Different But The Same

By: Adair Bingham

When I was a preteen, I remember getting flack from extended family for lugging my old Nintendo DS around and always venturing over to the toy aisle in stores where we were shopping. Teachers marked out my harmless doodles on the corners of homework with red ink or took away my art supplies until the end of the period. In elementary school, I was thrown in and out of special education classes because of my overactive imagination. It often felt like I was getting side-eyed for following my interests and doing things I happen to like, no matter what form they took. 

At the time, the criticism bothered me plenty, but as I’ve gotten older, I care less and less. It’s cliched to say, but life is too short to spend it worrying about what others think. Although I still find myself bothered by feeling “immature” or behind everyone in life (enough so to write a post about it), I‘ve made an active effort to stop censoring myself around others. I no longer berate myself for living my life the way I’d like to live it.

Remembering the quote “growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional,” helps me to settle down and think things through when I’m feeling down. Over time, it’s gotten to the point where I’m unfazed by what people may think of me or how I may do things. Although it may catch me by surprise when someone gives me the side-eye for doing things my own way, I remind myself that as long as I’m happy and content, I really shouldn’t be bothered. I’m a firm believer in there being no age limit on harmless fun or interests. Other people’s mental hangups shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem but their own. 

If I’ve learned anything since starting (and graduating!) university, it’s that I’m different, but also very much the same person I was when I moved into my dormitory back in 2017. While I might not have reached many of life’s milestones yet, I feel like I’ve finally grown into my own person and I know that I’ll get there one day. At the end of the day, I’m different, but the same. If anything, I know for a fact that I’ve changed for the better.

Stylish

By: Adair Bingham

Conformity in art is a huge deal. Being able to replicate realism in a moment’s notice is what makes artists valuable in most—if not all—creative industries. Expertise in anatomy and proportion of all kinds can make or break an artist’s portfolio and, more often than not, companies are afraid to take a chance with someone who bends the rules or does things a little differently.

I’ve been told that “in order to break the rules, you have to learn them first.” I believe this wholeheartedly, but I also rather conversely think that art is more fun when it looks out of this world. By no means am I advocating for artists to forfeit learning the fundamentals and basics of anatomy, set-up, or things like that, but I do think stylization is just as important as having a good grip on the basics. Stylization makes things unique: it can make the most mundane objects eye-catching. It can transform normal into whimsical. The most humdrum and overplayed scenarios can become breathtaking and otherworldly if stylization is just given a chance. It’s refreshing to see studios taking a leap of faith and giving artists with an otherwise “unconventional” style the spotlight.

Now I know I don’t speak for everyone when I say this, but I’d take unorthodox and weird over tried and true any day without a second thought. Strange and unusual tend to stand out a lot better anyways and are also remembered better, for better or worse. It really all boils down to preference, but the general consensus is that more people are likely to actually remember something if it looks different, i.e Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse or Invader Zim. Two franchises that have nothing in common, save for the fact that they don’t conform to industry-standard styles. Not only that, but taking chances with strange styles such as these open up the doorway for smaller, independent artists to stay true to their own merits and visions, rather than censoring themselves in the name of consumerism. What makes something good or stylish is subjective, as always, but there’s a lot to be said in how it plays into the media we consume on a daily basis. So, next time you’re sitting down to watch something, pay attention to how it all plays out. Does it take risks with its narrative or does it play it safe?

The Game Of Two Halves

By: Adair Bingham

Video games have always been a huge part of my life. Some of my earliest and happiest memories are of sinking hours into platformer games on the Playstation 2 out in the living room or buffing up my party team in a roleplaying game on a handheld console. I don’t think that I’ll ever “grow out” of my interest in gaming or popular culture, it’s just too embedded in who I am as a person and, to be frank, I haven’t ever really felt a need to let go of these hobbies from my childhood. I consider video games an art form, a way to escape from reality, and much, much more. I like to think of them as their own little universes, really, something that’s easy to get lost in. They’re harmless fun for a lot of everyday people and get a bad rap for no real good reason at all, namely as a waste of time or something only for kids. 

If anything, the world of gaming has quite an interesting story, especially as it relates to mental health. Naturally, it’s important to consider the concept of  “too much of a good thing”, but games are a much-needed outlet for a lot of people, no matter their ages, and I think it can be a wonderful thing. In the same vein, they can serve as a form of self-expression. They can also be a way to cope with the stressors of daily life. Video games are a lot more than just mindless entertainment for people. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my interests and hobbies, specifically gaming, have largely remained the same, if not rooted in the same things. A few things have changed here and there, like the genre, title, or console, but otherwise, my interests still lay in popular culture and the nerdy side of things. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very likely that these will still always be a part of my life and a huge part of who I am. That’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of my biggest gripes about having a keen interest in these kinds of things is the kind of backlash that often follows it. People are often quick to call them a waste of time or something meant only for kids when a good majority of those who actually play games are older and, on top of that, most titles are geared towards a mature audience. Maybe I’m just stewing on passive-aggressive comments from the past, but when I get to really thinking about them I still find myself getting peeved. Games are so much more than what most people make them out to be and, in all honesty, they deserve to be on the same pedestal as film and literature. That’ll likely be a long time from now, but for the time being and as the bare minimum, I think some respect is in order for video games.

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.