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.

Through The Looking Glass

By: Adair Bingham

This summer—not to mention the first, second, and third quarter of this year—have been unlike any other that I’ve experienced. Things were rocky from the start, to say the least. My beloved childhood dog passed away. I’ve had a handful of family emergencies between February and the present—everything from heart-stopping virus scares to the existential dread of day-to-day life in a pandemic. And to finally top it off, Oregon, while still in the clutches of COVID-19, was unceremoniously hit with a string of wildfires, requiring me and my family to evacuate as a precautionary measure.

These eye-opening events have shaken me to my core, but I’m still standing and still actively working towards my future. All of these life-changing events have given me the opportunity to reflect on myself, and just exactly how I’ve gotten to where I am today. My accomplishments, my failures, my past and even my future. This is a bizarre and unparalleled time for everyone, I’m well aware of that. But, for me, this extended “staycation” has left me with an uncomfortable amount of time to reflect on just about everything that has occurred in my life to this point, as well as the rapidly changing climate that surrounds me.

Having to hurriedly pack my belongings and necessities into cardboard boxes as my phone warned me to prepare for evacuation measures shook me to my core. It offered a much-needed perspective, that change can come at a moment’s notice in a most unexpected way. It clarified to me that nothing is set in stone and that things will always be changing, no matter the precautions we take. My willingness, and ability, to work with such a sudden change showed me that adaptability and patience are crucial, especially during these trying times. It showed me that, in spite of everything you have endured in your life, there is always a future waiting for you, and that constant productivity isn’t necessarily the means to securing it. 

This feeling won’t last forever, I know that, and with friends and family keeping in touch with me, I know that this is something that I can overcome. In times such as this, I can’t help but think of a classic phrase, “This too shall pass,” and through the looking-glass, I am certain that these feelings of anxiety and fear shall be shaken soon. I know that we will all overcome this together, one step at a time, in spite of the overbearing hurdles that lay in our path. If I can overcome the hardships that life has to offer, then so can you, and we will all be stronger for doing so. Change is difficult, but a willingness to embrace and learn from it is what will ideally secure a means to an end for this pandemic, if not a much-needed end to everyone’s anxieties. 

Homebound Hobbies

By: Adair Bingham

There’s a high chance that you’ve either given up pursuing your New Year’s resolutions or, at the very least, just simply outright forgot about them. In the same vein, maybe that new hobby or activity that you wanted to try and pick up early on in 2020 was abandoned because of a flood of work and other demanding tasks that have made it exceptionally difficult to squeeze in any time to acquire a new skill, or simply take part in a fun and new hobby. If you’re quarantined at home and have found yourself with an abundance of free time on your hands, there’s no better time than the present than to try and dip your toes into something new, and see if it ends up being a right fit for you!

Personally, in the sudden abundance of free time that I’ve found myself essentially burdened with, I’ve decided to not only continue pushing forward with freelance commissions, but I’ve also decided to give creative writing and world-building the old college try. World-building for fictional settings and narratives has always both fascinated and inspired me, but it’s always been tough finding the right time to indulge in it. Not only that, but I’ve also always felt a little weak in my writing abilities, especially for creative fiction, but actively pursuing it now has helped me to not only overcome my doubts but also apply it to other personal projects of mine. Its helped me to meet new people that I otherwise would’ve never met, and it’s also helped me to discover a fun, creative hobby that previously intimated me. I’ll admit that it’s still difficult to feel any degree of confidence in what I’m doing with it, but it’s a productive way for me to pass the time and it’s also helped me to feel a greater degree of commitment in other creative projects of mine, too. 

So, branching off from this, I highly encourage you to be adventurous and take that first, shaky step into a new hobby or activity, especially one that can be done freely from your home! Not only will it help you to feel actively engaged with something new but you may also find yourself with a highly rewarding hobby, also. If you’ve found yourself going stir crazy with nothing else to do at home, it’s also a great way to transform any negative energy into something positive instead and make something good out of something bad. Let alone, it may also very well be that extra boost that you need to help get you through what is hopefully the final stretch of the governor’s “stay at home” order. 

Life At Home

By: Adair Bingham

In less than two weeks, everything that I’ve thoughtfully had planned for spring term, and even for summer vacation has been turned up on its head. My schedules, daily routines, and even my usual bout of activities have been thrown off balance in every way imaginable. 

This is commonplace for everyone now, especially here in America. In about two weeks’ time, everyone’s world has been confounded and everyone is feeling befuddled. Right now, nobody can be too sure about what the future is going to look like, and nobody has any clue about how things are going to be handled. Plans and usual activities keep getting uprooted in the blink of an eye, and it’s been really difficult to keep a clear head with all this chaos going around.

The world is a disastrous mess of chaos, panic, and frantic frenzy. Frightened families are hoarding necessary supplies, others are deliberately ignoring safety protocol, and some continue to spread dangerous misinformation to further incite fear-mongering among the general public. Hard-working people are trapped at home, while others have no choice but to remain at work and brave the new world that we know. It’s confusing, disorientating, and honestly pretty scary. We’re all learning how to navigate a new world, and more importantly, we’re all learning how to take care of ourselves and our loved ones during this pandemic. Feeling productive while trapped at home is exceptionally difficult. Feeling stir crazy is a problem all on its own, and it’s slowly but surely taking hold of everyone that I know.

With all this in mind, though, I think that it’s more important now than ever to understand that everyone in the world faces this pandemic. It’s global, and it only continues to grow with severity with each day that passes. We’re all going through this together and we’re all simply doing our best to survive through it.

Although it isn’t the end of the world, it’s important to understand the gravity of the situation and to not only respect and understand the safety protocols that have been implemented, but to also educate yourself and your loved ones about what it means to be healthy and safe during this time.

Be aware of your surroundings, the current events, and most important: be considerate and courteous to yourself. Allow yourself some time to get adjusted to all that’s happening, and understand that we’re surviving through this together.

Spring Cleaning

By: Adair Bingham

Fall and winter have long been my favorite times of the year. For all of my life, I have adored the frosty morning chills, the muted reds and maroons of the leaves, and even the never-ending rainfall. It’s a naturally quiet, almost serene time of the year, and I’m sad to see it come and go so fast.

Although fall and winter are my personal favorite seasons, I will admit that I am cautiously hopeful and optimistic about what’s to come as spring and summer draw near. Fall and winter proved to be quite challenging this time around, and they’ve both left me wanting to change my attitude about some things and start fresh, in a sense.

With spring just around the corner, I want to see it as an overdue way to start fresh, just three months late from the new year. I wasn’t able to get off on the right foot at the start of 2020, despite waxing poetic about how important it is to take on new challenges with a bright and cheery smile, especially at the start of a new decade. Maybe a new season is just the change I need, and I’m going into spring with just that kind of perspective. 

As much as I enjoy dark and frosty weather, I do think that I’m in dire need of some sunshine. Its been proven that weather can have a profound impact on not only your mood, but also your emotional state, so it’s a good idea to understand how the weather may impact you by being in tune with not only your body but also your mind. With the way things have been going for me recently,  I think a little ray of sunshine is all that I need, and maybe something that we could all use, too. 

I’m assuming that I’m not only one, so with beaming and dazzling weather on its way, I’d also say it’s for the best if we all take some initiative to welcome spring with open arms. So start your spring cleaning a little early, start picking your favorite flowers for your garden, and get ready to welcome in a breath of fresh air!

Surviving Midterms 101

By: Adair Bingham

Throughout my years of academics, my professors, peers, and even my family have all valiantly attempted to hammer me with all kinds of note-taking strategies. Of the multitude that they’ve tried to insist are the “best,” I’ve found that only one truly works for me. It’s referred to as “writing it instead of reading it”, but a better phrase for remembering this technique is, “he who writes it reads it three times”.

Personally, I’ve found this to be one of the most helpful tactics when it comes to revisiting old lecture notes and studying for challenging exams. Not only does it force you to actually go through your notes more than once, but it also helps you to retain that information via muscle memory, which is always favorable for tests! So write, write, write! 

With midterms and exams fast approaching, I think that this is a very beneficial strategy to consider and eventually adapt for all of your studying sessions. Although note taking is different for everyone, I find this method of review to be a very underappreciated and little-known form of note-taking.

It’s a proven fact that the more you write down something, the better you retain it. So I personally think it’s something to keep in mind as midterms, projects, and hordes of homework continue to creep up as we hit the halfway mark of winter term. The sooner you implement it, the easier it becomes to study, and your GPA will thank you for it. 

And another pivotal thing to keep in mind with midterms, exams, and projects drawing near: It isn’t going to be the end of the world if you end up not doing terribly good on something, no matter what it may be. There’s a ridiculous amount of pressure put onto students, high school and university alike, to perform exceedingly well on exams. But the truth is that, in the long-run, how you performed on an exam isn’t the be-all-end-all that most people think it to be. 

Afterall, you don’t truly learn from immediate success, you’re only ever able to really gain something from failure. So learn to take your failures in stride, and be dutifully aware of what does, and doesn’t, contribute to your success in the future.

No Time Like The Present

By: Adair Bingham

Every year, people find themselves trying to implement egotistic New Year’s resolutions and self-betterment plans to try and work on themselves and encourage their loved ones to attempt to do the same. Many of these half-baked resolutions fall through during the first few months of the New Year, often earlier, and then quickly become the elephant in the room. Nobody likes admitting failure, and thus they simply move on with their lives and find it better to ignore their half-hearted attempts at what could’ve been a fulfilling resolution.

With a new decade upon us, I think that it’d be best for us (especially those caught in awkward, transitional periods of life) to commit to at least one resolution: self-care. We can ease off of those often strict and overly harsh regulations that we put onto ourselves and focus on improving ourselves at our own pace. By acknowledging the importance of accepting life’s challenges at your own pace, the world suddenly becomes a lot easier to navigate.

Everywhere I look, both in the real world and online, I find hordes of people preaching about the importance of self-care and self-acceptance, but no one ever actually seems to follow through with what they wax poetic about. If you’re going to rhapsodize about the inherent beauty of performing self-care and practicing self-acceptance, then, at the very least, acknowledge that it is not a simple one-step process to self-love. It’s a long, conflicting, and often confusing journey that will take an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and effort to achieve. To put it bluntly; it’s a horrifically ugly and often lonely undertaking, but in doing so, an entirely new world can be discovered.

So, as we all welcome a decade into our lives, let’s all try our best to prioritize our mental health and well-being, and understand that that there is no wrong way to lead your life. By simply doing things at your very own pace, you are succeeding and advancing, and that’s all there is to it.

A Struggle To Find My Way

By: Adair Bingham

The start of this academic year has been incredibly difficult for me, to say the least. Left and right, I have been faced with new obstacles and challenges that seem to be popping up around every corner without warning; Yes, a new challenge is always welcome, but I would like to challenge it in a way that works best for me! I feel as if many people, myself included, find themselves to be self-conscious of their unique work habits, as well as the stylized flair that they add to their work. Personally, I find it to be a nifty little quirk that helps us stand out as individuals, something of which I find important. As such, at least recently, I have found myself (subtly or obviously) straying away from the expectations of those around me. It is a new mindset that I have adapted, initially believing that it would help me to discover myself a bit more. Which, yes, it has, and tremendously so! Yet, this new manner of thinking has also posed some needlessly difficult complications for me, further adding to the growing amount of hardships that lay in my path.

With these challenges, I have been attempting to integrate new and versatile methods of tackling them in a style that is unique to me. These tactics range from simply “doing it my way”, to going as far as to attempt to meet and exceed every expectation of those around me. The latter has not helped me, sadly. But, approaching a task in a way that I enjoy and in a manner that avoids expectations has resulted in nothing but positive feedback for me.

By this I mean that I am no longer “blindly following the leader,” so to speak. This has been most obvious in my studio drawing class, in which I have been blatantly (and unapologetically) applying my own approach to what is supposed to a still-life class. I’ve drawn drooling dogs with two huge mouths, a collage of nothing but gnashing teeth, and an extravagant piece of fan art as homage to one of my favorite video games. I wasn’t punished for doing so, in fact, it was even celebrated that I went above and beyond. That gave me confidence in my own style without shame.

Gaining this kind of self-confidence has not been easy, and it’s been a long journey to this point. Doing things my way and incorporating myself into my work (both school and otherwise), has helped me to not only have a better understanding of myself, but it has also helped me to muster up self-confidence that I didn’t think was possible. So next time you’re given a new task, approach it with your head held high and tackle it in the best way- your way!