A New Fit Experience

by Beth Royston

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

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

A Wonderful Winter

by Beth Royston

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

Check out the Portland Winter Light Festival!

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

See Zoo Lights!

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

Venture out into the snow!

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

Try taking a trip to the coast/sea lion caves

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

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

Starting Line Advice

by Beth Royston

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

Figure out your own rules

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

Stay flexible.

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

Try new things.

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

Talk to your advisor early and often.

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

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

Learning to be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

by Beth Royston

2020 was taxing for everyone, but I felt like I had a double helping of misfortune. Not only was there the pandemic to contend with, but I had a disastrous trip abroad last year, and have been dealing with the symptoms of PTSD ever since. I already have a lot to worry about — myself staying safe, my friends and family staying safe, trying to keep my motivation up for school during this time. However, recently I’ve had to confront an uncomfortable realization that I simply don’t know how the next few years of my life will look.

I’ve always been a planner, and had certainly made plans for those years. I applied for grad school earlier this year, and have had that intention for a while. However, with the pandemic, I wasn’t able to get some of the extra experience that I wanted in preparation for my graduate program. I applied feeling less secure than I wanted. I’m currently trying to sort out how I feel about the prospect of going to grad school if the program will be online. And what happens if I don’t even get in? I’d find a job and I’m sure I’d adjust, but it’s more about the thought of what I desperately want to happen not happening — the pandemic not ending, and not getting into my dream program. I also got engaged to my partner of five years a month ago, and as sweet as that’s been, the both of us have been worried and uncertain, unable to really begin planning anything solid for our wedding. As it may be evident, I’ve spent a lot of time spiraling. 

Unfortunately, all I can do is wait. I must wait and see if I get into my program, I must wait and see what happens with the pandemic that affects all of us. I even must wait and see how other factors in my life come into play to decide when to get married. It’s a lot of uncomfortable uncertainty, my very weakness. My armor is planning and doing the best I can to make my dreams and plans come true. The best I can do is plan for different scenarios and try to stay flexible.

While 2020 was the hardest year of my life, I’ve also undergone a lot of personal growth. I don’t think I will ever entirely be the type of person that can just sit back and be extremely flexible with change, but I’ve come a long way in realizing that sometimes no matter how much you plan things, they will still go wrong. I had that exact experience with my trip abroad. Everything was planned out to the smallest detail, but fortune was not in my favor regarding a dish I chose to eat at a restaurant that made me very ill and culminated in my hospitalization. I’d planned for some general stomach upset when adjusting to a new cuisine, but nothing to that level. You can either fight that or take a deep breath and adjust. I’ve definitely been grieving for the experiences I feel like I’ve missed out on, and trying to put that energy into what I’m looking forward to later in my life. However, sometimes I fail to be optimistic, and simply feel really sad and worried about how adrift I feel. None of my plans are anchoring me. 

It’s an effort every day to try to coach myself on not adding on additional worries about things that I can’t control. It’s something I struggle with a lot because of my personality, but I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. I’m glad that I’ve been able to adjust in a positive way because of everything that’s happened, and come out a stronger, better, more resilient person, even if I don’t necessarily feel that way all the time. 

Have You Ever Tried Embroidery?

by Beth Royston

While I’ve had more time to bake during quarantine — something I’ve always loved to do — I finally tried something new with soapmaking — something I wanted to try for a long time. However, a new goal of mine was to pick a new hobby to try that had only appeared on my radar recently. For me, this was embroidery.

I’ve seen embroidery hoops before, but never really connected the dots that this was something that I could try if I wanted to figure out how to get started. I spend a lot of time on Etsy, as that’s where I run my business, and after one craft kit was recommended to me I started looking at a lot of them. There were almost an overwhelming amount of options with really unique, cool patterns that I thought would look absolutely spectacular on my wall. Plus, I’d be supporting other small creators. I asked for a few embroidery kits for Christmas, and have to say, I’m hooked. When I was younger, I was very interested in sewing, and this was definitely reminiscent of the magic that was spending long hours crouched over painstakingly small stitches, eventually being able to triumphantly present your creation (and aching back). What can I say — if it’s not for you, it’s not for you. But I enjoy hobbies that make me feel like an old woman living on a homestead, and thus that fire inside me was reignited with embroidery. 

The kits I tried came with everything I needed — fabric with the pattern in water-soluble ink, a hoop, a needle, thread, and instructions. Even though they were rated for beginners, I sought some outside help on YouTube for some of the stitches that the brief directions didn’t really explain. It was so satisfying to feel myself get the hang of french knots and a stem stitch, working on something vividly colored and beautiful that I was able to hang on my wall. I’ve since ordered myself a few new kits, and allowed my mind to wander to what types of projects I could accomplish. Pillowcases, tea towels, even little flowers on the pockets of my favorite jeans. Thankfully, embroidery supplies are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, and if you happen to already have that stuff laying around, the PDF embroidery pattern availability on Etsy is as large as the premade kit availability. If anything, PDFs are easier to find. The most difficult part of these projects is choosing colors, especially ones that I’m doing without a pattern, like embroidering some leaves on my favorite hat. 

I’m thrilled to have picked up this new hobby, especially one that grants gorgeous art for around my house. I love to work on my projects while some Netflix is going in the background and a candle is lit. I’d definitely recommend it if you are looking for something new and relaxing to try!

Here are some photos of my beginning hoops. My next project will be two pillowcases!

Have You Heard of Queeries?

by Beth Royston

One of my favorite experiences during my time at Portland State has been volunteering with Queeries. Hopefully you’ve heard of this program run out of the Queer Resource Center on campus, but if not, let me make an introduction. 

Queeries is a program that uses volunteer PSU students to speak on panels about their queer experience to other PSU underclassmen, usually in freshman or sophomore inquiry classes. The panel is an opportunity for students to ask questions (anonymously if wished) to a variety of queer students about whatever they want. Common questions I’ve had include when I knew that I was queer, have I ever tried new labels, what would I say if someone came out to me, et cetera. The program facilitators are always wonderful about keeping boundaries, and making it clear that our experiences are our own; as any panel is not representative of the entire queer community.  It’s been a really wonderful opportunity to practice answering a question about myself succinctly. 

To be honest, there have been some tough questions on panels, mainly ones that resemble microaggressions I’ve been dealing with for years and years. However, it’s been meaningful to me to answer these questions and humanise myself, and other queer people. I really believe that the chance for people who haven’t been around many others that are queer and be able to ask questions is helpful, and does something positive in the short and long term. It’s powerful to educate others by simply being yourself. I’ve learned a lot from other panelists, too, listening to them answer questions about something I haven’t experienced, or even something that we’ve both experienced, but in a different way. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak on a Queeries panel for high schoolers in their local GSA (gay-straight alliance) at Portland State, and it made a huge impact on me. I discovered that I really liked working with queer youth, and possibly want to turn that into my specialty when I go into private-practice counseling. I also really like educating and advocating, and I might see myself wanting to teach in the future, or at least continue doing this type of work. Whatever ends up happening, I will absolutely look back on my time at Queeries with fondness.

If you are queer and looking for a wonderful way to volunteer on campus that helps create positive social change, I would absolutely recommend checking out the Queeries program. You need no experience, and the benefit of being more comfortable with public speaking is great for anyone. You can also contact the QRC for more information if you’re interested in having Queeries do a panel in your classroom — or if you just have a question for a queer person.

Email queeries@pdx.edu for more information and any questions.

A Juggling Act

by Beth Royston

It’s important to have a good work-life balance. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, many people’s lives are crossing over into one another, the lines and boundaries blurring together. For myself and other students, it’s a constant struggle to stay on top of everything and maintain those boundaries. I work remotely right now, so many parts of my day take place in the same room. I work at my desk, log onto my classes at my desk and relax at my desk. It can also be a struggle to define your day with online classes. Since you can do the work at any time of day, everything bleeds into each other.

However, I’ve had some success keeping my day defined with Google Calendar. I used to rely on a physical planner because I liked having something to hold and write in, but I have permanently switched over to an online one! You can’t beat how portable an online calendar is, as well as mess-free to edit. My favorite feature is definitely the ability to have your task list right next to you when using Google Calendar on the computer. I also appreciate that you can create different calendars for different aspects of your life (and color-code them). For instance, I have a work calendar, a homework calendar and a personal calendar. I can toggle my homework calendar on and off to see due dates for assignments and remove it if it’s causing too much clutter. It’s also helped me to schedule my day, if I know I have a bunch of things to get done but no particular time to do it. This has helped me feel like there’s some semblance of normal during this time, and I’d absolutely recommend it for anyone wanting to get organized. You can also use Google Calendar on your phone if you need to check things on the go. 

It’s also helped me to make some clearer boundaries for my work-life balance. Obviously, it will never be back to normal until I’m commuting again, but I’ve tried to create boundaries where I can. If I’m done with work and classes for the day, I try not to allow myself to drift into homework mode when I have some time to myself. Focusing on homework during a specific time helps me stay productive. Obviously, something different works for everyone, and doing homework here and there throughout the day might work better for you. However you’re getting through trying to live a normal life when things are decidedly not-normal, I wish you the best.

An Aspirational Autumn

by Beth Royston

I may have a slight problem with how much I enjoy autumn. It’s my favorite season of the year, and I always gripe that it never feels like it lasts as long as I want it to — whereas seasons like summer, that I’m not a fan of, seem to go on forever. A large part of my autumn (and winter) enjoyment comes from an upbringing in sunny, desert California. The kind of fall color (and snow) that we get up here is not something I’m used to. I’ve been in Portland for four years now, but it still takes my breath away every time. One of my favorite things about living in the Pacific NW is that we have four distinct seasons, and I really enjoy doing activities I can only do in that season. It helps me enjoy the seasons I’m kind of iffy on. But if you’re new in Portland, or been here for a while but never soaked up the autumn joy like a sponge, I’ve got some recommendations and tips to how I try to spend those precious months.

The stunning colors of fall life at a restaurant near my house!

Visit a pumpkin patch!

Portland has a lot of pumpkin patches. You’ll definitely have your pick. My partner and I usually visit Sauvie Island, as one of the patches there really has it all — a barn with animals, hay rides, a corn maze, a little market, a gift shop, hot food and drink, and of course the pumpkins. We always find their pumpkin prices reasonable, and there are always delicious things to pick up at the market.

Carve your pumpkin!

Although Halloween this year was a little quiet, my partner and I had fun carving our pumpkins and setting them out on the porch. Roasting the pumpkin seeds creates a wonderful snack!

Enjoy seasonal food!

Hot tip: one of my favorite snack spots, Waffle Window, has seasonal apple pie waffles and pumpkin pie waffles that are to die for.

View the gorgeous fall colors before they’re gone!

My favorite thing to do, hands down, is simply take in the changing colors around me. I’m lucky to live right across the street from a gorgeous park, and my street has a lot of trees that change color. This year, my partner and I had a picnic in the fall leaves, and it was truly wonderful. I always make sure to take a lot of pictures! I would recommend visiting some famous spots, like Multnomah Falls or the Japanese Garden, in autumn. We didn’t go this year, but the sights are spectacular with a shift in the color spectrum. Insider tip: the best time to see the leaves, in my opinion, is the last week of October or first week of November.

Pictures from a very pretty hike!
The vivid colors never cease to amaze!

However you spend your autumn, I encourage you to take advantage of the stunning Oregon colors. Throwing myself into special seasonal activities really helps me enjoy the little things in life and get as much as I can out of the year. Are there any favorite fall activities of yours that I missed?

Being Under the National Spotlight

by Beth Royston

I can depend on them, those text messages, every time Portland is in the news. Of course, they are from friends and family outside the city who care about me and are concerned for my well being. But I think it isn’t often realized by people that live outside of the Portland area that life here is not really like it’s portrayed on the news — and we’ve had a lot of coverage lately. 

Recently, with the federal occupation of Portland, it felt like we were under a giant microscope. I was getting a lot of calls at my student position in the Admissions office from concerned parents and wary students about how really safe it was to be here. To be honest, sometimes things happen in Portland and I have no idea until someone texts me about it, and I think I do a decent job of checking the news! Of course, I can understand why people are frightened. Coming from an entirely suburban area while growing up, moving to a city with inner-city challenges was a culture shock for me. Something I think that is important for incoming students to know is that the Park Blocks, the big green space running through the middle of campus, is actually city property. That’s why there are wonderful things, like the farmer’s market that happens there every Saturday. But that also means that protests can gather there that aren’t PSU-related. It can be a lot to get used to, but I am happy to live somewhere where people are truly passionate about standing up for things they believe in. I still remember the shocked expression on my partner’s face when I brought him to his first loud, marching, flag-waving protest (he’s from a suburban neighborhood in Ohio).

It can be nerve-wracking to receive all of these queries, almost as if it’s forcing me to look inward when someone asks if I’ve been affected by any of the protesting, or the wildfires, or this, or that. Being under the national spotlight is tough. I can only ever give my own opinion, which is that I do feel safe at Portland State and in Portland. 

My Path to College

by Beth Royston

I’m in my senior year at PSU and looking back on my idea of the college experience as a senior in high school was very different than how it turned out. I learned a valuable lesson — as much as you can work towards your hopes and dreams, be flexible to the definition of those hopes and dreams changing. 

Initially, I wanted a traditional freshman college experience — going to university after I graduated high school, living in the dorms, the whole nine yards. But my reality began to shift for a few reasons, namely financial. It wouldn’t be possible for me to attend as an out-of-state student, even though PSU’s out-of-state tuition was less than residential schools in my area. I was crushed, but there did remain a thin beam of hope that I could still make things work. 

I knew that above it all, I wanted to live in Oregon — so I moved. I lived with extended family here for a while, and then found some roommates for a place of my own, working a variety of beloved jobs here and there. During this time period I realized that even though I didn’t want to be set back again, attending PCC would make my life a lot easier financially. I also would qualify for resident tuition at both schools due to my year working. 

I finally landed at PSU as a junior last fall, three years after graduating high school. My partner and I both had experience living in small apartments, and reverting to dorm life was a little hard for us to imagine. We like ample space to cook and enough room to fit two desktop computers — to say the least. So we decided to continue in off-campus route. We absolutely love our neighborhood in southwest Portland, it has many great restaurants and a gorgeous riverfront park across the street. There’s space to garden and it’s generally quiet. 

But I won’t pretend that I don’t think about what my life would be like if things were different. I didn’t live in the dorms, or have my four years at PSU. Did I miss out on something? The thing is, I can’t know that. I do know that I made great memories at PCC, live comfortably and happily, and am at PSU now. Hopefully for graduate school, too! I’m grateful for my choices in the past, because I was thinking of myself in the future. There are definitely pros and cons to any route to college, and I’ve faced unique struggles due to the path I took. At the end of the day, I’m just overjoyed to be here, even though the path to get here looked different than what I imagined. I learned instead of resisting change, to go with the flow, as long as I knew I would get there in the end.