Quarantine Blessings Round II

by Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

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!

Fall Quarter Slump

By: Ragan Love

With two quarters down in quarantine and I was not prepared with how different this fall was going to be. I have always been motivated to do well in school, even my “senioritis” was being late to class everyday because I wanted coffee. I still did my work on time and worked hard. During spring quarter I still felt pretty motivated despite the circumstances. I got all of my work done on time, practiced flute multiple times a week, and I didn’t skip out on class.

But, this fall quarter it went down the drain. I skipped out on classes and started to fall behind on work, even writing this blog has been hard to do because of motivation. I didn’t have the energy to do all of these things I love to do. Luckily, I have come across a few things that have helped me through this quarter. 

  1. Communicate with your professors! They know how hard this time is for everybody and letting them know about your situation will help your professors know how to help you. I had a problem that I either would go to my piano Zoom class and not practice or I would skip the lecture and work on the skills and assignments. When I talked to my professor, he allowed me to turn in supplemental videos to show the skills he was giving in the classes I missed. This was the most helpful thing a professor did for me, he allowed me to learn when I was struggling to go to class.
  2. Plan when assignments are due: I have never been the person to do assignments 10 minutes before they were due but that has been my reality this term. The only thing that has helped me is to go through my assignments and write when they are due instead of the day I would like to finish them. Before, I would keep pushing off my homework to the point it was late but, this forced me to make sure that the assignment gets done
  3. Know your resources! Many people are dealing with this quarantine depression and it’s important to know that you are not alone. There are people to talk to and PSU has resources for students!

https://www.pdx.edu/health-counseling/wellness

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.

Dorm Pie

By Erika Nelson

As I’ve written before, I live in student housing. Dorms— a word that connotes many things related to “the college experience”— ridiculously tall beds, hallways decorated to reflect the RA’s floor theme, washing machines that only work half the time … and above all, socialization. From bonding over bowls of instant ramen to flashcard quizzes in the common area, you can’t picture dorm life without thinking of social interaction. 

I came to PSU in the fall of 2019 — ignorant of COVID and the pandemic on the horizon, I had one blissful term to experience the social aspect of college and dorm life. Sure, most of the other residents seem to fall into the 18-21 cohort, and at 27 I’m an old lady by comparison, but mixing colors at Paint Nite and making dorm decor at RHA-sponsored events was a great way to chill out and meet fellow Vikings. While waiting on my laundry one night last year, I ran into a couple girls reading Tarot cards. Naturally, I threw my accounting homework to the side so I could get a reading. The cards uncannily reflected a recent breakup and reminded me of my ex (although, to be fair, pretty much everything reminded me of my ex at the time.) I bawled like a baby and the three of us swapped stories about Men Who Did Us Dirty. I don’t remember those girls’ names, and I never ran into them again, but I’ll always appreciate that experience.  

The halls look very different now … no Tarot cards or half-finished puzzles to be seen. Occasionally I’ll bump into another student on the way to their room, or the elevator will stop on another floor and a resident and I will awkwardly stare at each other until the doors close and the elevator continues its trip up or down (one of the new Housing rules: only one person/household in the elevator at a time, to cut down on germ transmission. The elevators didn’t get the memo, so they continue to stop at floors where the button is pressed.) Once in a blue moon, there are freebies left by kind strangers — individually-wrapped hand sanitizing wipes; packets of tea; paper napkins with a note saying “emergency toilet paper :).” I don’t usually partake in these freebies (sanitizing wipes are an exception) because of, ya know, the virus … but it always warms my heart a little when I see them. 

Around Thanksgiving, I found a Dorm Pie. A solitary pumpkin confection left on a communal table, the pie was exposed to the elements without a cover, and there was no note explaining its presence. It was like an unaccompanied child at the airport, and I simultaneously felt mild amusement, pity for the lonely dessert (lockdown has caused me to anthropomorphize everything), and gratitude that someone thought, “I have an extra pie. Someone will want this.” We’re a building of college students, after all — we love free food even when COVID hasn’t made employment scarce — and it’s the season of giving. And I love pumpkin pie … sure, it may be uncovered and rife with viral particles, I thought, but it’s probably fine! I don’t want it to go to waste, or dry out before someone can find it …

I ended up leaving the pie. Whether someone ate it or threw it away, I’ll never know, but the Dorm Pie will forever live in my memory as a symbol of goodwill during hard times. 

Even though we dorm-dwellers can’t socialize in person, there’s still a sense of community — seeing free stuff someone’s left for their neighbors is a reminder that even in these socially-distant times of Zoom trivia nights and solo elevator rides, residents are still looking out for each other. 

Or maybe they just want to unload excess stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.  But if you’re reading this, kind Pie Donor — you should probably leave the cover on next time. 

Under/Graduate

By Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

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. 

And yet.

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.

Beating Back Senioritis

By: Adair Bingham

As fall term ends, I’m entering my last months at Portland State University. Another term of remote learning was by no means ideal, but I’ve managed to make the best of it, despite senioritis setting in. 

For those unfamiliar with the concept, senioritis is a colloquial term for a student’s supposed decrease in motivation during their last year of school, and I’d argue that it is a very real thing. 

In my case, the virtual classroom environment has not helped. Staying up to date with my readings, homework, or even just remembering to go to class has become a hassle. School itself feels distant now. Everything feels more abstract when they all take place on a computer screen. My entire sense of schedule almost feels non-existent. I often forget what day of the week it is and motivation feels slim when there’s no conceivable way to physically go to class. Who would have known that something as small as a few cups of coffee in the morning before heading to class was such a factor in my work motivation. 

Instead of working, I find myself doing literally anything else and school assignments have become infinitely more grueling. I’m constantly dozing off and I’m usually caught up in my own mind. If not that, then I’m aimlessly binding my time with game emulators. I’m still committed to my coursework, naturally, but school increasingly has found its way to the back of my brain. I often find myself more preoccupied with other thoughts; some important and some not. These days, I find myself more interested in over-analyzing the little nuance of character interactions from my favorite franchises. It’s even got to the point where I’ve had to dump all of these thoughts in word documents of their own, their word counts often far-exceeding those of my required assignments. Strangely, though, these documents help to remind me of why I work so hard in the first place and always see things through to the end. They have been a valuable tool in beating back senioritis and have overall made work not only tolerable, but also enjoyable. 

This isn’t my first time tangling with senioritis — after all, I was a senior once before. I have my own method of madness, so to speak, to navigate this strange phenomenon, but that isn’t to say that it’s any less of a hassle to deal with. What works for me is to keep myself occupied at all times, whether through extracurricular activities or simple leisurely hobbies; anything to keep both mind and hands busy. It’s when I stop that the feeling sets in, and I can’t afford to lose gumption now that graduation is in sight. 

I find what’s effective for me is to set goals that I know are attainable. By this I mean small things that I know I will be able to carry out between now and my up and coming graduation, like finishing my next storyboard or modeling one more character. These rewarding projects are small enough for me to complete in a few months, but also engrossing enough to keep me working at a reasonable pace. I find that the extra work grounds me and gives me more incentive to finish the other things on my plate, such as school. Having more to do, at least for me, helps me to set a working pace for myself. 

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from this affliction, though, is the somewhat surprising lesson that I tend to work harder if there are more things on my plate. I forget a million things a day, but I can’t forget just how hard I’ve worked to get where I am or let senioritis get the best of me, especially this far in the game.

Beautiful Books

by Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

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:

The Song of Achilles: A Novel: Miller, Madeline: 9780062060624: Amazon.com:  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. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel: Ward, Jesmyn: 9781501126062: Amazon.com:  Books

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. 

Amazon.com: Les Miserables (Signet Classics) (9780451419439): Hugo, Victor,  Fahnestock, Lee, MacAfee, Norman, Fahnestock, Lee, Bohjalian, Chris: Books

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.

Circe - By Madeline Miller (Hardcover) : Target

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!

The Starless Sea - By Erin Morgenstern (Hardcover) : Target

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.   

A Novel in a Month

By Claire Golden

November is almost over and I am 30,000 words deep in the first draft of a novel. Perhaps you’re already familiar with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a yearly challenge when writers all over the world set out to write a 50,000-word story in a month. I’ve participated every year since I was 15, succeeding some years and falling short others — but every year has been a valuable experience and has taught me so much about myself as a writer and the stories I’m trying to tell.

As the days get shorter and colder, writing is something I to look forward to doing. It gives me purpose. When my own life is stressful, disappearing into another world is exactly the break I need. Discovering NaNo turned November from a month I dread into my favorite event of the year. It’s an amazing feeling to take a story that only existed in my head and turn it into something on paper…even if the first draft is completely terrible. That’s the point of a first draft! I actually wrote the first draft of my young adult fantasy novel, “Unraveled,” during NaNo. It will be published next month by Gurt Dog Press.

This is the first year that I won’t be in school while doing NaNo, because I graduated (and am now an alumni blogger). But whether in school or working, balancing noveling with everyday responsibilities is difficult. I’ve had less time to watch Netflix and read for fun because I’ve had to devote that time to writing instead. But it’s a good exercise in delayed gratification — if I keep working hard, I will have a novel at the end of the month. 

Writing a novel sounds unachievable, until you break it down into small pieces. If you write 1,667 words a day, which takes me just about an hour, you can have a completed book in just a month. Whether you’re a seasoned novelist or have never written for fun before, I encourage you to join us at nanowrimo.org. The best thing about the experience is the community and support. Feel free to add me as a buddy — I’m cog98. I’d love to see you there!

Checkmate

By Claire Golden

As we enter Wave 2 of Lockdown, we are also entering a new wave of boredom. Animal Crossings: New Horizons isn’t new and exciting anymore, cooking has grown dull, and the shorter days are making it harder to get outside for exercise. I found myself in need of a new hobby, and discovered it through a Netflix show that lots of people have been binge watching: The Queen’s Gambit.

Perhaps you’re a fan of this Netflix original series too – the story of a young girl who becomes one of the greatest chess players in the world while struggling with substance abuse. It drew me in from the first episode and stuck with me after the end. It also inspired me to start playing chess again. 

Not to sound too cool or anything, but I was part of the homeschool chess club in middle school. So I already knew how to play, as did my roommates, who were also inspired by the show to rediscover chess. I ordered a magnetic chess board for the princely sum of $13 and we all waited eagerly for it to arrive. When it did, we tore open the package, set up the pieces…and I proceeded to be absolutely decimated in my first game.

I’m not particularly good at chess. But it doesn’t matter. I just enjoy the process of planning out my next move, looking for counterattacks, and attempting to protect my own pieces. After learning that the middlegame is my weak point, I read some articles on middlegame theory and won the next game. Then I told my boyfriend what I learned and he won the next one. And so on. It’s fun playing against him and we have chess matches while we’re cooking dinner and waiting for the oven to preheat.

Chess has a surprising benefit for me: While I’m playing, I can’t think about anything else. I have severe anxiety and am pretty much constantly worrying, but there isn’t time for that when you’re trying to plan out your next moves. A game of chess takes us about 30 minutes to an hour, and for that length of time, my mind is occupied. And after the game, I’m mentally tired, which means my brain doesn’t have as much energy to worry. 

I certainly didn’t expect a Netflix show to be so beneficial for me and my roommates, but it has been. COVID-19 might be winning right now, but we just have to tough it out a while longer, and I’m confident that we will come out on top. And for right now? Chess is helping keep my anxiety at bay. Unexpected, but I’ll take it.

Graduating With Imposter Syndrome

By: Adair Bingham

I don’t know what I’m doing with my degree. Short and simple. I don’t have a clue. I haven’t really had a solid grasp on what I’d like to do with my bachelor’s degree in psychology for a while now. I am on track to graduate this spring and that sentence alone scares me. But whether I like it or not, it’s happening and fast. One of the most jarring things for me is the fact that I’m actually graduating. Back in my senior year of high school when I was applying for universities, I struggled with feeling adequate for any kind of school, no matter what kind it was. Imposter syndrome ran deep in my bones, and even now, despite my academic standing and honors, I still sometimes feel like I never quite belonged at Portland State in the first place.

Imposter syndrome is an annoying and tiresome hodgepodge of feelings that causes chronic self-doubt and a sense of inadequacy. At any second, I feel that I’ll be exposed as some kind of fraud, that I was never truly supposed to be here to begin with. I often feel that everything I’ve accomplished was by chance or by accident. Its tormenting thoughts are persistent and unbelievably exhausting, and often result in what can only be equated to a guilty conscience. I often feel bad or unworthy when receiving accolades, especially from my school, even if I know that they were well-earned.

While these kinds of feelings are unfortunately a normal and expected part of life, that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with, especially if you find yourself pestered by them on a daily basis. It’s unbelievably taxing on both body and mind, especially if they’ve made themselves at home in your brain. I’m not unique in feeling this way, it’s commonplace for many without a doubt. I came to be familiar with imposter syndrome at a relatively young age because I was an artist. Much like my struggles with my major, I was unfairly comparing my work to others and harshly evaluating myself, even if I possessed the same artistic merit. Since then, it has wormed its way into my brain in just about every aspect of my life, especially my studies. Things seemed to escalate in high school, particularly in my senior year, and have only persisted as I made my way into university. 

I’ve gotten better about keeping these kinds of feelings in check and I’ve made it a point to remind myself of all that I’ve accomplished is not because of some fluke in the system, but because of my dedication to working hard. It may sound like a simple truth, but, for me, it’s been one that’s hard to swallow. My hard work has paid off and I need to remind myself of that as often as I can. These days, I’ve made it a point to try and end these feelings. The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like one and I do my best to separate feelings from facts whenever I can, as I realize that, in the end, they are nothing more than burdensome feelings.

Notwithstanding, I am unbelievably proud of my achievements and just how far I have come in the four years I’ve dedicated to my studies at Portland State University. Every now and again, I make an effort to reflect on my achievements and actually take pride in them. It’s been a long journey to this point and I know that I’m not an imposter and that I belong here, and that I deserve the degree that’s just within arm’s reach. In spite of everything, I’ve made it and I know that it’s certainly not by accident or by chance, I’ve, without a doubt, earned that degree.