparing my work to others and harshly evaluating myself, even if I possessed the same artistic merit. Since then, it has wormed its way into my brain in just about every aspect of my life, especially my studies. Things seemed to escalate in high school, particularly in my senior year, and have only persisted as I made my way into university. 

I’ve gotten better about keeping these kinds of feelings in check and I’ve made it a point to remind myself of all that I’ve accomplished is not because of some fluke in the system, but because of my dedication to working hard. It may sound like a simple truth, but, for me, it’s been one that’s hard to swallow. My hard work has paid off and I need to remind myself of that as often as I can. These days, I’ve made it a point to try and end these feelings. The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like one and I do my best to separate feelings from facts whenever I can, as I realize that, in the end, they are nothing more than burdensome feelings.

Notwithstanding, I am unbelievably proud of my achievements and just how far I have come in the four years I’ve dedicated to my studies at Portland State University. Every now and again, I make an effort to reflect on my achievements and actually take pride in them. It’s been a long journey to this point and I know that I’m not an imposter and that I belong here, and that I deserve the degree that’s just within arm’s reach. In spite of everything, I’ve made it and I know that it’s certainly not by accident or by chance, I’ve, without a doubt, earned that degree.

3 Ways To Take Better Care Of Yourself

By: Adair Bingham

For many, this year has dwindled our best to a bare minimum. The least we can do is take care of ourselves. Mental health care has taken a back seat in the lives of many, with most deeming it as unnecessary or unneeded, perhaps even a waste of time. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Self-care is more important now than ever and it is imperative that we all do our part to take care of not only ourselves but each other, in what continues to be one of the most unrelenting years of our lives. Of all the tips, tricks and cheats for mental-health care, I’ve discovered that the following three  boost my spirits the most:

1. Indulge in creative endeavors, no matter how small.

Creativity can take many forms — journaling, scrapbooking, writing, cooking, anything works! It’s a world of possibilities in itself and, at least for me, a self-soothing escape from reality. Even something as simple as mindless doodling on scrap paper can be engaging, if not rewarding, and make space for you to foster new plans and ideas for your day-to-day life. One thing that’s gotten me through tough times has been character design and 3D character modeling. Even if I’m not especially well-versed in either of these things, they’re excellent ways to pass the time and highly rewarding to complete, even if they come out a bit wonky! 

2. Practice mindfulness and unplug from social media.

Social media, while an excellent tool for connectedness in a time when we exactly can’t meet face-to-face, can also be negativity central. The human mind is programmed to handle only so much misery and “doom-scrolling.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, turn off social media for a bit. There are other, more productive ways to keep your hands busy. For example, try practical prep around your living space to clean up what may likely be transforming into a “depression den.” While browsing Twitter the other week, I found that my feed was cluttered with devastating news and it was seriously getting to my head. It got to the point where I was internalizing the problems and seeing them reflected in my own life in spite of them being non-existent. Rather than wallow in a hodgepodge of other people’s problems, I took the time to unplug and focus on other things, namely sprucing up my workspace.

3. Keep a crisis kit within arm’s reach.

Crisis kits, or mental health kits, are also incredibly practical tools. These special boxes are akin to medical first aid kits and are often a collection of practices, behaviors, intentions and strategies intended to support both mental and emotional sobriety. A highly individualized concept, anything and everything is fair game to have on hand for your kit. After all, it’s meant for you and only you! Common items include cherished DVDs, novels, silencing headphones, and even stuffed animals famously known to mitigate anxiety. Anything immediately recognizable by the senses — sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch — work wonders for your box and help to fortify new and useful coping skills. I find that nostalgic items work best and really help to ground me when I feel that I’m losing myself. One of my go-to things is the first sketchbook that I finished cover to cover. It helps to remind me of how far I’ve come and how much further I’ll go as well as remind me of all the wonderful memories I’ve made along my journey.

Naturally, what works for me may not work for you, but I’ve found that these three things lessen my worries and have silenced my bustling pessimist brain in times when I needed it most. I encourage you to explore the hundreds of ideas readily available for self-care and find what works for you. Most importantly, though, have fun while doing it! Self-care isn’t and should never be a chore. Doing things we enjoy is good for our health. The bottom-line: There are many small, but impactful ways for you to improve your mental health every day, don’t be afraid to give something a shot if it interests you.