The Self-Care Backlash

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Between classes, homework, jobs, and more, student life is busy. Not only is finding time for yourself (self-care) difficult, but it isn’t prioritized. Even though self-care is all over the media these days, actually implementing it can be received with scorn. I encountered this when I began to shift my personal schedule around to make time for myself more of a priority.

Exercise is my version of self-care. Swimming and running are my main stress relievers and my form of meditation. I especially love training for long-distance races, because it’s time and effort I put in just for my personal achievement. When I signed up for a half marathon in May, one of my extracurricular groups knew and saw it as a conflict of commitment. They tried to guilt me out of it even though I had carefully planned my schedule to have time for everything. They completely overlooked and undermined how important is was to me. 

I didn’t anticipate that training for this race—something done for myself—would be met with such backlash, especially from people it really didn’t affect. Oftentimes I think it’s easy to forget that people are multifaceted with several interests, and that we’re all trying to find the mix of interests that make us the happiest.

Assumptions: Broke and Rebuilt

Qin  By Qin Xia

I just had the best Spring Break ever. It was not “fun,” but it was the best.

I joined the Alternative Spring Break, a week-long service opportunity offered by PSU. There were two optional trips: one in Sequoia National Park and the other in San Francisco. I chose the second one, which is the longest-running trip at PSU. We served at Glide Memorial Church and Lava Mae, while we stayed in the heart of San Francisco. I had the chance to think deeply on the “real life” I witnessed in San Francisco as we focused on the urban issues of houselessness and hunger.

During the trip, my biggest challenge was the breaking and rebuilding of my cultural assumptions. For example, before we left, during one of our group meetings, the leader told us that we are not there to “help.” In my culture, helping is the highest morality we value, and I thought it would be the best part of the trip. But they explained, “we are not from a higher level to help the lower level with mercy, that’s not right. We are here because we want to ‘serve’ the people.” They were saying it is a relationship between equals.

It reframed my thinking and offered a different angle of reflection. Sometimes we begin with a good heart, but we forget to check if it’s the right path towards our goal. Sometimes “help” makes people feel further away from each other.

What is the right way to work with the homeless or houseless community? I don’t know, and I am still learning. But I am sure nobody has the totally right answer. But that’s the best part of life: seeking the truth all the time.

Remember to Watch Your Back

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

One of the most detrimental things to our personal safety is having a complacent attitude. It’s very easy to believe that if something hasn’t happened to you that you have some sort of immunity. For instance, my six-foot-tall stature gave me a false sense of security because I thought it would make any creeper think twice about coming after me. I quickly learned this isn’t true, and luckily, I didn’t learn it through something awful actually happening to me.

I was walking to Safeway over the weekend when I passed a man who I’d seen at the PSU library a couple days earlier. I didn’t think anything of it until he began running at me and yelling, asking if I wanted to be friends and that he “saw me hanging in the library the other night.” The fact that he recognized me was definitely unnerving. Another day, I was walking home from class when a man acted like he was going to attack me. He very intentionally and aggressively lunged at me. Instantly, some of my old self-defense lessons seemed to emerge from deep within. I put my arms up to block his lunge, and I was in a fighting stance when he just scampered off.

Both of these events happened in broad daylight with other people around me. These oddballs probably didn’t even mean me any “real” harm—but it was weird. Of course, these instances aren’t unique to me or Portland, and I strongly believe everyone should know some self-defense. PSU offers a one credit self-defense class, and I’m excited to be taking it next term. I think I’ll also start lifting again—if being tall isn’t intimidating anymore, maybe some bulging biceps will do the trick.

Why celebrate?

WechatIMG12  By Qin Xia

February 16 is the start of the traditional New Year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. That means millions of Chinese are celebrating the same thing at the same time. The festival atmosphere lasts for several weeks as we welcome the Year of the Dog.

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of celebrations. I pretend that “I am cool” when others are excited. But I ask myself, why celebrate? It’s just another normal day. I usually don’t participate, but neither do I refuse. I am just an observer, who uses different excuses to escape, but I do enjoy the additional feast.

But not this year.

At PSU, as a diverse university, there were several New Year galas that all students are encouraged to attend. So why celebrate? Because as a part of the community, if you don’t cheer for your own culture, who else will?

I still have a lot of papers to write and lots of passages to read. But I prepared some traditional Chinese red envelopes for my classmates a half month ago. I hosted some celebration parties with my friends, even though I was too exhausted to talk. I posted the red couplet on my door, and I made dumplings with different people the whole week. I also wore all my red clothes, and I said lucky words to all my friends. I did what my parents would be doing in their own time zone.

One might call it an inherited tradition. And the reason why we celebrate? To mark the time and pass it on.

Happy New Year!

 

A Queer Complaint Against Valentine’s Day

ec08db75f9ef95c1180ca428f5ecf0e1 By Naomi Kolb

It’s been hard to miss the fact that Valentine’s Day is this week with the bake sales, posters, and sex-themed events that have been seemingly taking over our campus lately. I’ve been actively trying not to be bitter about Valentine’s Day because this is the first year in awhile that Cupid forgot to fire the magical arrow that would land me a cutie to spend it with. Rather than being bitter about “not having anyone” to spend this holiday with though, I’m making genuine efforts to appreciate the love that I already have in my life. Just because I don’t have a romantic partner this year doesn’t mean that I don’t have anyone at all.

One of the legitimate complaints that I’d like to lodge against Valentine’s Day is the fact that it totally overemphasizes romantic and sexual love as the be-all-end-all, and specifically straight romantic and sexual love. None of that represents what my or my friend’s lives look like in college. For the most part, we’re a bunch of queers stumbling through loving each other in the best ways that we know how. The love that I have in my life right now might not consist of Netflix and Chill or romantic dinner dates, and I’m OK with that. The love that I’ve got in my life right now is singing at the top of my lungs while making dinner, calling my friend two time zones away to read her a passage from a book that I love, listening to previously unspoken poetry over Saturday morning brunch, and is certainly more than enough to fill my heart with even if I don’t have a romantic partner this Valentine’s Day.

I’m not ready to write off Valentine’s Day altogether – I’m not saying screw romantic love, screw relationships, or screw straight people. However, I am definitely saying screw the idea that you need a romantic partner to be happy and fulfilled. I’ve never been happier than I am right now, and I’m doing it without a traditional romantic partner by my side. This Valentine’s Day, I’m going to be busy loving myself and loving my friends more than ever before. Maybe Cupid didn’t miss me this year after all – maybe he just aimed his arrows towards unexpected places that still landed exactly where I needed them to be.

Introversion Conversion: I’m Social Now

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

One of the lessons I’ve come across being an RA is that you really have to invest time into growing and maintaining relationships. In order to build community amongst my residents, it tookprogramming and being intentionally present in the halls to support them. At the same time, being an RA would be incredibly lonely and hard without the trust and camaraderie of my staff team. While there’s always our weekly staff meeting to look forward to, it’s the time we spend with one another outside of the “job” that really brings us together. With so many new people in my life, I feared that I was letting my old friends slide to the back burner. It would be easy to let the RA role consume my life, but making time for the friends who have supported me since the beginning keeps me grounded.

I’ve been an introvert my entire life. Any time I spent socializing meant I needed an equal amount of time alone—if not more—in order to recharge. Balancing so many social groups started off as overwhelming and exhausting. Now, I’ve noticed that being around my friends and peers energizes me—even if I go days without snagging some alone time. Even though being an RA can be stressful, there’s no denying that I’m much more openly appreciative of the people I have in my life because of it. Still, I’m an introvert at heart. I have those days where I don’t want to see another human soul, but those days are now few and far between.

My voice counts

WechatIMG12 by Qin “Summer” Xia

What’s SHAB?

It’s the abbreviation of Student Health Advisory Board, where students are able to work directly with and advise Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) staff on policies, student issues, budgeting, insurance, and outreach.

Why do I bring this up?

For most international students in a new environment, our priorities to survive include figuring out where to buy food, where to live and, most importantly, where to seek help when we are sick —one of the weakest moments in anyone’s life, right? So, a good health center or clinic is of great concern. As a student do you know what health resources are available to you?

I didn’t.

So, when I saw that SHAB was seeking 2018 members, I applied. The best way to know something is to let yourself in, isn’t it? But before I got in, I worried over the job description: policies, budgeting. These are such huge serious stuff. Will they really consider student advice, even a foreigner’s?

Yes, they do.

After fall term, I spent a great deal of time with SHAC. Every time I had a question, they explained the answer with patience. During the process, I learned that all students at PSU have the right and the duty to let their voice be heard.

One day, I said to a classmate, who is also an international student, “Do you know that every year SHAC pays a large percentage to PSU for management? And those of us on SHAB are concerned and fighting to cut it down a little bit.”

“Really?” My classmate said. “Sounds like you are doing something big!”

“Yes, I am.” I answered.