The Last Chapter At PSU

By: Adair Bingham

Last week, I officially received word that I’ve wrapped up my four years at Portland State University with my bachelor’s degree and am now moving on to the next chapter of my life. As much as I would like to further my education and apply to graduate school, I just know deep in my bones that I’m not quite the right fit for it and that I wouldn’t be particularly happy there. Squeezing out four years for my bachelor’s in psychology was a chore all on its own and I can’t even begin to imagine taking on more school at this point. Undergrad was tough enough, and I really can’t envision myself moving on to graduate school, especially when everything is still so unpredictable right now. For example, in my Capstone class, it was nearly impossible to get in touch with the community partner I was assigned to work with. Emails were magically lost left and right and I was essentially alone in tackling a huge project with no guidance whatsoever. I love the world of academia and I haven’t entirely tossed another form of schooling out the window, but I’m fairly confident in saying that this term was my final chapter at PSU.

I’m definitely caught in limbo, so to speak. It’s surreal to say that I’m a senior and just on the cusp of graduating — if not actually graduated, which I likely will by the time this is posted. Time has gone both exceptionally fast and unbelievably slow all at once, and I’m honestly pretty angry about graduating during a pandemic, let alone trying to mentally map out my future during one. I think one of the scariest things about it is feeling like I’m always one step behind everyone else, like I’ve missed something important or critical along the way. This feeling is only exacerbated by the shaky and uncertain feeling going into the “real world” with my degree in psychology. I know that having a college degree is necessary these days and that I should be proud of myself for earning one alone, but I’m still a little shaken up just thinking about it. I often tell myself that, no matter what happens, that the skills and knowledge that I’ve gleaned while in school will serve me for a lifetime and for that I should be grateful. 

Majoring in psychology was a risky investment, and even though in the long run I am thankful that I stuck to it until the end, I really do wish I had taken some more time to consider my major before applying to this school. For new students, I highly implore you to explore yourself before sticking with a major and for undecided or transitioning students, it’s never too late to try something new. I am passionate about psychology, I truly am, but without a master’s or a doctorate I am uncertain where I’ll even use my degree, aside from it being just another bullet point on my resume. The world is a rough place and while I believe that education is very important, I don’t think it should be the be-all or end-all that it is for employment. Right now, I don’t have any plans to pursue either a master’s or a doctorate, and don’t really have a choice to be anything but content with my bachelor’s at the moment. I know that it’ll come in handy one way or another, and that I’ll be able to use it, even if it may be in an unconventional manner. While this may be my final chapter at Portland State, there are a lot of other doors that have opened up and it’s up to me to find them, and then it’s on to the next adventure, whatever that may be.

My Favorite Books So Far This Year

By Claire Golden

One of the pastimes that’s gotten me through quarantine is reading. Although I’ve always loved books, sometimes I need them more desperately than ever, and the past year of COVID-19 quarantine is a prime example of that. Since I can’t go anywhere until I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve been reading books to escape my attic room and go on adventures with the characters. 

I enjoy a variety of genres, but what I really want from a book is to be completely immersed in a different world. I want books that will take me somewhere else for a few hours. So I’ve compiled a list of the top five books that have captivated me the most this year.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

This book is a recent release. It’s a Young Adult fantasy novel about a group of girls who are cast out from society because of the color of their blood, but they are training to be warriors who can take back their world from the oppressive patriarchy. The phrase “girl power” is overused and makes me roll my eyes, but that’s the sentiment of this book. The worldbuilding swept me up, and the characters are multifaceted and vibrant. This is a book I couldn’t put down and I would highly recommend to anyone looking for action-packed feminist literature, whether or not you typically read YA.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

This YA fantasy trilogy is far from new — it was published in 2013 — but it’s being turned into a Netflix series, and I always prefer to read the book before I watch the adaptation. I expected this to be a generic YA fantasy, but boy was I wrong. It isn’t afraid to go dark, but the story ultimately has a hopeful ending. I read this trilogy while I was recovering from surgery and it thoroughly distracted me from my pain. Now I can’t wait to watch the series!

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

For a change, here’s something that’s not a YA fantasy. (My family teases me about my love for YA fantasy, but we all have our favorite genres, right?) This novel won a Goodreads Choice Award and it sure does deserve it. It’s about a mom influencer who becomes obsessed with her daughter’s babysitter, a Black teen from the other side of town, after an incident where where the babysitter is accused of abducting the little girl she cares for. Emira, the babysitter, is a great character and extremely likable, while Alix is fun to root against. But the novel brings up important questions of “woke” culture, “mom bloggers,” and racial dynamics. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

This author is one of my auto-buy authors; I will read absolutely anything she writes. And I think this novel is her best work yet! It’s a historical fiction about a Chinese-American teenager named Lily growing up in San Francisco and discovering that she’s lesbian when she falls in love with her friend, Kathleen. Together, they visit the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar. I learned so much about 1950s San Francisco and what it was like to be LGBTQ+ back then, from an #ownvoices author who is also Chinese-American and lesbian. Lily felt real to me, and the novel was very moving in addition to just being a plain good read.

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

And one more YA fantasy to round out the list. This book reads like a fairytale, from its shorter length to the beautiful descriptions of castles and forests. Cerys escapes into the enchanted forest after a curse strikes her town and must survive with only a fox…who might also be magical…and her own wits. She is resourceful and spirited, and she has a fox companion that charmed me from the start. Although I have read enough YA fantasy to fill an entire bookshelf, this one still brought enough new material to the genre to keep me entertained. Also, serious cover love!

What books have kept you entertained during these long quarantine days?

Quintessential Conventions

by Beth Royston

Ah, conventions – gatherings for people who share a common love of comics, anime, or other uniting things. Where else can you walk giant circles around one building all day, squeezing past people in impossibly intricate armor cosplays, trying to get in line to buy an incredibly expensive burger? I love conventions, and have truly missed their presence in my life this past year. I can’t wait for them to be back again! I’d like to provide a little tidbit on what to expect if you’ve always been fascinated by these gatherings of greatness or have ever considered attending. This is by no means a comprehensive list of every piece of advice or every convention in the area, but hopefully it’ll get you started.

Where do I start?

There are usually a “main three” in Portland my partner and I like to frequent — Rose City Comic Con (RCCC), Wizard Con Portland (WC) and Kumoricon. RCCC and WC are more comic-oriented, while Kumoricon is more anime-oriented. My partner and I aren’t super into comics, and I’m not into anime, but we feel like there’s an inclusion of many sources of media at these conventions. All celebrate pop culture, and offer merchandise for video games, tv shows, books … you name it. There are some smaller cons in Portland we haven’t checked out yet, and we’re interested in checking out some Oregon conventions outside the Portland area. We’ve also attended Seattle’s PAX West in the past, which I highly recommend if you love everything video games like we do. My partner and I are interested in checking out some other Washington conventions in the future as well.  RCCC, WC, and Kumoricon are all in the fall or winter, and PAX is in the summer. Convention tickets usually range between $40-70 for a full weekend pass, but of course, this varies. You can also purchase a one-day pass if you want to test the waters.

Do you have to cosplay?

No, absolutely not. There are plenty of folks in their regular clothes. However, cosplaying is really, really fun. You can start small and purchase your entire costume online, or pick a character that wears everyday clothes that are easy to find. Or, you can get a little more advanced and try out sewing and/or crafting parts of your costume. It’s rewarding and exciting! It’s a highlight of convention season every year to recognize folks in costume from media my partner and I both love, and also, to be recognized! Having a starry-eyed con-goer ask to take your picture is a pretty sweet feeling. There’s usually a lot of workshops and panels during a con about cosplaying and how to make props if you’re interested in learning. If you are cosplaying, I recommend checking out social media or convention forums to see if there are any meetup groups for the media you’re cosplaying from! Usually there will be a costume contest at a convention, and that’s a great way to see the amazing talent on display.

What is there to do?

A lot! My personal favorite part is browsing the artists’ alley. There are so many cool posters, keychains, stickers, and a ton of other kinds of merch I won’t even think of before I see it! There’s usually a lot of stock for things that are current and popular, but there’s a particular excitement that ignites inside me when I see merchandise for something older, or less well-known. I’ve scored some truly awesome finds, and it feels great to support local creators. You can also attend panels, which are usually on a variety of topics, and simply people-watch. I love walking around and seeing everyone’s cosplays, as well as being asked for pictures. Always ask someone before taking a picture, and don’t touch anyone’s cosplay or body without their consent. There’s plenty to do the entire weekend, but you can always try just going for one day if you’re unsure about how you’ll like it. 

I hope you’ll give convention-going a try if it sounds interesting! This year, it’s a goal of mine to try selling my handmade soap in an artist’s alley.  For now, I simply dream of going back. Hope to see you there!

What The COVID-19 Test Is Really Like

By Claire Golden

After scheduling an upcoming medical procedure, the doctor informed me that I would have to get tested for COVID-19 prior to going. My heart sank. I’ve never enjoyed going to the doctor. Well, nobody does, but for me it used to be a phobia that would lead to tears and panic attacks. I’ve come a long way and it doesn’t scare me like it used to, but I was far from enthused about being tested for COVID. I understood why they had to do it. But the nervous butterflies started up. In fact, I was more scared for the COVID test than I was for my upcoming surgery. Anxiety is a silly thing sometimes!

There are a few types of tests to see if you have COVID. One involves spitting in a tube, another involves twirling a swab just inside your nose. However, the one I would be getting — and the one I was scared of — is the nasopharyngeal swab, where a long, skinny Q-tip-looking thing is inserted far back into your nostril to get the back of your sinus. When I looked up a diagram of this, I thought, “Nope,” and proceeded to hyperventilate.

Well, I am here to share my experience with you and to inform you that it is not a bad experience at all. I know I’m not the only one who worries about this sort of thing, so please allow me to ease your mind a bit by reassuring you that it looks much worse than it actually is.

The whole test took less than 30 seconds. My partner drove me to the drive-through testing site. When we got there, I showed my photo ID and rolled down the window. The nurse explained what was going to happen and asked me to lean my head back against the headrest and relax. I’ll admit, when someone asks me to relax, it doesn’t exactly make me feel relaxed, but it does help to stay calm. On the count of three, the nurse stuck the swab into my right nostril and just…kept…going. It is a really strange feeling, but it doesn’t hurt much. You know the feeling when you really have to sneeze, how your nose kind of burns? That’s exactly what this felt like — a tickling sensation in the back of my nose. When the swab was removed, I coughed a few times, blew my nose and felt back to normal.

The test probably only took 5-10 seconds, and the anticipation was about 100 times worse than the actual thing…which is always how things go, in my experience. I found that closing my eyes, bringing a stuffed animal, and squeezing my partner’s hand helped keep me calm during the process. I am quite squeamish about any medical procedures involving the face, so if I can get through this, anybody can!

If you go on the Internet you can find a variety of COVID test horror stories about how awful it was. Although I’m not discounting anybody’s experience, it’s important to remember that people often exaggerate to make the story more interesting. For the vast majority of people, the test will be smooth, quick and easy. I worried more than was necessary, so if you’re about to be tested for COVID yourself, I hope this can help ease your mind.

Tattoo Tour Part I

I have many tattoos, and I love them all! I love to ask people for their “tattoo stories.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a fun design you got on a lark, a matching tattoo with a paramour, or a design that means the world to you! I love to hear the inspiration behind others’ tattoos.  Here are a few of mine!

One of the dearest to my heart is a sad clown girl on the back of my calf. This tattoo is special A) because it was my very first tattoo with color in it, and B) it actually helped me get over a fear. I have been afraid of clowns my entire life. I have no idea why. I woke up one day and decided to love clowns. I was going to lean into it hard. Cue a year of collecting vintage clown dolls and finally getting a tattoo to immortalize my silly little journey.

Next, there is a thylacine on my thigh. This extinct meat-eating marsupial lived in Tasmania, and was hunted into extinction by careless people. I’ve always had a fascination with extinct animals, but the thylacine captured my heart. Their tale was uniquely tragic: mass killings of livestock led these animals to be the suspected culprits. A bounty was placed on their pelts, and they were hunted in droves. It was later proven that wild dogs had been killing livestock, and thylacines had had nothing to do with it. A wave of poorly-timed disease later, they were all but decimated. They were strange-looking — a jaw that could open to a 120 degree angle, stripes like a tiger, a head like a wolf, a gait like a dog. They were freaks of nature uniquely adapted to their environment. They were misjudged and it led to their demise. My heart aches for them on the daily. I’ve been obsessed with them since I was ten years old, and this tattoo was the culmination of eleven years of love for a tragic animal. 

Lastly, there is my Rocky Horror tribute tattoo, my favorite lyric surrounded by roses. These roses match tattoos four of us in my friend group received from an unlikely friend with a tattoo gun. I have been performing in the Clinton Street Cabaret’s Rocky Horror Picture Show since I was eighteen years old, and this show is my life. The friends and partners I have gained through this show have been the best. I love them all so dearly. The memories I’ve made and continue to make are so special to me. The lyric, “Rose tint my world” is how I prefer to see life. I want to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses. I want to see only the best in life. I want endless joy and debauchery. And this musical, and those people, are the closest thing I have to a rose-tinted world. 

A Year Of Online Learning

By: Adair Bingham

I’m just about to hit my anniversary of a full year of online learning. Online school wasn’t entirely a new concept to me before the world essentially went into lockdown last year, so I thought that I would be more than prepared to handle an entirely online course load at the start of spring term last year. A full year into it, I realize that I was not equipped, either mentally or physically for what the pandemic would do to the world of higher education. 

Online learning is a chore. A very exhausting chore. To be frank, it requires a lot of mental strength and a lot of willpower to not tab out of Zoom or D2L and open up something more interesting. Last year, I had a lot more resolve to stay put and stay on task with my school work. These days I find myself just looking for any kind of excuse to open some other online window and work on a personal project instead. I mentally justify my slacking off by claiming that, “At least I’m still working on something.” I get my schoolwork done and square everything away in a timely manner, but it’s proven to take more energy than I ever thought it would. 

About a year ago, I was pretty optimistic about virtual learning and the online classroom, but Zoom fatigue is real. For me, Zoom completely sucks the fun and engagement out of education and nothing about school feels even remotely (pun intended) the same as meeting physically in the classroom. I miss packing my bag and making sure I had all my ducks in a row before heading out to class. I miss the sense of fulfillment walking back to my dorm after class concluded. All the little things like that, I’ve seriously come to miss. All that said, I’ve developed some strategies for making the best out of the current virtual setup. One of the most helpful things, I’ve found, is that I need to set up my current workspace to make sure that it actually feels like a workplace. My own workplace, in particular. That means I need an organized desk, a laptop, and office supplies within arm’s reach, as well as miscellaneous collectibles and oddities at my side. I like to feel grounded when I work and I’ve found that personalizing my space is the best option for that, and, in turn, ensures that my online learning goes as smoothly as possible, even though a possible end is in sight. I can only hope that, should things go smoothly in the upcoming months, that students will be able to return to campus in the fall.

To Love While Ill

by Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

Content warning: frank discussion of the symptoms of mental illness, mentions of medication. 

To be in love is a beautiful thing. I consider myself lucky every day that I have so many people to love and share my life with. There is a side to love, however, when you are mentally ill, that can be very hard.

A day can look like this: I get home from work. I do some chores, walk the dog, maybe complete some homework. My fiancee comes home a few hours later. We greet each other and spend the evening together. We talk about our days, our plans for the weekend. We watch TV. We walk the dog again. I do more homework. I read a book while my fiancee drinks a glass of wine with their sibling. We go to bed.

A day can just as easily look like this: I wake up, paralyzed with fear from another night of nightmares. Eventually, I shake this off and begin my day. I go to work. I do OK, but I can feel mania creeping up around the edges. I’m in a hyper-good mood. My energy is unusually high for someone who only slept two hours last night. I’m talking a mile a minute. My client appreciates my good mood. I get home. I walk the dog. I hyperfocus on homework and before I know it, five hours have passed. I cannot stop homework because my self-worth is very much entangled with my academia. Finally, I pull myself away from the screen. I have a pounding headache. I haven’t had any water today. My fiancee comes home from work. We talk about our days. I’m jumpy. I can’t sit still any longer, and start obsessively cleaning the house. I take the dog on another walk. I see a white pickup while walking, and have a panic attack, due to past trauma. We spend the evening together — I feel intense guilt for watching TV, as it’s not a productive activity. I read. I feel guilty that I’m reading for pleasure, and not doing homework. I know I took my medication today, but I seem to be feeling all the symptoms of everything! All at once! The incredible daily pain of my physical disability coupled with the mental turmoil is making me snappish and panicked. I try my best to be patient and kind. I keep wanting to cry, and am not sure why. We go to bed. My insomnia keeps me up. I have nightmares all night again.

Most days, I am, at the very least, okay. I am an attentive, caring, and thoughtful partner. I’m an empathetic and compassionate friend. Honestly, I’m a genuinely happy person. I love my life. I feel lucky to have the friends and paramours that I do.

But there is a lot of darkness in my brain. Every day is a battle against the symptoms of my mental illness and those of my physical disability. I don’t write this article to alarm anyone, or to host a pity party. This is simply my daily reality. Sometimes it’s scary, sad, and angering. But most of the time, it’s the simple life of a dedicated student and lover of the world. 

It’s so important to destigmatize mental illness. So many people I know live with it — all three of my romantic partners are mentally ill. Most of my family members. Two thirds of my friends. I don’t seek to explain the prevalence of it — that’s a project for another day! But if almost everyone I know lives with at least one mental illness, why are we ashamed to talk about it? I want to do my bit to normalize discussing mental illness. I don’t seek to wallow or revel in self-pity, but I want to be frank about my daily reality.

After all, if I don’t speak my truth, who will?

A Clearer Future

by Beth Royston

Well, I received my news. For those of you who read my previous post Learning to be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable, I wrote that I felt like I was spiraling, unanchored, waiting for decisions and news that would help me shape what my life was going to look like next year. A few weeks ago, both my partner and I found out that we didn’t get into our chosen graduate program. Honestly, I was devastated. I had wanted to get into that program since I started college, and it felt crushing to receive that news. However, I’ve spent the few weeks afterwards in a state of odd peace, which I didn’t imagine I would obtain. 

I’ve done a lot of thinking and realized that while I would have loved to go, this decision may be for the best. My partner and I have both had a rough time with online school, and as we near graduation, we’re both feeling pretty burnt out. A break sounds nice right about now. We’ve also spent the past four years on part-time wages, and being able to find full-time jobs and actually have some savings will be great. We also have become really interested in buying a car, and that would probably be really difficult on our current funds. It’s actually achievable next year with the chance to work full-time, and getting some more experience in our chosen fields is never a bad thing. 

I was introspective and realized that I was so averse to taking another gap year because I’d already taken one —and it was a bad experience. I first decided to take a gap year in between high school and college, and moved from California immediately  after graduation. I had no friends in Portland, and lived alone. I was really lonely without my pets for the first time. I loved my job and saved up a lot of money working there, but I didn’t really do much else other than work. I was incredibly depressed, and understandably didn’t want to repeat that. But I’m in a much different position now than I was then. My life is fulfilling, and I have a lot of hobbies and people around me that bring me joy. There’s so many things that I’m looking forward to doing now that I’ve lived in Portland for five years and have regular favorite spots. Of course it’s normal for me to be upset about not getting in, but I’ve been really pleased to come to peace with it, and realize the many silver linings that are appearing. I’m feeling optimistic about maybe getting my novel publishing-ready this year, and I really want to try taking my online business to a convention! A year of resetting sounds pretty great right about now, with how awful this year has been. We’ll both apply again next year, but it feels like a lot of pressure is off. I’m mostly grateful to just have an answer, so I can begin formulating a picture of what next year will look like. 

The Finished Product

by Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

I sat in front of my laptop, as I often do. Same black skinny jeans, same homemade crop top displaying a garish fish that said, “WOMEN WANT ME, FISH FEAR ME.” Same glasses and gray beanie as I always wore. My dog sat next to me like usual. The TV was on, playing a rerun of a show I’d seen many times before. It was raining — typical and perpetual in Portland. But something was different about this afternoon. Something was significant. Something had shifted.

I’d just finished my honors thesis.

The culmination of four years of blood, sweat, and more than a few tears in the PSU Honors College was a 51-page creative biography of author Mary Shelley. I’d read hundreds of pages in research. I’d read as many of her novels as I could get my hands on. I’d read her letters and diaries. I’d read dozens of her husband’s poems. I’d written for hours and hours. I’d revised with vigor, often deleting pages at a time until my finished product was “perfect.” 

And there it was. An innocuous Google Doc. It looked like every other assignment I’d ever done. Times New Roman font, MLA format, double spaced. But it meant so much more. Hundreds of hours of research and writing and years of schooling — all for this project. It seemed silly to think, but there was something almost holy about it. It was (and is!) the physical manifestation of all of my effort and passion. I’d cried while writing it. I’d raged at my computer. I’d laughed with joy when I’d written something particularly good.

And if it made me sound a little unhinged … what of it? I didn’t care!

I still have a lot to do before I graduate with my undergraduate degree. I have one more term to go, and many final papers. I’m doing the first year of my master’s in English alongside my bachelor’s degree, so I’m not off the academic hook any time soon. 

But I am proud of myself. I am proud of my work ethic and what I have created and learned. And I can’t wait to write with this much feeling and passion for the rest of my life!

The Case For Zoom

By Erika Nelson

When PSU announced that the coming spring and summer terms would continue to be remote, I had conflicting feelings. On one hand, I’m happy that PSU is looking out for students, faculty, and staff by minimizing physical contact. It’s comforting to be part of an institution that values health and safety. On the other hand, I (and every other Viking I’ve spoken to on this topic) am disappointed that after a year of remote learning, we still won’t the inside of a classroom for at least the next few months.

I have an edge over “Past Erika” in March 2020, however – I know what to expect. I’m used to living remotely now. I know the ins and outs of Zoom … at least in theory. For instance, I didn’t know that there was a shortcut to “raise hand” (“Option” + “Y” keys) until this week. Although I miss traditional learning, I’m pleasantly surprised at how well Zoom classes work for me. Don’t get me wrong, in an ideal world, I prefer the classroom format and wish we could look forward to non-remote terms sooner than this fall. But by using Zoom, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my learning style.

The Zoom format provides the schedule and structure of regular meeting times, which is helpful to people like me who struggle staying organized and on-task without a timetable to hold them accountable. I’m much more engaged on Zoom than in classes that are entirely on D2L, because having faces and personalities to match to the names leads to more lively discussions (at least in my experience.) In classroom settings, I struggle a lot with social anxiety and self-doubt, leading to stumbling over my words or declining to share my thoughts at all. In virtual classes, there is the added buffer of seeing the instructor and classmates through a window, lending me more confidence to speak up and share comments verbally … and if I’m still feeling shy, I can always type out my take in the class chat.

The benefits of Zoom don’t end with me. Zoom classes have helped make the class dynamic more accessible to students with special circumstances; those who’d like to attend classes in person but can’t always make it there. Life sometimes presents obstacles that make regular attendance difficult —for example, becoming ill or injured, being your family’s only source of childcare, a lack of funds for regular public transportation, or having mental or physical disabilities. Being able to learn remotely during the times you can’t make it to class has made education more equitable — instead of worrying about piling up absences and missing crucial material, students can focus on learning.

Perhaps as we move forward through the pandemic and beyond, schools and colleges should consider ways to offer Zoom classes alongside solely-online courses and traditional in-person lectures. This idea might seem silly, but consider the ubiquity of online-only courses — even pre-pandemic, it was a rare college that didn’t offer a selection of online courses. Critics didn’t think it would work, but online learning is now undeniably part of academia alongside traditional lecture halls. Maybe Zoom is the happy medium that blends classroom and keyboard, creating a more flexible way of learning.

Above: A handy cheatsheet I made to help me remember Zoom commands (those little doodles on the “OO” are supposed to be glasses.)