I am the oldest in my family. I have a brother who is two years younger than me and my four cousins are all around six to eleven years old. It has been hard for us to really have a connection because we are scattered across the country from New Hampshire, to Colorado, to Oregon. But our Grandmother has created an activity that helps us all connect and also helps my younger cousin with their writing skills.
It all started because my youngest cousin was having a hard time writing so he never wanted to. My grandma started to write him a letter so he could write back but after a while my grandma came up with a new way to get him to write. She gave an introduction to a story and sent it to him and asked for him to write the next part of the story. He did and sent it back to my grandma and she was excited to see how much he was into it. He was descriptive and had so many creative things to say. My grandmother decided to send this story to the next youngest cousin who was just as excited.
She went through my four cousins and then asked my brother and I if we wanted to contribute, and we jumped for the opportunity! I am so excited to be a part of this little family activity. I know how much it will help my cousins with their own writing skills and it will give me time to relax and be creative.
This is a wonderful opportunity for my younger cousins to be creative and to practice their writing skills and it’s an opportunity for me to relax and write. I have been swamped with school and work and this little activity is therapeutic for me.
Once I am done I will send my part of the story to my grandmother. We might get another round with this story or we might start a new one, but I am excited to see how our little project turns out. This is a wonderful project to do with the younger kids in your family and will help them with their basic writing skills and allow you to relax and write a story.
I’ve never been a very patient person. Even as a child, my parents joked that impatience was my middle name. What can I say? I like instant gratification. I have surprises. I like things done quickly and efficiently. I like a routine that works like a well-oiled machine.
My impatience had worked well for me when I worked in a restaurant. The routine each day was predictable. We’d race to see who could get their closing duties done fastest and neatest. I could do the work in my sleep. I’d pop out the door at 6:00 PM on the dot every day.
I knew at some point I’d get a gut-punch in the name of teaching me patience. Everyone had warned me that someday, I’d really have to slow down and be at ease. I’d have to understand that not everything happens at the light-speed I prefer. In the words of a less-than-kind (but still correct) friend, I’d have to relax and pull the stick out of my … well, you can guess where.
When I started working with the elderly, I hadn’t factored the immense amount of patience it would require. I’d taken the job because I love people, and it had seemed like very meaningful work. Those two facts are still true, but the patience it has taught me was more than I ever expected.
I work primarily with dementia patients, and working with compassion is of the utmost importance. Dementia sufferers live their life in a perpetual state of confusion. Dates, names, places — the wires become crossed and they get befuddled. Sometimes this confusion causes them to believe you are their child or late spouse. Sometimes it causes them to be aggressive and afraid. Patience is literally the greatest gift you can give to someone with memory problems. You’ll hear the same story ten times in an hour. You’ll gently remind them of your name at least twenty times a day. You’ll redirect them away from a phone call they just made, and insist on making again. You’ll come to know their life, their triggers, their fears like the back of your hand.
And what’s more beautiful than that? To know someone’s life in an intimate and intense way, and assist them through their fear and confusion. Being a caregiver isn’t easy. The work is often difficult, emotionally exhausting. The lessons I have learned from it, however, have been invaluable.
I have become a more patient person. I’ve become more forgiving. And I love this person I’ve become! I’m so thankful to my clients for teaching me this lesson and allowing me into their lives.
It’s crazy to think I haven’t seen most of my friends in almost a year. Save for a small group that lives together, my household has been on a very strict lock-down since last March. I work with the elderly and one of my roommates works in the medical field, so we’re very careful. That said, I genuinely don’t think my friendships have suffered for it. I’ll present a little field guide on how to keep friendships alive in this uncertain time.
Don’t underestimate the power of Zoom: Since I’m an Android-user, I can’t Facetime people. However, I haven’t let that stop me! Zoom has been a saving grace. My cabaret can meet, my classes can meet, and my work friends can meet. It helps get large groups from various walks of life together safely.
Good-old fashioned phone calls: I’m not the biggest fan of talking on the phone. I’m hard of hearing, so I have trouble picking apart what people are saying. That said, I’ve taken some time to have extended conversations with my father, my best friend, etc. It’s an excellent way to pass an hour, and with the speaker phone, I can do chores or homework while I listen. People are always kind enough to repeat themselves and speak slower — a win!
Netflix watch parties/video games: I was never much of a TV person (or a gamer!) before quarantine started. I much prefer books. That said, it’s so much fun to have movie nights with friends where we pick the worst movies we can imagine. It’s been a riot to play Club Penguin and Poptropica, Animal Crossing and Mario Kart (so maybe I’m still not much of a gamer!) with friends. We’re harkening back to our childhoods!
Be vulnerable: I’m not a therapist, but I do have a large emotional bandwidth. I want my friends to know I’m there for them. I want them to know I’m a person they can rely on. Because of this, they provide the same in return. I’m not so afraid to accept help anymore. I can shoot a text saying I’m having a hard day. I know I’ll get a loving reply. It’s been wonderful to not be stoic all the time.
Quarantine remains a very difficult time. I miss my friends. I miss cuddle piles and hugs. I miss wild parties. I miss going to the movies. I miss performing onstage. That said, the quality and care of my friendships haven’t suffered through COVID, and I don’t anticipate that changing any time soon!
Content warning: discussions of addiction, mental illness.
“If you don’t have your own, store-bought is fine!” The Ina Garten saying was heard often in my house growing up, as Food Network was my mother’s favorite channel. I never paid it much heed. It was just something a TV personality said a lot. No great significance.
That was, until I was scrolling through Twitter one day and saw a piece of art that took me by surprise. There was a framed cross-stitch someone had made that said, “If you can’t make your own serotonin, store bought is fine!” It featured a little serotonin molecule. How cute, I thought. It was always good to see positivity around taking medication for your mental illness.
I knew it wasn’t for me, though. I’d grown up with older siblings addicted to various substances. A therapist that dolled benzos out like breath mints had earned one of them a stint in rehab. I would hardly take Aspirin after that. I knew my fear of pills wasn’t rational, but I was so afraid of ending up like my older sisters. If I avoided all pills, I reckoned, then I couldn’t possibly get addicted to them. Right?
As I grew older, my attitude towards substances slowly changed. I understood that drinking a few beers after work wouldn’t turn me into an alcoholic. Hanging out with my friends who smoked wouldn’t make me a drug addict. But pills — I was still terrified of those.
While I worked through my own drug trauma, I knew there was something deeper at play. I knew I was mentally ill.
I’d known since I was around fourteen that there was something wrong with my brain. My emotions were (and are) huge. My highs were euphoric, but my lows were hysterical. I stayed up for days at a time and never stopped thinking about suicide. Certain traumatic events in my life affected everything I did.
But then again, there was this other side to me. The gregarious student, the cheerful performer. The extrovert always in a good mood, always ready to lend an ear. It’s hard to reconcile that I could be such a happy, loving person but have such darkness inside me. That was, until I was diagnosed with bipolar II and PTSD. My care team proposed three different medications: one to stabilize my moods, one to help me cope with my depression, and one to assist my sleep.
I’ve been taking my medication diligently since then. I feared taking them in the beginning. But I took the plunge, voiced my fears to my care team, and worked accordingly. And I feel much better. I haven’t been suicidal in weeks. My mania is tempered. I can sleep for more than three hours a night.
I’m happy. And you know what? I couldn’t make my own stability. It turns out that store bought is just fine after all.
Unprecedented. Surreal. Socially distanced. No matter how you choose to describe it, 2020 has been a year like no other. But it hasn’t been ALL bad. Though the threat of COVID-19, urgency around racial equity and a strife-filled political climate have dominated our thoughts and lives, we didn’t have far to look to find uplifting PSU stories that will give you all the feels.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. We just didn’t have time to include more before 2021 is upon us.
20. Those beautiful blooming blossoms
Every spring like clockwork, 100 Akabono cherry trees bloom along Portland’s southwest waterfront a few blocks from campus, transforming the esplanade into a pink wonderland (and popular selfie opp.) In spring 2020, they provided a moment of much-needed normalcy against a decidedly abnormal backdrop. Fun fact: The trees were given to Portland in 1990 by the Japanese Grain Importers Association.
19. Athletes transform obstacles into opportunities
Most of us agree that virtual gatherings just aren’t as good as in-person — but there is one advantage: cameo appearances. Comedian alum Ian Karmel graciously dropped in on a spring scriptwriting class to talk comedy. And soccer legend Abby Wambach and her bestselling author wife Glennon Doyle surprised the women’s soccer team. We can’t wait to find out who will show up next!
17. PSU steps up in early days of the pandemic
When COVID-19 first reached Portland, teaching and research labs around campus donated over 1,000 boxes of gloves as well as hundreds of masks and other personal protective equipment to local hospitals. The PSU Center of Entrepreneurship printed and distributed 1,000 face shields to Legacy Health. And they were just getting started!
Recent Portland School of Business grads Sharona Shnayder and Wanda McNealy were looking for ways to contribute to their communities last spring, and realized that picking up trash is a simple and safe way to practice environmental activism that anyone can do wherever they are. The Tuesdays for Trash grassroots movement was born! (Find them on instagram at @TuesdaysForTrash)
School of Architecture alum Lisa Patterson designed a hub in Portland that provides bedding and clothing exchanges, medical aid, showers, bathrooms and an outdoor warming area for Portland’s houseless community.
14. Students go the extra distance
Public health student Morgan Godvin moved to Tijuana last spring to serve the houseless community there while taking classes online between shifts. The experience made a deep impact, and Godvin now plans to pursue a career in public health and human rights law.
In true Viking spirit, College of Urban and Public Affairs student Lauren Everett transformed an empty lot near her home into a temporary park last summer, a place for people to safely gather. “The amount of dedication and sweat equity that went into this project has been really inspiring” she said. “I hope this inspires similar efforts in other neighborhoods, to create spaces where people can gather safely during COVID and beyond.”
13. International students show resilience
Portland State’s international students had to contend with multiple stressors all at once this year. Thousands of miles from home, students worried about their families and friends abroad, had flights canceled and suffered financial hardship and homesickness — all while having to cope with changing immigration policies. Amazingly, they persevered. This fall, just over 1,000 international students enrolled at PSU. “There are some incredible stories out there of what students are doing to try to keep up,” said Christina Luther, director of International Student and Scholar Services. Read some of their stories here.
In July, Willie Halliburton was sworn in as PSU’s new Chief of Campus Public Safety. Halliburton has been at PSU since 2016, following a 32-year police career. He has since announced his commitment to unarmed campus patrols. “I believe deeply that safety comes from developing relationships in the community and treating people with respect,” Halliburton said. “My ultimate goal as chief is to build trust between CPSO and the PSU community — staff, faculty and particularly students. I recognize the need for change and to honestly address the concerns of the PSU community.”
While most speech-language pathology programs had to put clinical training on hold last spring, PSU quickly adapted its telepractice to actually expand its services. The clinic did not abandon a single client and, with the addition of four clinical supervisors, were able to increase their caseloads! “In the COVID-19 crisis, we have found an opportunity to innovate and deepen our commitment to serving the community and families in need,” said Claudia Meyer, director of clinical education at the Speech and Language Clinic at PSU.
The pandemic and corresponding shutdown was a financial disaster for many students. So when the federal government stepped up with $8.3 million earmarked for financial relief for students, it was gratifying to hear what a difference these payments made. “I can finally sleep at night,” was how one student expressed her profound relief after receiving the financial assist.
Hannah Prather, a certified arborist and postdoctoral researcher who is part of a team from Portland State, Reed College, Washington State University and The Nature Conservancy, spent the summer getting up at 4 a.m. to install sensors high up in Portland-area Douglas fir trees. These “smart trees” will become part of a study to better understand the impacts of climate change on urban trees. The Smart Trees team uses a range of technologies to monitor the health of the urban tree canopy, a key resource for reducing the social and environmental impacts of our warming climate.
8. Taking strides toward racial equity
As part of President Stephen Percy’s commitment to promoting equity and justice at PSU, the university will hire a cohort of 7 new scholars in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ School of Gender, Race and Nations in fall 2021. The school — made up of Black Studies, Indigenous Nations Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies — seeks to better understand and advocate for historically underserved populations. PSU also welcomed the esteemed Dr. Ame Lambert as Vice President for Global Diversity and Inclusion. In October, she and President Percy convened five cross-campus task groups to organize a Virtual Equity Summit and developed a learning and action agenda to make our vision for a racially just and equitable future a reality at Portland State.
Thirty-three Portland State researchers are ranked among the world’s most-cited and the top researchers within their discipline areas, according to a recent study that looked at more than 6 million researchers in 22 disciplines and 176 subdisciplines. Of course, we already knew this but it’s nice to be recognized!
5. PSU choirs make beautiful music
When it became apparent that in-person concerts were not possible in 2020, Portland State choirs quickly adjusted, practicing outdoors in small, distanced and masked groups. The PSU Chamber Choir, recognized as one of the finest choirs in the world according to Classics Today, created several live concerts online, partnering with the Rose Choir and Thorn Choir. And the Portland State Community Choir chimed in with a beautiful rendition of “Tender Love.”
When COVID-19 hit Oregon, Portland State public health students sprang into action, partnering with OHSU and Oregon Health Authority to perform contact tracing, conduct case investigations and help manage the outbreak. The partnership provided not only real-world experience, but also opportunities for careers after graduation. These inspiring Viks did more than study the issues — they addressed real-world problems with hands-on solutions!
3. Spring Term pivot
Yes it’s the most overused word of 2020, but we don’t care. Portland State faculty and staff delivered a full-on, jaw-dropping pivot this spring when classes moved from in-person to remote in a matter of days, and our students found new ways to learn and connect.
It became the national anthem heard around the world. School of Music & Theater graduate Madisen Hallberg was recording the national anthem for PSU’s virtual commencement ceremony last spring in the park blocks when local artist and singer Emmanuel Henreid, who goes by Onry, walked by and asked to join her. This simple moment between two strangers was a balm for our souls during a divisive moment in our country, reminding us of the uniting, healing power of music. Thanks to the College of the Arts, the duo reunited this holiday season to bring us a beautiful rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem, translation: Grant us peace.
Toward the beginning of quarantine, I wrote a blog about blessings in disguise. I’d loved the one-on-one time with my fiancee, the laser-focus on school I’d been able to employ, the learning of my own capabilities. Now, nine months into this unprecedented time in our lives, I’m back with another list of positives.
Before I begin, I must note: I don’t take this lightly. I suffered economically, lost my job, lost a grandparent to COVID, and found out a week ago that my other grandmother was recently diagnosed with it. It is a terrible, devastating thing. I know everyone has suffered incredibly. That said, if I don’t find a little light in the darkness, I’ll go crazy.
So here is a list of quarantine blessings, round II:
-A new job: I had previously worked in a pub I fondly referred to as “the hell restaurant.” Without revealing too many details, let’s just say the place was falling apart, unsanitary, and managed poorly. I’d worked there since the age of seventeen, honestly unsure if I could ever do anything else. I was finally forced to make a move around July. My job kept me on the hook, assuring me I was still employed, while asking me to work for free and refusing to schule me when I protested. I couldn’t take it anymore! I jumped careers. I now work as a caregiver to the elderly, something I’d wanted to do since I was sixteen. I LOVE my job now. The pay is better and the work is monumentally more fulfilling. I love people, and now my entire job is to gift others with empathy and patience. It’s so rewarding.
-A new relationship: My fiancee and I finally made things official with our other partners. We’d been dancing around each other for months, and quarantine finally gave us the uninterrupted time to hash everything out. Boundaries have been laid in place, expectations have been clearly defined. I know polyamory isn’t for everyone, but it has made me so incredibly happy. I have three partners who I cherish in different ways.
-A new degree: As stated in a previous article, I’m working on the first year of my graduate degree in addition to finishing my senior year. Once undergrad is finished (and I’ve written my honors thesis), I’ll be halfway through my master’s. I’m both proud of myself and excited for direction and structure.
-A new hobby: I love learning. It’s one of my passions. I’ve developed a love for podcasts over this quarantine period, and I’m learning so much. History, science, true crime, social justice — any topic that I want to learn about is at my fingertips! I’m a little behind the times, I suppose, but it’s so exciting!
Even though this year has been difficult and devastating, there have been a lot of new and exciting opportunities. I can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for me!
I make my home in academia and love it dearly. I started with the PSU Honors College at seventeen and am now in my senior year, having turned 21 a week ago. I’m also completing my first term of my expedited graduate degree.
While I love college, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of imposter syndrome. I’ve always been something of a dynamo when it came to school — starting grades too early, competing with people much older for academic awards, taking as many credits as possible. In my entire career at PSU, I’ve taken one term off, which was this last summer. While it looked great on academic resumes, it’s not great for my mental health.
My nosedive into academia began as a trauma response. Both of my older siblings were completely off the rails, and I saw how it destroyed my parents. My home life was focused on their sobriety, their stints in rehab, their damage. I grew up terrified of drugs and alcohol. I thought if I made good grades, kept my nose clean, and did enough community service, it would benefit me two-fold: I wouldn’t be another problem child and I could get out of my turbulent home ASAP. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. I ended up with a physical disability and suffered severe mental illness, obviously causing worry. In addition, there was no way to afford on-campus housing. Because I was only seventeen, no one would rent to me.
I moved out at eighteen and kept up with my studies. I’d changed my major to something that made me much happier. But it still wasn’t enough. An A-minus would cause a breakdown. I was working, performing in a year-round cabaret, out until god knows when every night, and barely sleeping.
Now, at 21, I’ve finally found something of a balance, but it came with a steep price. My self-worth is all tied up in academia. The senioritis is kicking in just as I’m beginning my second degree. Being so young compared to my graduate classmates is absolutely intimidating.
I refuse to drop out. I refuse to give into my imposter syndrome. I am here because I earned my place. The quality of my work speaks for itself. And I love academia —– my relationship with it is much healthier than it used to be.
In the end, I am working every day to untangle my self-worth from my grades. I work to pull my identity away from “young student.” And I’m slowly succeeding one day at a time.
If you know me personally, you know that I am a reader. Reading was my first hobby, and writing my first love. People always come to me for book recommendations. I suppose I’m the stereotypical English major, nose always buried in a novel. If you are looking for something new to read this winter break, I’ve compiled a very short list of some of my very favorite books:
Firstly, there is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It tells the tale of star-crossed lovers Achilles and Patroculus in the Trojan War. In other words, a queer take on Homer’s The Iliad. The book is tragic and will leave you crying your eyes out. The beauty of the language is stunning. The metaphors the author uses will leave you breathless.
Next, there is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. This is another book where the soaring language sends the reader on a journey. It focuses on intergenerational trauma of a Black American family, told in dual perspectives of neglectful young mother and precocious son. The novel is a work of speculative fiction that is both frightening and gorgeous.
Following, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is truly my all-time favorite novel. It’s a story of human redemption and political revolution following a colorful cast of characters. The principal character, Jean Valjean, truly represents how even the most jaded and callous individuals can be both failed by society systems and redeemed through acts of kindness. I may sound like a broken record, but beautiful language and clever wording is truly what draws me to a book. If you can muddle through 1,500 pages of Victor Hugo’s very heady writing, this is the book for you.
Once again Madeline Miller makes my list of all-time favorites with her novel Circe. The story centers around the famous witch of The Odyssey who turns Odysseus’s men into pigs. It brings sympathy to a character who is otherwise one-dimensional and villainous. Miller’s Circe is one of the most nuanced and multifaceted characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading about. Though the book follows Circe through centuries of isolation, there is never a dull moment in the story. My only wish was that it be a few hundred pages longer!
Lastly, I offer you The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, who gained acclaim for her novel The Night Circus (also an incredible read!). If I have said before that I love beautiful writing, this novel is the definition of it. The novel follows a young academic constantly lost in books. He falls into a universe contained within a subterranean library and meets several dashing characters. It’s a story of lost loves, life-changing books, and the bond that brings readers together.
One word my friends use to describe me is “Grandma.” I don’t know Gen Z terms, I bake cookies, and I am not good with technology. I know how to work the Microsoft programs and can get by, but when the Pandemic started I had a huge learning curve to conquer.
One thing that I and other music majors started using is Soundtrap. This is a recording platform that allows multiple people to record on the same piece. Because of this platform, PSU’s large ensembles are able to perform with our peers in the safety of our home.
This term I am in a woodwind quintet and we have been working on three pieces of music. When I first went to complete a recording, I hit start and played with the metronome and our clarinetist and when I finished and listened back, I was out of time. I didn’t know why, I was playing it just like my quintet members but this is when I learned about latency. When we record anything, there is a slight delay, and it is different on every device. I recorded using my Macbook microphone which has a slower latency. Luckily my roommate has a studio microphone and let me record off of that, helping me to solve the latency problem.I will have to eventually get my own microphone because I will be doing recordings for the rest of my schooling, but I am grateful my roommate is helping me with this.
I also decided that it was time to start going paperless and I bought an iPad. As a music major I have a lot of sheet music that I end up printing out and now I can save some of those to the iPad. I can write and it’s been very useful for reading music. It is also really nice for homework in general. I use Microsoft Onenote and they actually have pages that have music staff, not just lined paper! I can also do a split screen between my Macbook and iPad so its like I have two monitors. I have used this feature while writing my papers because I can have my draft on one screen and my notes on the other.
Love has always come easily to me. I’ve never struggled to adore humanity, to put the utmost effort into my friendships, to forge meaningful romantic relationships. But what happens when you have too much love? Or at least … you think you do?
I’ve joked for many years that I’m in love with everyone I know. All kinds of love! Deep platonic connections, strong familial bonds, and of course endless crushes. In high school, I had a few long-term boyfriends. Each relationship lasted at least a year, and each meant the world to me. Through all of these relationships, I constantly found myself falling for other people. I loathed this about myself. I tried so, so hard to not catch feelings for anyone else. But it didn’t matter — boy, girl, nonbinary person, my heart was just fickle. Or was it? My dedication and love for my actual partners never faded. It just sort of … coexisted. I’d never dare so much as flirt with someone when I was in a monogamous relationship, but … why did I want to? I respected my boyfriends. I cherished them. I valued their feelings and felt like a horrible partner. Was I just a flighty teenager or was I something else? Was I forcing myself into long-term dating too young, or was there another term for what I felt?
When I discovered polyamory, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It felt like I wasn’t broken, or a bad person, or not in control of my emotions. I was just … me. A person whose heart was too big to love just one person. And one day, I’d find other people who thought like me.
Polyamory is complicated and there’s no rulebook. Each person has their own boundaries and needs. Each relationship is different and interesting and a whole new adventure. Sometimes there is jealousy — it is honored, appreciated, and worked through. Sometimes there is confusion. Sometimes there is joy. In many ways, being in a polyamorous relationship is exactly like being in a monogamous relationship; you just share your love with more than one person.
It’s not for everyone, and I absolutely respect that. Polyamory is trial and error, especially as a young person making my way in the world. In many ways, the way I live is fairly unprecedented in my own family, so making finding my own way in life is something I’m familiar with. I’m the only queer, trans, and disabled person in my family. The second person in my entire family (extended and immediate) to ever go to college. Polyamory is just another facet of my life in which I make my own roadmap.
I’m proud of how much love I have, for the world and for my partners. I’m proud of the attentive and compassionate person I am to those I love. And I’m proud to love in the way I do.