Staying Connected

by Beth Royston

Ordinarily, to catch up with a friend, I’d go get lunch or see them at one of our regular joint-activities. However, go-to plans have been obviously suspended with the pandemic, and I’ve had to find new ways to stay connected with friends both near and far. An unexpected silver lining of the pandemic for me was deepening friendships with friends far away, ones I’d met online originally or had moved apart from. I’ve included some activities we’ve done regularly to stay in touch here for your consideration:

Jackbox Games! If you aren’t familiar with Jackbox games, they’re party packs of games meant to be played with your phones. The easiest way to play with friends is one person sharing their screen and everyone logging into the room via phone (this can be accomplished easily through Discord, if you use it. It’s always hilarious and there’s many games to choose from! You can buy the entire pack or singular games. 

Buzzfeed Quiz Party! Buzzfeed recently added a way you can take their infamous quizzes with friends at the same time. It’s simple — one person starts a room and sends the link to their friends, and the quiz will show you yours and your friends’ results at the same time. It was really late at night and we had a desire to know what Teletubby character we were … you know how it goes.

Skribbl.io! I play this all the time with my pals. People take turns doodling something and others try to guess what it is they are drawing!

Presentation Parties! Everyone assembles a Powerpoint presentation on something they weirdly know a lot about, or are really passionate about, and takes turns presenting to the group. It’s an oddly wholesome way to get to know your friends’ specific interests.

Watching stuff together! There are several websites and browser extensions that will let you make a private room and stream something for everyone to watch together. We usually use Kosmi.io or the extension Netflix Party!

However it is you stay in touch, we live in the perfect day and age to find fun things to do online with your friends. What’s your favorite way to get together virtually?

Having an ESA

By: Ragan Love

One decision I have made in college that has been the best choice for me was getting an emotional support animal. I am currently seeking help from my doctors and trying to make sure that I am doing what I need to do. My emotional support animal — or ESA — has been an important piece of the puzzle. 

My freshman year of college, my roommate would go home quite often and I would be by myself. I would feel alone and my mental health would start depleting. I spent some weekends not leaving my bed because I didn’t see a point to. This is when I started looking into getting an ESA.

When looking at the information I found online, I knew that getting an ESA would be a good choice for my mental health. I talked to my freshman roommate about it, but unfortunately she did not want to have an animal in our room. I understood their decision and was going to wait until the next school year to continue the search. But, the pandemic hit and the school year was cut short.

I went back to Colorado with my family and I spent every day with my family cat. My brother spent all of his time drawing in his room and my dad was at work so I really was alone with my cat. I could tell how much having him around helped my mental health.

This led to a conversation with my dad, who is a bit sceptical about ESA’s. It took awhile to get him behind the idea but he saw how much it would help me. 

So, I went to my local shelter and searched for my new cat. This is where I found my ESA, Pinball. He is a four-year-old tabby cat who is the sweetest cat I have ever seen. He loves to cuddle and nap next to you while you do work. My current roommates love him too and play with him all the time. I have noticed that my mental health is better with him around, he has made me feel whole again. Even on my bad days, he helps me get out of bed and start the day. 

If you want more information on ESA’s or what you need to do to have one on campus look at the links below

https://www.pdx.edu/disability-resource-center/assistance-animal-housing

An Odd Hobby

by Julien-Pierre Campbell

It’s a normal Tuesday in my honors class (as normal as you can get in the middle of a global pandemic!). I’m sitting on my floor in front of my laptop. My eyes are fixed on the little square containing my bedraggled reflection. How do people manage to look attractive over webcams? I think. I look like I just crawled out a sewer. Mid-sentence, my professor pauses. Her eyes have caught something slightly disturbing, judging by the look of disgust on her face. 

Huh.

“Julien…” she says, so slowly that it comes out in like ten syllables. “Uhh…”

Oh my God. The entire class is looking at me.

“Um, yes, Professor?”

“OK, I just have to ask — what’s with the deer head?”

Ah. This, I can handle. I collect taxidermy, and I’ve fielded so many questions about it that at this point, anyone could call me an expert in the awkward. I quickly explain away the deer head, make a joke that gets the class laughing, and eventually we move on. Even though I’m a little shocked that my professor stopped class for this, it’s nothing I can’t handle!

My love of taxidermy started when I was very young, but it may be pertinent for me to explain something. I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been vegetarian for my entire life, and was raised that way by parents who haven’t eaten meat in thirty years. I’ve never actually eaten meat before, and I don’t hunt, fish, or condone the activities unless for survival or cultural reasons. My love of taxidermy sort of exists in spite of this. 

You could find me in museums for hours as a young child, enchanted by the nature diramas. The leaping cougar, the skittish deer, the snarling wolf — I was hooked. I couldn’t kill a bug and would cry at the sight of roadkill, but taxidermy was magical to my young brain. As I grew up and began to make my own money from odd jobs (and eventually steady employment), I slowly built up a collection of my own ethically sourced taxidermy and wet specimens. My very first was a little duckling I named Cookie, and soon after I came by butterflies, a hawk, cat skulls, four more ducklings, possum teeth, and an entire motley zoo. And of course there is my prized possession: Maximus, the 100-year-old buck. He stops traffic (a true fact — when I carried him home from an antique store at seventeen, several cars screeched to a halt for rubberneckers), and apparently stops class too!   

I can’t explain why I love taxidermy. I can’t really explain how it coexists with my lifelong vegetarianism. At the end of the day, however, my odd little hobby makes me happy. It may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly for me.

Quara-Ween: A Holiday in the Pandemic

by Julien-Pierre Campbell

October has arrived. The trees are a beautiful riot of colors, a carpet of leaves lines the pavement. The air smells cool and fresh, the days are crisp. We’ve all donned sweaters and jackets once again. In my house, we strategically plan out weekends together. “Do you have next Saturday off? Let’s go to the pumpkin patch!” “Movie night on Friday? Have you ever seen The Conjuring?” “Wanna go costume shopping tonight?”

And yet the world has changed. We buy masks that coordinate with our costumes. We cancel our Halloween parties. We prepare a sign for trick-or-treaters apologizing for our lack of candy and our weak immune systems. Perhaps our biggest change is the Rocky Horror Picture Show cabaret’s devastating closure. October is usually my busiest month of the year. We have shows every weekend, travel to Lincoln City to perform at the coast, and perform around six shows in a week during the last week of October. This month, all of that is gone.

It’s no secret that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Those who know me know that I keep decorations up all year, I plan my costume six months in advance. I go to the pumpkin patch every weekend they’re open if I can help it. I can’t explain my die-hard love of the holiday — it’s just a part of me. 

It will be different this year. Instead of the wild performances and debaucheries of Halloween night, we’ll be inside watching movies. Instead of complimenting little ones on their costumes, we’ll be leaving our lights off so as not to disappoint them. My immune system is just too weak, and little kids are magnets for sickness. 

But the air still smells beautiful, Halloween cookies are still delicious, and I can still wear a costume in my home. I can still go to the pumpkin patch if I keep a safe distance from others. I still live with my darling fiancee, and even if we won’t be performing on stage, we’ll still be having fun. 

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 12.39.33 PM

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.