Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

By Claire Golden

Three weeks ago, after about 200 days of quarantine, I cut off about ten inches of my hair with scissors from the Dollar Tree.

This wasn’t a spontaneous decision. All year I’d contemplated getting a haircut, but I just never got around to it. Then coronavirus hit, and going to a hair salon was no longer an option. Even though I was getting more and more tired of my long hair every day, I wasn’t going to put somebody at risk for what was ultimately a frivolous wish.

Finally I couldn’t take it any longer, and I combed my hair, sat down in front of the mirror, and cut off first one side, then the other, with my bright pink polka-dotted scissors. Here’s a “before” picture ft. my chicken Harriet, compared to my new blogger profile picture at the beginning of this post.

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Lots of people have been turning to DIY haircuts in the face of the pandemic. If you’re going to give it a try, here’s what I learned:

  • Use sharp scissors: I recommend using a good pair of scissors so you don’t have to saw through your hair. When I went back to fine-tune my results, I used a sharp pair and had much more success.
  • Cut wet hair: Wet hair is easier to contend with than dry hair. Brush it first and part it the way you normally would. 
  • Ensure symmetry: Divide your hair into two sections and pull them over your shoulders. Sit down in front of a mirror, make sure your head isn’t tilted, and then clamp your hair in your fingers before cutting above your fingers. 
  • Less is more: Remember, better too long than too short — you can always cut more later! 
  • Ask for help: Ask a friend to fix the back if you need help. 

It went much better than I expected. My boyfriend’s mom said, “If my hair looked like that after I cut it, I would never go to the salon again!” So I count that as a success.

I didn’t anticipate just how much better I would feel after the Quarantine Hair Chop. Over the last few years, long hair had begun to feel limiting to me. I was a different person leaving college than I was entering, and it didn’t feel right that I still looked the same on the outside. Cutting my hair was a way to signal the end of that time period and the beginning of something new. I don’t look the same because I’m not the same — these past several months in particular have changed me.

A friend’s comment particularly resonated with me: “Some people say that bad feelings linger in hair, so by cutting it off, you’re getting rid of the past.” Cutting my hair was cathartic, and it was exactly the change I needed.

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. 

Hope Is The Thing With Black-and-White Feathers

By Claire Olivia Golden

It’s no secret that one of my favorite things about PSU is our unofficial mascot, Little Cow Pigeon. I have written about this delightful bird in the past and every once in a while, when someone hears my name, they ask: “Aren’t you the Cow Pigeon blogger?” I could not be more honored to have this designation, because LCP means a lot to me, just like he does to hundreds of other people. Which is why PSU freaked out when Cow Pigeon went missing.

It was just another bad thing in a year filled with bad things. Our celebrity bird hadn’t been spotted in months. Rumors circulated about a hawk outside Cramer. In all likelihood, the reason nobody had seen LCP is because nobody was on campus, but that didn’t stop everyone from worrying. The Cheerful Tortoise even put up a call to action.

I went to run an errand at PSU a few weeks ago and found myself with some time to wander around campus. Outfitted with my pigeon-themed mask, I walked through Cow Pigeon’s favorite haunts: the Park Blocks, between Cramer and Smith, and the Urban Plaza. There were no pigeons to be found, not even a non-cow pigeon.

Outside the Portland State Bookstore, I bent down to pick up a black-and-white striped feather. I have no way of knowing if this feather came from Cow Pigeon. Birds lose feathers all the time. But the classic black-and-white Cow Pigeon coloring made a strong feeling rise up inside me. 

It felt a little bit like hope.

Things might not feel good right now, or even okay, but better times are ahead. I believe that. Just like I believe Little Cow Pigeon is still out there, pecking at crumbs, delighting people with his speckled appearance. 

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. 

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. 

My Journey So Far: Reflecting on My First Year at PSU

By Erika Nelson

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been at PSU for a year now! The last 12 months have brought more changes and challenges than I could have possibly imagined, both in my personal life and the world at large. Since I first became a Viking in September 2019, I’ve switched jobs, broken up with a long-term partner, changed my major, found a new partner, had a major medical emergency, spent almost four months out of town because of the pandemic, and moved apartments … wow. That’s a lot of drama to squeeze into one year. 

If I could go back in time, I’d change a lot of things (first off: warn people about COVID-19, obviously). However, I’ve learned so many lessons and found a new strength and sense of accomplishment from everything I went through. When I feel down on myself, I try to remember how much I’ve grown in a mere 12 months …

My newfound sense of direction

Last autumn, downtown PDX’s urban sprawl seemed like a labyrinth. I was constantly getting lost, relying on Google Maps to get to classes or do errands. Today, I move through the neighborhood on instinct and have all the street names memorized. (“Are you looking for Starbucks? Do you want the one on 6th in the Urban Center, the one on Jefferson inside of Safeway, or the one on Broadway and Clay? Don’t bother trying the ones on Jackson or Montgomery; they’re temporarily closed.”) I’m starting to feel like a local!

A new passion for wellness

A year ago, I was a brand-new suburban transplant who rarely walked anywhere for necessity, much less for fun. A lack of endurance made simple trips to the store a sweaty ordeal. Now, I’m so accustomed to walking every day, I get cabin fever when I have nowhere to go. In addition, I started running regularly and attending workout classes (before social distancing, that is), and started paying closer attention to what I ate. I did end up losing weight, which I’m proud of, but I feel better, which is so much more important than a number on a scale. 

Having faith in my journey

My first term at PSU, I was a Business major — while aspects of the field interested me (and still do), I was only on that track out of fear — what if I couldn’t find a career to make money majoring in the humanities? However, I soon realized that I needed to take a chance and major in what I loved; what felt right. Now, I’m a happy English major and I’m exploring the idea of law school. I love literature and challenging myself to find connections and interpretations in various media, and applying those ideas to real life. I had to take a few steps back in my graduation timeline (changing my major as a junior means I’ll be at PSU a couple extra terms), but I’m happy where I am. It’s better to take a leap of faith than always wonder “what if?”

It’s easy to focus on all the ways life sucks … and let’s be honest, life sucks for pretty much everyone right now. Life is complicated even in the best of times, and we’ve all had our lives disrupted by this virus — it’s ok to be angry, sad, scared, or anywhere else on the spectrum of emotions. Yet it’s also important to pause and reflect on the good. I’m not someone who subscribes to the tenet of destiny, or says “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe there’s lessons to be learned in every situation: good, bad, and in-between.

Moving Out and Moving On

By: Ragan Love

2020 has been the year of change; every time I blink something new happens. So why not say bye to my family and move to Portland.

I went home to Colorado because of COVID-19 in March and got to spend some quality time with my dad and brother. But, I learned that I am ready to live on my own. It was hard going home for so long after having my first taste of independence.

I was originally planning on staying in the dorms this year with my friend Stacey, but when we found out that we would be in individual rooms for the fall term, we decided to find an off-campus apartment. I am someone who needs human interaction and knew I would not do well living by myself.

We found a place in Southwest with another friend of ours and that prompted a plan to drive 1,200 miles. There were a couple of pieces of furniture that I had from my family home that would work well in our apartment so my dad and I drove up from Colorado to Portland together. 

So we packed up our cars! My dad decided to take his car too and enjoy the trip back with our family dog. We had the cars packed with my bedroom furniture, clothes, shoes (which there were a lot). There was a snowstorm the night we were planning to leave so we were delayed a few hours. But once we got on the road it was smooth sailing — for us and the pets!

The most stressful thing about the drive was my cat, Pinball. The couple times that I had him in the car he was not happy. I had to get some medication from the vet so he could be calm during our journey. I gave him some at 5 a.m., two hours before our trip and that helped him be sleepy for a few hours. He did not want to eat or drink on the road. But, once we got to Portland he ate and drank like normal! He really loves his life here and all of the attention he is getting. I can tell he misses my family cat and dog.

Now that I have spent over a month in my new place, it is safe to say that I made a good choice. I am happy with where I am at and happy that I got to create this little family with my roommates.

A Capstone About Cats: Reflections on Our Senior Capstone

By Claire Golden and Erika Nelson

It was complete coincidence that two PSU Chronicles bloggers — Erika and Claire — ended up in the same Senior Capstone, but we wanted to reflect on our experience. This was far and away the most involved class we’d ever taken, but it was also one of the most rewarding…in large part because our work impacted the real world.

Our class was called “Grant Writing for Shelter Pets.” In a Capstone, you work directly with a community partner — in our case, a non-profit cat shelter in Vancouver, Washington called Furry Friends. We worked in groups writing grant proposals for Furry Friends (Claire worked in the group seeking medical funding for seriously ill cats, and Erika was in the group focused on building a new “kitty condo” structure.) This wasn’t just another course–it had real-world ramifications. The fate of hundreds of cats were directly influenced by our commitment to the grantwriting process–for example, these grant proposals could be the difference between Furry Friends getting funding for life-threatening medical conditions, influencing whether cats live or die. 

This course was intense! Capstones always take up a lot of time and energy. We found it’s best to plan for contingencies that could affect your stamina and focus–life happens sometimes (sometimes in ways we can never anticipate), but you can try to be prepared for things likely to happen. Remember that this class is six credits, which is basically a class-and-a-half. So it’s going to take longer than you’re used to…and it’s a 400-level course. To be safe, treat this class as two regular classes and then you’ll know how to budget enough time.

A huge part of the class involved communication, and while we’d done group work in previous classes, it was nothing to this extent. It was tricky doing distance communication; although this was an online class even before most other classes were remote, not being able to meet with the whole group in person proved challenging. We found group emails, group texts, and Google Docs to be invaluable (pro tip: make sure everyone is looking at the same Google Doc to avoid confusion). It’s essential to communicate with your groupmates, your instructor, and the community partner. It’s way better to double-check something than to miss something.

It’s important to keep in mind that since Capstones involve community service, you might be emotionally affected by the project and the community partner’s stories. Be sure to practice self-care and make use of your support network if necessary. We read stories about animal abuse that made us feel sick, but that was just more motivation to work hard.

In the end, we’re both proud of our work and happy that we made the decision to take this Capstone. We both learned so much–not only about the grantwriting process, but about collaboration, research, and harnessing empathy to do good.

An Open Letter to My Freshman Self

by Claire Golden

Dear Freshman Claire,

Well, you did it. You graduated college. Technically, I graduated college, because you’re just starting out. But have faith – you will make it, even if it feels impossible right now.

I know you’re terrified. You can’t see past today because you’re so scared of tomorrow. But that’s okay. All you have to focus on is today. Four years seems impossible when you look at it, but when you break it down, all you have to do is get through the next 24 hours. And if that’s too much, just focus on the moment. When you feel rooted in place with anxiety, just remember, you can always make it one moment more.

Believe it or not, college is going to be wonderful. You’ll meet your best friends and develop so many inside jokes that you can’t stop laughing. You’ll find the best food carts on campus and eat so much macaroni and cheese while studying for tests. You’ll read some of your new favorite books (and some of your new least favorite books). 

I know you don’t trust people when they tell you “college will be good for you,” because they don’t understand how scared you are. But you can trust me. I’m you! It’s true that it will be stressful. You’re going to cry in the library, and in the bathroom, and even in class sometimes. But it will always get better. It’s going to be worth it in the end, because you’ll learn so much, and not just academically – you’ll learn so much about yourself and the world around you. 

So hang in there. The first day is always the hardest. Every day will get a little bit easier, until one day you realize: you feel at home at PSU. 

And just wait until you learn about Cow Pigeon.

Sincerely,

PSU Alumna Claire

Not-So-Great Expectations: Adjusting Plans During the Pandemic

By Erika Nelson

I’m a list-maker: Homework assignments, goals, chores, funny things I overheard in the Park Blocks…you name it, I have a list for it! Four times a year, I create a “bucket list,” itemizing everything I want to do that season: swimming and barbeques in the summer. Haunted houses and pumpkin-picking in the fall. Holiday parties in the winter. Travel for spring break. 

At least, that’s what my bucket lists consisted of in simpler times. I now look back on my Spring 2020 bucket list—compiled just before the lockdown—and laugh: buy new warm-weather clothes? Pfft—fitting rooms were havens for germs even before the pandemic! Go to the gym every other day? Ridiculous—even if the rec center was open, I’d still want to stay home and social distance myself. Get involved in campus activities? Ha! I was so young and naïve six months ago. 

As fate would have it, Spring of 2020 was not a good time to make plans. Events were cancelled all over the world, and people abandoned their new years resolutions even faster than usual. Hopes that everything would quickly go back to normal were shattered when the days in quarantine turned to weeks and months. Needless to say, I didn’t bother creating a Summer 2020 bucket list. 

I’m trying to be optimistic for this autumn, though. I’m making two lists: one for if things stay as they are now, and places are open with social distancing measures, and another in case another shutdown happens. On the first list, I have things like socially-distant pumpkin picking and attending a limited-capacity haunted house. On the second list, I include seasonal things I can do on my own in my apartment, like decorating the outside of my door with paper skeletons and baking pumpkin cookies. 

2020 is the year of uncertainty. We don’t know what the world is going to be like in a week, a month, a year, or even tomorrow. It will be a long time before the novel coronavirus is fully understood. We might have to wear masks long-term, and we all need to make radical adjustments to how we socialize and celebrate (I’ve heard rumors that “Zoom-or-Treating” might be a thing, and the term “Halloween mask” has an entirely different meaning this year). But life goes on, and being flexible with your expectations is better than having no expectations. Even if you have to tweak your plans to comply with 2020’s new world, we all need things to look forward to.