A Self-Diagnosed Imposter

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Easily self-diagnosable, imposter syndrome consists of chronic self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy despite finding professional success. As a woman majoring in math, I’ve definitely faced these feelings throughout my college career. Slowly, I’m realizing that the only person I still need to convince that I deserve to be in STEM is myself.

Throughout my life, I have placed constant pressure on myself to exceed expectations. Even when I’m successful, I question my ability and knowledge. Imposter syndrome makes it nearly impossible to be confident in my academic performance and makes me fear judgment from the rest of the world. A part of me feels like I must outperform my classmates to be taken seriously. I can’t just coast on being average because I anticipate that people will question why I chose to major in math. Maintaining a high GPA is more than just a point of pride for me; it is the only defense I have against someone wondering, “Should she really be a math major if she isn’t super good at it?” 

These feelings of inadequacy persist despite the fact that I have honestly had a positive experience as a woman in STEM here at PSU. I feel fortunate that my professors have never treated me differently from any other classmate—specifically my male counterparts. My professors have encouraged and supported me, and never once have they said or done anything to make me feel like I don’t belong in a math class. 

Everyone wants to feel accepted in their field of study and line of work. I have realized that I will always question whether I am accepted as long as I continue questioning my abilities. At the end of the day, I chose to major in math because I love the challenge and I am good at it. I’ve decided to adopt the attitude that if someone doesn’t think I’m smart enough for math—well, that’s their problem. 

Unexpected Calm

by Beth Royston

It’s safe to say I was worried about what was going to happen when the coronavirus finally hit Portland. I was extremely ill over winter break and for most of this term, and have been dealing with a lot of trauma about what happened to me. Some of those trauma symptoms were exacerbated by staying inside for long periods of time — and that’s what I was about to do as coronavirus continued to spread. 

I was unsure how my mental health would be impacted, especially with not being able to work as much as usual. I’m a productive person and getting things done is what makes me happy and fulfilled. Sometimes getting through a single two-day weekend at home was difficult, but I felt strongly about wanting to keep myself and others safe and therefore resigned to stay home. I had fought really hard to keep myself going to classes and work this term, battling physical and mental symptoms, and when I felt like I had finally reached a point of things being okay, I was about to be thrown into the fire I had spent so much time gently easing into.

Surprisingly, though, things have taken a turn for the better. I think I’ve been so occupied with keeping tabs on friends and family members and others affected by the coronavirus that I haven’t had time to worry about myself. A lot of my anxieties have faded, and I’ve had a lot to work on to keep myself busy. I usually prefer to take one or two online classes alongside one or two in-person classes, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with our new format. I definitely miss being on our beautiful campus, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to still attend classes. 

I’ve found that keeping a daily routine, eating healthy, trying to get outside for walks, and keeping busy has helped my mental health a lot. I’m looking forward to being on campus again, but I’m glad that I’m not putting myself or others at risk, and I’m thankful that my body seems to have decided to give me a break from my amplified anxiety. 

I’m very thankful that I am safe and healthy and all of my loved ones and friends are too. Continuing to hear about some of the things going on can be anxiety-inducing, but I try to watch how much I’m checking the news and reading stories and balance it out with things that I enjoy. Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon.

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.

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.

A Major Change

By Erika Nelson

Since childhood, literature, writing, and media have been my biggest passions. I assumed that if I went to college, I’d major in English. However, with near-constant articles and reports warning of a difficult job market, I began to question whether English was a good choice. After extensive advice from well-meaning people, I assumed a business degree was the “safe” route to gainful employment after graduation. Business, after all, is a multidisciplinary degree — it has applications in virtually every field, and can lead to a variety of exciting (and potentially lucrative) careers. I was planning to minor in business anyway, so what would be the harm in swapping my anticipated major and minor? 

As the fall term marched on, I found myself deeply unhappy — I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in the “wrong” place. I finally came to the hard truth that an intensive education in business simply wasn’t for me. 

I’d made my choice out of fear; chased a hypothetical future salary that would allow me to quickly repay loans. What was the point of pursuing a degree if my only purpose was to pay off that degree? Next term, I return to my original plan — an English major with a business minor. This decision … it feels right. There is certainly nothing wrong with majoring in business if that’s what you want to do — but I had to learn through experience that it wasn’t for me, in order to make the right choice.

Letters to Avoid Losing Touch

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Last month my best friend left for Senegal, Africa with the Peace Corps. All this past summer I dreaded the moment we would have to say goodbye. I knew communication with her would be next to none once she left. We promised to write letters, but the mail takes around two months to deliver—if it doesn’t get lost first.

This situation reminded me of a different friend who wrote “read when” letters to me when she left for her mission years ago. “Read when” letters (also called “open when” letters) are prewritten notes that help you remain  present in someone’s life even when they are far away. I kept every “read when” letter that my friend wrote for me, and they remain one of the most precious gifts I’ll ever receive. I decided to write the same letters as a gift for my Senegal-bound friend.

Sitting down to write the letters for my friend was honestly depressing. Every word I wrote was a constant reminder that she was leaving soon. The hardest letters were her birthday cards; those really drove home the fact that we wouldn’t share any adventures or experiences for two years. As emotionally draining as it was, I only wish I had written her more. I feel so much more at peace knowing that she’ll have birthday cards to open on her birthday, and that they can’t get lost in the mail. Even though I can’t support her in person, she can immediately turn to my words over and over again when she’s lonely or in need of a boost.

I know this won’t be the last set of “read when” letters I write. As my time at PSU nears its end, I recognize that graduation causes people to scatter. This first—but far from last—goodbye made me realize my lifelong friends and how determined I am to stay in touch with them past our PSU experience.

 

My Senioritis Self-Diagnosis

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Each year at PSU has challenged me in different ways. Time management is something I’m continually navigating as a student, and each year of school brings its own twists. Freshman year, I remember being so scared of falling behind in school and getting a bad grade that I kept to an extremely rigid schedule. I was still figuring out that I didn’t need to over-study; an A is still an A—regardless of whether you got a 94 percent or 100 percent in the class. However, back then classes were significantly easier. 

Come my sophomore and junior years, I constantly thought to myself, “Why was I ever stressed as a freshman?” I had so much unrealized free time, classes were easy, and I had no idea what being busy actually felt like. As a sophomore and junior, I was constantly challenged to find the balance between school, work, and my personal life. I still had the self-discipline from my first year of college, but I learned to be more flexible with my schedule to allow life to happen. I started to enjoy the sense of purpose I found in being busy and working toward a math degree.

Now, my senior year has rolled around. Instead of getting better at time management , I have gotten worse. I have diagnosed myself with senioritis—and I’ve got it bad.

senioritisdef

A key component to successful time management is motivation, and I seem to have misplaced mine. The problem is, I know that I’ve kept my days very full and productive with my work and involvement on campus. By the time evening rolls around, the last thing I want to do is study math when my brain already feels fried just from the last 12 hours of waking life. My inability to manufacture more time has caused me to become accustomed to living with a constant spike in my cortisol levels. 

Looking ahead, I know there’s a lesson to learn from all of this because eventually, I will have to find the motivation to push through this final year. I didn’t enter my senior year with perfect time management skills, and I certainly won’t leave PSU having perfected them. Once I start working after graduation, I know I will go through a whole new adjustment period of balancing my time. For now, though, this term is teaching me that there’s constantly room for growth.