Five Beautiful Things a Day

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

It feels like just last week it was summer, and now fall is upon us. It’s easy to lament the loss of long, sunny days. As somebody who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated as SAD), the transition into fall and winter is difficult. Lots of people have SAD. If you’ve ever felt more gloomy in the winter than you do in the summer, you may be one of them. 

There isn’t much you can do for SAD, because whatever you do, the seasons will keep on changing. Your doctor can advise things like Vitamin D supplements or spending time under a sun lamp, both of which are extremely helpful for me. However, I’ve found that the biggest difference comes from actively trying to change my mindset. 

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One way I do this is by making an effort to see the beautiful in the everyday. On my walk to the bus stop, I look for five beautiful things. It can be anything from a neat-looking rock to a cute corgi waddling along the street. The point is to engage with your surroundings and get out of your own head. 

I’ve been doing this for over a year, and it’s second nature now. The picture in this post was taken on my way to class when I got distracted by this cute little dandelion. It’s amazing how much beauty there is in the world once you start looking. 

Park Block Encounters

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

One of my favorite things about Portland State is its location, right smack dab in the middle of the Park Blocks. These blocks have the vibe of a traditional college campus, but they also have the energy of downtown Portland. I’ve had a variety of interesting encounters in the Park Blocks. 

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Photo credit: PSU Facebook

Just last term I was reading a book in the grass when a group of students came up to me with a clipboard. “Do you have a moment to rate your experience with the squirrels in this park?” This was such an unexpected question that of course I said yes. Turns out they were doing research on the aggression levels of squirrels in various Portland parks…and the PSU squirrels are overly friendly. (If those students find this post, good luck on your survey!)

I once stumbled upon a group of people doing yoga. They looked so peaceful and serene that I felt calmer just walking past them. On another occasion, I encountered a monk who was handing out books, and we had a pleasant conversation before I continued on my way (a few books heavier).

There are often events and music in the Park Blocks, which is a nice surprise. Because the Park Blocks are a public space, sometimes there are protests and demonstrations for various things. It’s all part of the PSU and Portland experience. I enjoy walking through these blocks on my way to class because I never know what I’m going to find. Who knows, you might even spot Cow Pigeon!

Calming the College Nerves

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

This post is for all the incoming freshmen out there who are nervous for the first day of college. I felt exactly the same as you do. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that it would all be OK…It’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be! This is what I would tell Freshman Claire if I could.

Starting something new is always nerve-wracking, and that’s my first piece of advice: remember that everybody else is nervous, too. No matter how calm and collected your classmate seems, chances are they’re anxious on the inside. It’s OK to admit that you’re nervous. People will probably find it relatable.

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Something that helped me a lot was finding my classrooms before the first day of class. Nobody wants to be running across campus five minutes before class, frantically trying to find their building. I write down my classrooms and go on a quest to locate them all the weekend before term starts…even now, in my fourth year of college.

It’s a good idea to get to class early on the first day. It gives you a buffer in case you can’t find the classroom, plus you get the pick of the seats. But don’t panic if you get there late – professors understand that the first day is hard! 

My biggest piece of advice is to take a deep breath and get through it because it only gets easier after the first day. You can do it!

Surviving Shakespeare

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As an English major, I knew I wouldn’t make it out of college without studying Shakespeare. I managed to make it to my junior year before having to register for the dreaded class. I bought the four required plays and showed up to the first day of class, resigned to my fate. 

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But as we started reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I discovered, to my shock and amazement, that it was a pretty entertaining read. It helped that my professor was enthusiastic about the material and had some fun ways of teaching. For the midterm and final papers, we had the option to write a creative retelling of the plays, and my imagination took off. I had a hard time sticking to the 10-page limit. 

It turns out that Shakespeare is amazingly fun to adapt. I never would have guessed that my Shakespeare class would provide so much inspiration for the Creative Writing part of my English major. But by the end of the term, I had an outline and three chapters written of a novel inspired by Twelfth Night, which I’m still working on six months later. 

What I learned from my Shakespeare class is that keeping an open mind is the best way to enjoy a class. You never know what new interests you’ll discover. Not only did I finish this required class, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

What classes did you unexpectedly enjoy?

Homeschooling, Hens, and Happiness

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

When people find out that I was homeschooled, they tend to have a lot of questions. Once a classmate asked me, “Was it hard to go from homeschooling to college?” Good question! The answer is both yes and no.

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The stereotype is that homeschoolers are weird, and it’s true that I’m a little strange sometimes. I have a pet chicken, after all (who likes to perch on my feet and help me with homework). But homeschoolers are just normal kids. We talk, laugh, argue, and exchange memes just like kids at traditional school. I took classes at a homeschool co-op called Village Home, so I wasn’t a stranger to the classroom setting. And academics are never really the concern – people want to know about my social life.

Here’s the thing: Making friends is hard for anyone, not just homeschoolers. College is an adjustment regardless of where you went to school. I started classes at PCC during my last year of high school to make the transition easier, which helped a lot. By the time I transferred to PSU, I felt right at home.

What was the hard part? Sitting still in class for two hours! Truthfully, though, it was the little things that were the strangest – learning how to take the bus, figuring out how a cafeteria works, and taking midterms for the first time. In the end, homeschooling isn’t all that different from college. In fact, my two worlds collided when Pathos published these photos of my chicken, and I couldn’t be happier.

Puppies for Pronouns

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

I was strolling through downtown Portland last week when I saw a cute dog. Naturally, I squealed and darted over to say hello. “She’s adorable!” I told the owner. “May I please pet her?” She nodded, and as I crouched down to lavish attention on the dog, said, “His name is Chewy.” Realizing the dog was not female like I had initially thought, I corrected myself and said, “He’s the cutest thing ever!” Although I could have cuddled with Chewy all day, all good things must end, and he and I parted ways.

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This encounter reminded me of a Tumblr post I once saw about how people are quick to correct themselves when they mistake an animal’s gender, but not so much when it’s a person. My brain decided that “fluffy dog” meant “girl.” When I discovered I was wrong, I quickly switched to calling the dog “he” instead. 

This happens all the time with people’s pets and babies, and nobody makes a big deal out of it. But when it comes to people’s pronouns, suddenly it becomes a big deal to society. That’s a lot of fuss for a little word like he, she, or they

Dogs don’t care about pronouns, but people do. So why do we apologize when we misgender someone’s dog, but not when we misgender a person? My intention is not to compare people with pets. My encounter with Chewy simply made me think about how important gender identity is for people, and how important it is to respect people’s pronouns. 

Taking a Vacation From Vacation

Untitled design-3  by Claire Golden

When spring term started, the question of the week was, “What did you do for spring break?” All my classmates were busy exchanging spring break stories to find out where everyone had traveled. “What did you do, Claire?” my friend asked. 

“Well,” I said, “I slept for 15 hours straight and read a lot of books.”

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I used to think I would travel the world when I was grown up. But the older I get, the more I appreciate a quiet afternoon. I still dream of visiting Europe to test out my French major in the real world, and I fantasize about the Caribbean islands just as much as the next person. There’s so much to learn and see in the world, and traveling is absolutely awesome.

The thing is, vacations are tiring! Packing, traveling, and sightseeing take a lot of energy, and I find myself drained mentally and physically at the end of a trip. By the time I get back, classes are starting and I’m more tired than I was before. 

So I’ve learned to appreciate my time at home just as much as my time on vacation. I love the feeling of waking up without an alarm clock and having a completely lazy day. “Staycations” are the perfect opportunity to relax with family and friends and take a break from the chaos of everyday life. Or to binge-watch Bob Ross while curled up with your puppy.