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.

One Day at a Time

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Lately I’ve seen a trending idea that COVID-19 quarantine is an opportunity to create the world’s next masterpiece…like how Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was in quarantine for the plague. It’s great if people take inspiration from this. But it just makes me feel depressed. It’s true that I have lots of time on my hands. But I don’t have the mental energy necessary to do anything, because I’m too anxious.

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(Here’s a little crochet version of the virus I made as a form of exposure therapy.)

I know I’m not alone in this. The pandemic is scary! We are living in unprecedented times, and it’s normal to be nervous. What’s important is not letting that anxiety completely take over. Easier said than done, I know, but I encourage you to take a deep breath. I’m here to tell you that whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone, and we’re going to make it through this together.

It’s OK if all you do is make it through the day. It’s OK if your big accomplishment for the day is taking a shower, or doing a little bit of homework. It’s OK if all you can do is plug along, because that’s how we’re going to get through this.

I’d like to share a quote that holds a lot of meaning for me. It’s from John Green’s book Turtles All the Way Down, about a young woman who lives with OCD. The quote is: “Your now is not your forever.” I’ve had this quote displayed on my wall for the past several years, and it’s more important now than ever. Now is scary. Now is uncertain. But it’s not going to last forever.

A Self-Diagnosed Imposter

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Easily self-diagnosable, imposter syndrome consists of chronic self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy despite finding professional success. As a woman majoring in math, I’ve definitely faced these feelings throughout my college career. Slowly, I’m realizing that the only person I still need to convince that I deserve to be in STEM is myself.

Throughout my life, I have placed constant pressure on myself to exceed expectations. Even when I’m successful, I question my ability and knowledge. Imposter syndrome makes it nearly impossible to be confident in my academic performance and makes me fear judgment from the rest of the world. A part of me feels like I must outperform my classmates to be taken seriously. I can’t just coast on being average because I anticipate that people will question why I chose to major in math. Maintaining a high GPA is more than just a point of pride for me; it is the only defense I have against someone wondering, “Should she really be a math major if she isn’t super good at it?” 

These feelings of inadequacy persist despite the fact that I have honestly had a positive experience as a woman in STEM here at PSU. I feel fortunate that my professors have never treated me differently from any other classmate—specifically my male counterparts. My professors have encouraged and supported me, and never once have they said or done anything to make me feel like I don’t belong in a math class. 

Everyone wants to feel accepted in their field of study and line of work. I have realized that I will always question whether I am accepted as long as I continue questioning my abilities. At the end of the day, I chose to major in math because I love the challenge and I am good at it. I’ve decided to adopt the attitude that if someone doesn’t think I’m smart enough for math—well, that’s their problem. 

Unexpected Calm

by Beth Royston

It’s safe to say I was worried about what was going to happen when the coronavirus finally hit Portland. I was extremely ill over winter break and for most of this term, and have been dealing with a lot of trauma about what happened to me. Some of those trauma symptoms were exacerbated by staying inside for long periods of time — and that’s what I was about to do as coronavirus continued to spread. 

I was unsure how my mental health would be impacted, especially with not being able to work as much as usual. I’m a productive person and getting things done is what makes me happy and fulfilled. Sometimes getting through a single two-day weekend at home was difficult, but I felt strongly about wanting to keep myself and others safe and therefore resigned to stay home. I had fought really hard to keep myself going to classes and work this term, battling physical and mental symptoms, and when I felt like I had finally reached a point of things being okay, I was about to be thrown into the fire I had spent so much time gently easing into.

Surprisingly, though, things have taken a turn for the better. I think I’ve been so occupied with keeping tabs on friends and family members and others affected by the coronavirus that I haven’t had time to worry about myself. A lot of my anxieties have faded, and I’ve had a lot to work on to keep myself busy. I usually prefer to take one or two online classes alongside one or two in-person classes, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with our new format. I definitely miss being on our beautiful campus, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to still attend classes. 

I’ve found that keeping a daily routine, eating healthy, trying to get outside for walks, and keeping busy has helped my mental health a lot. I’m looking forward to being on campus again, but I’m glad that I’m not putting myself or others at risk, and I’m thankful that my body seems to have decided to give me a break from my amplified anxiety. 

I’m very thankful that I am safe and healthy and all of my loved ones and friends are too. Continuing to hear about some of the things going on can be anxiety-inducing, but I try to watch how much I’m checking the news and reading stories and balance it out with things that I enjoy. Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon.

A Big Week for PSU Music

By: Ragan Love

Some people ask me what I do during finals for my music classes. I take written tests, but most of my examinations happen in the form of performing. This past week has been filled with three big performances and an informative masterclass. 

On March 1, the Chamber, Rose, and Thorn choirs had one of the biggest concerts in PSU history. Award-winning conductor Eric Whiticare came to the school to conduct his own pieces. PSU invited over 300 high school singers to sing along with the university’s ensembles. The band accompanied the entire choir in one song “Sleep,” and we also played the piece “Machu Picchu.” Whitacre conducted his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This fantastic concert was the first choir performance accompanied by a wind band that I have attended or heard. 

The morning of March 5, the PSU flute studio had a master class with Julee Kim Walker. A flute professor at Texas A&M-Commerce, Walker taught the flute studio for an hour. Three students performed and even though I wasn’t one of them, I learned so much by sitting in the room. She talked a lot about tone color with an accompaniment, which I have not thought about in my own piece. I took an entire page of notes and have been spending the past week applying her comments to my own repertoire. 

On March 5, the University Band and Wind Ensemble gave  their Winter quarter concert at the Foursquare Church in Beaverton. The University band performed the piece “Rainbows,” which was dedicated to a member of the band that passed away last summer who had conducted the same piece a year ago. My favorite piece performed by the University band was “Amperita Roca.” This is a very hype Spanish march that I played in my junior year of high school. 

The wind ensemble played the two pieces that we performed at the choir concert and also some other amazing pieces. My favorite piece that I performed was Kevin Walczyk’s “From Glory to Glory.” This was a piece celebrating the life of band director Ray Cramer’s daughter Heather Ellen Cramer Reu. The ideas and concepts that are in this piece are so thought out and it is beautiful.. The other piece that I enjoyed playing was a John Philip Sousa march. “The White Rose” is one of the lesser-known marches by Sousa but is so groovy! It’s loud and circus-y and is a staple band piece.

Sunday, March 8, the flute studio gave their end of the quarter recital. This was my first performance with piano and my first recital ever. I played Samuel Barber’s “Canzone” as my solo piece and a trio piece: Gary Shocker’s “Flutes in the Garden: I– Madonna Lilies”. This fun performance helped me relieve some of the stress I felt about performing for juries. The rest of the flute students also performed their solo pieces and trios. It was a nice way to wrap up the quarter and hear what my peers have been working on.

A Listening Ear

by Beth Royston

I knew that I wanted to squeeze in some more volunteer work this term, in order to feel as prepared as possible for my application to my graduate program in the fall. However, I was almost out of the house 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. already, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make time to add another commitment on. I heard from a couple of my psychology professors that crisis counseling was a great way to break into psychology volunteering, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated by thinking of going to a center, taking calls, and essentially getting empathy exhaustion. Then, I’d have to go home at night and probably go to sleep right after, which I knew wouldn’t help me feel cheery. 

With a bit of research, I found I could actually apply for a volunteer position with a text line and take conversations on my laptop. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a month, but to be honest, I wish I had started much sooner. I really appreciate the ability to choose my schedule, and change it week to week. There’s also the ability to debrief with other counselors when hard conversations happen, and you receive constant support from your supervisor. 

It is tough though, especially when you can tell someone doesn’t feel better after talking with you, and there’s not much more you can do for them. My hardest conversations are with younger people that text in, and may have a harder time understanding that we can’t say or do certain things for them when they’re clearly in need. But I’m glad that I’m giving some of my time each week to volunteering and offering my trained and compassionate ears to people that really, really need it. 

I currently put in about four or five hours each week, shifting back and forth between splitting that up into two days and doing it all on Saturday. However, over spring break, I’ll probably be putting in a lot more time. 

It’s great practice for my future as a therapist to learn to leave it behind when I close my laptop and to learn that you can’t fix everything for someone, only be there for them to provide support, resources, and validation of what they’re going through. But that’s still pretty special, in my opinion. It can weigh on me sometimes, and it’s not for everyone, but I think I’ll probably be volunteering for a long time.

Running Out of Spoons

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

About two years ago, I got sick and doctors couldn’t figure out why. Suddenly my world shrunk to the size of my house. Getting through my college classes was a monumental effort when I had absolutely no energy. Some days I couldn’t leave the house because I was too sick to my stomach. Other days I would fall asleep on a bench between classes because I was just so exhausted, while walking up the stairs left me doubled-over waiting for my heart rate to get back to normal. I would make it through the day only to go home and fall asleep at 9 PM. 

It was around that time that I encountered an article by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory” that describes her experience living with chronic illness. Being a “spoonie” means you only have a certain amount of spoons, which represent both mental and physical energy, a day. It was the perfect metaphor for my experience. Getting a diagnosis and feeling better has been a long process and I’m still not at 100%. But I’ve learned some coping mechanisms…including bringing books with me to the hospital for comfort.

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The most important thing I’ve learned is knowing when to take a break. Some days I didn’t have the energy to study as hard as I wanted to…and that’s okay. Pushing yourself to the breaking point doesn’t help anybody. I learned to ask for help when I needed it, whether from my family or friends. I also talked to my professors about my health issues, all of whom were extremely sympathetic. Don’t forget that the Disability Resource Center can provide accommodations, too.

The biggest thing I learned is that my health is more important than grades. It’s hard to study when you’re curled up on the bathroom floor, even when you have a final exam the next day. I work hard in school, and it’s important to me, but sometimes you have to give yourself a break. It’s hard to keep going when it feels like your body is working against you. But I try to take it one day at a time. There’s no shame in taking it slowly if you need to. Remember, you aren’t the only #spoonie here at PSU.