Be Your Own Valentine

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

I used to feel really down in the dumps this time of year, with the onslaught of Valentine’s Day advertising. It felt more like Singles’ Awareness Day rather than a celebration of love. It took many years for me to realize there was a better approach I could take. Instead of feeling sad about not being in a relationship, I could appreciate the types of love that I did have in my life. And one absolutely essential aspect is self-love.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2ac5

The term self-love has been floating around social media for several years now, and it can be hard to figure out exactly what it means. Self-care looks different for everybody. But for me, it’s treating myself with the same kindness I give to other people. It’s easy to be harder on yourself than you are on other people. For instance, I often catch myself thinking I’m a failure if I do badly on a homework assignment. But I would never say that to somebody else…so why would I say it to myself?

Somebody once gave me the advice that whenever I was feeling particularly critical of myself, I should write a list of five things I like about myself. It was really challenging at first to write this list. It felt forced and narcissistic. The point of this exercise isn’t to become pompous and self-congratulatory…it’s to acknowledge your good qualities and appreciate yourself as a person. I found it most effective to focus on non-physical qualities, because those are the most meaningful to me. Do you have a good sense of humor? Do you work hard? What do you like about yourself? 

Acknowledging these qualities made me conscious of what version of myself I want to be. I encourage you to give it a try, because you deserve to be appreciated as much as anybody else.

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. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 12.39.33 PM

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. 

IMG_1438

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.

Five Online Resources to Help You Sail Through PSU

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

College homework is no joke. When you get hit with your first five-page essay with an annotated bibliography, you may feel like curling up in a blanket and imitating a burrito for the next four years. But I’m here to tell you that not only are college assignments survivable, they don’t have to take forever! These are five sources I wish I had known about when I started college.

turned-on-silver-imac-with-might-mouse-and-keyboard-930530

  1. Canva.com is an amazing resource for creating infographics, resumés, cover letters, and many more graphic design elements. It’s easy to use and looks fantastic.

  2. To pair with the above website, Pexels.com is a great place to find public domain stock images. (It’s what I used for the image in this post.)

  3. Gutenberg.com is perfect for the English majors out there. It houses thousands of public domain ebooks that you can download for free to read either on your computer or ereader.

  4. And if you prefer audiobooks, then LibriVox.com is perfect for you, because you can find free audiobooks of thousands of classic novels, all read by volunteers. Great to play during your commute or while exercising.

  5. If citing sources is the bane of your existence, you might like EasyBib.com as much as I do. It’s a great resource to help you avoid plagiarism and cite correctly.

Like it or not, being a human blanket burrito will not earn you a degree. But hopefully these resources will prove as helpful to you as they were to me. Now if only I could go back in time and tell my younger self about them.

B.A. in Crochet

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

IMG_2552

My backpack is full of everything you might expect from a college student: textbooks, notebook, three-ring binder, a few candy wrappers, and a purple crochet dinosaur. Wait, doesn’t everybody have that last one? This particular dinosaur serves as my pencil case and has been an excellent conversation starter. That’s just one of the many benefits that crochet has brought me in the eight years I’ve been doing it.

IMG_4544

A lot of people hear “crochet” and think lace doilies or itchy sweaters. But crochet has come a long way since its early days, and it’s an amazing hobby. Crochet is my way of de-stressing after a long day of classes. When I sit down with a ball of yarn and a hook, the familiar movement of the stitches calms me like nothing else does. I love creating something out of nothing more than a ball of yarn, whether it be a sweater, hat, or dinosaur pencil case. Now I even have a job designing patterns for a popular crochet website.

IMG_5028

Crochet is perfect for a college student because it doesn’t take a lot of money to get started. You can get a crochet hook and a ball of acrylic yarn for less than $10, and there are plenty of YouTube tutorials to guide you on your journey. Crochet is one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I encourage you to give it a try. Who knows, you might just discover a new favorite hobby.

Five Beautiful Things a Day

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

It feels like just last week it was summer, and now fall is upon us. It’s easy to lament the loss of long, sunny days. As somebody who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated as SAD), the transition into fall and winter is difficult. Lots of people have SAD. If you’ve ever felt more gloomy in the winter than you do in the summer, you may be one of them. 

There isn’t much you can do for SAD, because whatever you do, the seasons will keep on changing. Your doctor can advise things like Vitamin D supplements or spending time under a sun lamp, both of which are extremely helpful for me. However, I’ve found that the biggest difference comes from actively trying to change my mindset. 

IMG_3126

One way I do this is by making an effort to see the beautiful in the everyday. On my walk to the bus stop, I look for five beautiful things. It can be anything from a neat-looking rock to a cute corgi waddling along the street. The point is to engage with your surroundings and get out of your own head. 

I’ve been doing this for over a year, and it’s second nature now. The picture in this post was taken on my way to class when I got distracted by this cute little dandelion. It’s amazing how much beauty there is in the world once you start looking. 

Park Block Encounters

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

One of my favorite things about Portland State is its location, right smack dab in the middle of the Park Blocks. These blocks have the vibe of a traditional college campus, but they also have the energy of downtown Portland. I’ve had a variety of interesting encounters in the Park Blocks. 

65317584_10157435497863872_6513696303887679488_n

Photo credit: PSU Facebook

Just last term I was reading a book in the grass when a group of students came up to me with a clipboard. “Do you have a moment to rate your experience with the squirrels in this park?” This was such an unexpected question that of course I said yes. Turns out they were doing research on the aggression levels of squirrels in various Portland parks…and the PSU squirrels are overly friendly. (If those students find this post, good luck on your survey!)

I once stumbled upon a group of people doing yoga. They looked so peaceful and serene that I felt calmer just walking past them. On another occasion, I encountered a monk who was handing out books, and we had a pleasant conversation before I continued on my way (a few books heavier).

There are often events and music in the Park Blocks, which is a nice surprise. Because the Park Blocks are a public space, sometimes there are protests and demonstrations for various things. It’s all part of the PSU and Portland experience. I enjoy walking through these blocks on my way to class because I never know what I’m going to find. Who knows, you might even spot Cow Pigeon!

Calming the College Nerves

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

This post is for all the incoming freshmen out there who are nervous for the first day of college. I felt exactly the same as you do. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that it would all be OK…It’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be! This is what I would tell Freshman Claire if I could.

Starting something new is always nerve-wracking, and that’s my first piece of advice: remember that everybody else is nervous, too. No matter how calm and collected your classmate seems, chances are they’re anxious on the inside. It’s OK to admit that you’re nervous. People will probably find it relatable.

advice-advise-advisor-7096.jpg

Something that helped me a lot was finding my classrooms before the first day of class. Nobody wants to be running across campus five minutes before class, frantically trying to find their building. I write down my classrooms and go on a quest to locate them all the weekend before term starts…even now, in my fourth year of college.

It’s a good idea to get to class early on the first day. It gives you a buffer in case you can’t find the classroom, plus you get the pick of the seats. But don’t panic if you get there late – professors understand that the first day is hard! 

My biggest piece of advice is to take a deep breath and get through it because it only gets easier after the first day. You can do it!

Read What Makes You Happy

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As someone studying French and English, books are pretty much my life. I’ve loved reading since I was a little kid. I remember toting around the seventh Harry Potter book when it seemed almost as big as I was. Although I have less time these days, I still read for fun, and Powell’s City of Books is my favorite place in Portland. But for a long time, I felt self-conscious about my reading choices.

book-shelves-bookcase-books-926680

I always thought that English students were supposed to read Literature with a capital “L” in their spare time…the kind of books that are assigned in class. I felt insecure because most of the books I read are young adult (YA) fiction. I read to escape from the real world, and books like The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass are exactly what I need after a long day of analyzing literary fiction.

Our society has a tendency to dismiss things that teenagers like – especially teenage girls. (Take boy bands, for instance.) Because teenage girls are the main connoisseurs of YA fiction, it gets a bad rap. But there are amazing YA books that people are missing out on because of this mindset. And, honestly, so what if a book is “shallow”? If reading mass-market romance gets you through the day, then it’s time well spent.

I’m proud to say that I’m a literature student…and I read YA. Nobody should be ashamed about reading what makes them happy. Can you relate to this? What do you enjoy reading?

Homeschooling, Hens, and Happiness

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

When people find out that I was homeschooled, they tend to have a lot of questions. Once a classmate asked me, “Was it hard to go from homeschooling to college?” Good question! The answer is both yes and no.

Screen Shot 2019-07-21 at 11.10.11 AM

The stereotype is that homeschoolers are weird, and it’s true that I’m a little strange sometimes. I have a pet chicken, after all (who likes to perch on my feet and help me with homework). But homeschoolers are just normal kids. We talk, laugh, argue, and exchange memes just like kids at traditional school. I took classes at a homeschool co-op called Village Home, so I wasn’t a stranger to the classroom setting. And academics are never really the concern – people want to know about my social life.

Here’s the thing: Making friends is hard for anyone, not just homeschoolers. College is an adjustment regardless of where you went to school. I started classes at PCC during my last year of high school to make the transition easier, which helped a lot. By the time I transferred to PSU, I felt right at home.

What was the hard part? Sitting still in class for two hours! Truthfully, though, it was the little things that were the strangest – learning how to take the bus, figuring out how a cafeteria works, and taking midterms for the first time. In the end, homeschooling isn’t all that different from college. In fact, my two worlds collided when Pathos published these photos of my chicken, and I couldn’t be happier.

Puppies for Pronouns

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

I was strolling through downtown Portland last week when I saw a cute dog. Naturally, I squealed and darted over to say hello. “She’s adorable!” I told the owner. “May I please pet her?” She nodded, and as I crouched down to lavish attention on the dog, said, “His name is Chewy.” Realizing the dog was not female like I had initially thought, I corrected myself and said, “He’s the cutest thing ever!” Although I could have cuddled with Chewy all day, all good things must end, and he and I parted ways.

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 2.50.00 PM

This encounter reminded me of a Tumblr post I once saw about how people are quick to correct themselves when they mistake an animal’s gender, but not so much when it’s a person. My brain decided that “fluffy dog” meant “girl.” When I discovered I was wrong, I quickly switched to calling the dog “he” instead. 

This happens all the time with people’s pets and babies, and nobody makes a big deal out of it. But when it comes to people’s pronouns, suddenly it becomes a big deal to society. That’s a lot of fuss for a little word like he, she, or they

Dogs don’t care about pronouns, but people do. So why do we apologize when we misgender someone’s dog, but not when we misgender a person? My intention is not to compare people with pets. My encounter with Chewy simply made me think about how important gender identity is for people, and how important it is to respect people’s pronouns.