Grieving, Grades and Goodbyes

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

The day before a big midterm exam last term, my pet chicken Harriet died. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I didn’t think it would be that day… and anyway, how can you prepare for loss? You can’t. It hit me like a tidal wave that I would never get to pet her silky feathers again, or eat one of her eggs, or snuggle into her fluff. Everybody processes grief in different ways, and for me, I went into shock. 

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From the moment the vet took Harriet away to put her to sleep, my emotions disappeared. I was looking at the world through a veil of apathy. It took a few days before I could start to process that she was gone. The last thing in the world I wanted to think about was a midterm. To make things even worse, I had planned today as my study day, but there was no way I could study in this mental space.

The only thing I could do was keep going, so I did. I dragged myself out of bed the next day feeling absolutely empty, sat down in my classroom, and wrote my way through the midterm. The only way I made it through was with the support of my friends and family. When I told them about Harriet, they were sympathetic and kind, offering me hugs and somebody to talk to. I made it through the day, and the next, and somehow I was still going. 

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It’s been almost three months without Harriet, and it still hurts. I miss her every day, and that pain will never completely go away. But I’m still here. I will always love her, which is how I can keep her memory alive. And you know what? I got a good grade on that midterm. It feels like Harriet was watching out for me.

Finding a New Hobby

By: Ragan Love

My favorite activity has always been creating and playing music, but when college started my hobby turned into my main academic focus. It led to a creative block that lasted several months.  Playing my favorite instrument felt like a chore.It made me sad that my escape had turned into a daunting task. I decided that I wanted to find a new hobby that I could turn to when my brain was overloaded with music information.

I thought about other activities I enjoyed before college started. I used to spend my free time reading, cooking, and sewing. It’s hard for me to do much cooking or baking because I have a small kitchen space, and I am trying to use the meal plan as much as possible. I have tried reading, but I need a light school reading load if I want to dive into a good book. That left sewing, and I went online to look for ideas. This is when I saw needle-point kits! My grandmother taught me needlepoint , but it had been years since I had tried it. I found a  cute flower three-pack and decided to try it out. The first one I did was a simple, but cute, plant design. I started it in October and slowly finished this project for my friend’s Christmas present.

During winter break, I started a new project, a tiny avocado. Only a few inches tall, the design took a few hours to finish. I really enjoyed this one because I got to work on it while relaxing with my family in Colorado! I actually turned this needlepoint into a magnet for my grandmother’s birthday, and she absolutely loved it. 

I am currently working on two different designs. I plan to keep these for myself.   One is a needlepoint on a wooden canvas and pictures a mountain scene. My friend gave this to me when I was getting a little homesick, and I can’t wait for it to be completed so I can have it on my desk as a memory of home.

My new hobby gives me a mental break from playing the flute. Needle-point projects make wonderful gifts for friends and family, and you can work on them throughout the year. I think that creative burnout is a challenging part of college that is not talked about, but it is important to take a mental break from your professional passion.  Needlepoint helps me get into a better creative space for performing music.

Move Over Netflix, I’m Reading Again

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

After a long day of work, class, and homework, there’s nothing like coming home and pulling up Netflix. Without a doubt, mindlessly watching TV has been the number one way I decompress from an exhausting day. Lately, I’ve started to realize that TV isn’t necessarily the best way for me to quickly destress. 

I was the biggest book worm back in high school. I would devour dozens upon dozens of books each year. Since coming to PSU, I’ll read during breaks, but I stopped reading for enjoyment when a term is in session. Quite frankly, I just don’t want to use any brain function to relax. And yet, there’s something about reading that I inherently missed. 

This term, I’ve decided to quit Netflix (for the most part) and opt for a book instead. It’s been a challenging transition and hard to break up with Netflix. I’ll get annoyed and frustrated that I can only manage to read ten pages before starting to nod off before bed and think, “I’m never going to finish this book!” However, even just t ten pages of reading sends me to bed an hour earlier than watching Netflix. 

Since I started reading for fun again, I’ve noticed it fueling my creative outlets. I’m more rested because I go to bed earlier and at more consistent times. Picking back up this old habit has made me feel connected to a part of myself I’d lost for years. I still haven’t finished my first fun book of the term yet, but—ten pages at a time—I’ll get there.

Winter Wonderland

I’ve slipped in snow and plummeted headfirst into an icy road with cars coming, but I still can’t quite bring myself to adopt the same dread regarding snow that a lot of my friends have.

Growing up in California, snow was always a special treat requiring a several-hour drive up the closest mountain. It was magical and also one of the few times I was permitted to eat instant ramen, clustered around steaming cups with my cousins, our cheeks red from chill. I was already looking forward to Portland’s actual seasons instead of 365 straight days of heat, but I was gently warned not to have high hopes of snow. I moved here in September 2016, and that winter was one of the biggest snowfalls Portland had experienced in a while. I was nothing short of elated being able to walk out my front door and jump into a snowbank.

Snow also meant stress: being stuck downtown during rush hour after a shift at the restaurant I worked at, realizing it would cost several hundred dollars and take several hours to get an Uber, because the buses had stopped running. I eventually went home with a coworker for the night and the next morning one of her saint-like roommates volunteered to drive me home from North Portland to West Linn, cheerfully chatting with me as we skidded on ice and I feared for my life. It can mean missing work, which seems fun until you remember you’re a self-supporting student and your paycheck is kind of important, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly gripe about it.

When the first few flakes start to drift down, even if they don’t stick, snow holds a timeless kind of magic for me. I secretly hope for another absolute coating, but we’ll have to see.

Portland on Foot

By Erika Nelson

When I chose to attend PSU, I knew I wanted to live on (or close to) campus.  Proximity to classes and university resources aside, living in the midst of a major metropolitan city famed for its public transportation would mean I could forgo the expenses that come with having a car.

Now that I live in student housing, I walk 95% of the time. Before last year, I’d lived in suburbs my whole life, and was lucky enough to have a car (or access to someone who did) for my daily transportation. The first few weeks I lived in Portland required a huge adjustment to my lifestyle and habits. For example, walking home in the rain carrying bulging Safeway bags taught me to pare down my weekly grocery list to the essentials so I would only need one reusable bag, allowing my other hand free for an umbrella.

There are times I wish I still had a car, like when I want to go somewhere more than a few miles away, or when the weather is extreme. However, there are definite benefits to relying on my own two legs. Walking allows me to experience parts of Portland that would be hard to do from a car, like when I pass quirky shops or snap pictures of public art. My health has improved from being more active. I’ve been able to save money on gas, maintenance, and parking passes. Road rage and driving-related stress is nonexistent. Best of all: on any given day, I see a minimum of a half-dozen dogs being walked, and sometimes their owners let me interact with them! It’s times like these when I’m glad I got rid of my car and can focus on the simple things going on around me.

Making international friends at PSU

By Wiwin Hartini

When I came to the United States in 2016  for college, I thought I’d be making friends with Americans and be able to speak English on a daily basis like what I’ve seen in the movies when I grew up. Although that part is true, living here has broadened my perspective about international boundaries. I’ve never met as many international students as I’ve met at PSU. And the opportunity to study here opened another opportunity to make new friends with students from other countries. 

I think I’ve met and worked with students from Venezuela, Germany, Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Congo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, and other countries. I did not expect this before I came here. It’s easy to take it for granted and not think about it until I realized how rare it was to meet a person from another country when I was attending schools in Indonesia. 

Recently, I joined a program at PSU called ICSP (International Cultural Service Program) where selected international students are given scholarships and opportunities to share their cultures to requestors (educational institutions, organizations, groups, etc). The program also offers training to develop the students’ skills. It has allowed me to meet with students from 16 countries and learn about their cultures. I would have never thought that I would be learning about Vietnamese New Year’s tradition or learning about stereotypes about Ukraine. 

As people are more globally connected through the internet, I think understanding other cultures is more important than ever. The application can be as simple as working for a company that would transfer you to Japan to work, for example. Having exposure to Japanese culture from a student while going to school can be a valuable experience in the long run. Working with people from different backgrounds can enrich the way we think and the way we can solve problems.