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.

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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. 

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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.

We met on Tinder

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

Some people have really cute how-we-met stories: “We’ve known each other since childhood. It was fate,” (my grandparents); “I hired him to break a horse for me,” (my parents); “We met on a boat and it was like flying and Celine Dion was singing in the background,” (OK, yes, that last one is Titanic, but you catch my drift).

A lot of people get caught up in both having a story better than “We met on Tinder” and avoiding the perceived shame of being on Tinder in the first place, to the extent that they will either concoct an alternate story to share with family, or even avoid getting serious with a match because they think they’ll meet ‘the one’ in a grander fashion.

But I’m here to say: Own your story!

Despite the size of the student body, it’s not super easy to meet people on the PSU campus. It’s just as amazing to say that two people happened to meet out of crazy chance through an app than it is to give credit to Celine Dion. And if you’re not on Tinder to meet ‘the one,’ own that, too. Even though I’ve been off Tinder for a year and a half (and in terms of technology that might as well be a decade), I think I can still say the golden rule of Tinder is to be honest—on your profile and with yourself—about what you’re looking for. You’re obviously not alone. And if you do happen to meet ‘the one,’ don’t be afraid to say ‘we met on Tinder.’

Small Body, Big Dreams

nc1-e1509748844344.jpg  By: Naela Cabrera

Being a first-generation college student is hard. Being the oldest sibling is also hard sometimes. When you are both, it gets even harder. Having a role like this can come with a lot of responsibility, but mostly pressure. For first-generation students of color, the pressure to encourage the younger generation to receive a higher education is something many experience due to our community’s circumstances. In my experience, having a 15 year gap between me and my only other sibling makes my job a little more challenging, and the pressure a little higher. Yet, there has never been a day when I don’t feel appreciative of my little brother and the opportunity I have to encourage his future higher education goals.

The start of my college journey was very challenging for him. I was the only other person he counted on to be a friend, playmate and sometimes parent, which made me realize that it was extremely important to stay close and connected to my family. But although visiting my family only involves a 50-minute drive, I found balancing classes, work, and extracurriculars while making time for him was, at times, physically and mentally challenging. I then thought to myself, what would be easier to do? If I can’t continuously go to him, he could come to me! I quickly took advantage of all the fun, kid-friendly things to do on campus and in downtown Portland.

What is the best way to get kids active and ready for a midday nap while you catch up on homework? Take them to Campus Rec. One of our first spots was Campus Rec because working there taught me about their Youth Program. During a fall term, for six straight Saturdays he would spend the day with me getting active, catching up on play time, and taking a cool down walk through the farmers market afterwards. The days started with an early morning youth swim lesson, then sometimes lead to hours of rock climbing and court activities like soccer, basketball, and his favorite – table tennis. Soon enough Campus Rec became his spot! My coworkers would see him come up the stairs and immediately cheer him on, greet him and make him feel appreciated much like they do with a lot of the youth that come by our facility. Another favorite activity has been Spooky Saturday, which just went on this past weekend for kiddos in the Halloween spirit.  

Thanks to resources like the Youth Program, on and off campus activities and my willingness to take time and appreciate my little brother made it possible to bring a part of home and family values with me to my experience at PSU. Not only does this help cool down the pressure of making my first-generation experience valuable for my family, but it also allows my little brother to have exposure to the college setting and what it means. Just last night we continued our campus visiting routine when he attended the Day of the Dead annual cultural celebration with me, a very important family tradition for both of us.

Let’s be friends

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By: Sara Kirkpatrick 

Have you ever met someone and thought, “I would just love to be friends with this person?” However, before you could articulate “hello,” the fear of awkwardness and rejection stopped you.

Even extroverts, such as myself, from time to time find it uncomfortable when having to initiate conversations with fellow classmates, and fall victim to the above line of thinking.  This is particularly true when approaching classmates that I would like to get to know better.

For instance, last winter term, I met a fellow PSU student through SBA’s Fearless Friday workshops. She was knowledgeable, funny, outgoing and double majoring in my same fields. I immediately wanted to befriend her, but my fear of being awkward preventing me from introducing myself, and I said nothing.

sara-and-susieFortunately, in the next term, I found myself sitting next to this same SBA student in a PSU workshop.  This time, I decided to take the advice of a recent blog post I had read, 11 ways to turn strangers into friends, and pushed myself to use one of the blog’s suggestions: Imagine that the other person is already your friend.

In doing so, I stepped out of my comfort zone and was not only rewarded by a friendship with this classmate, we eventually became freelance partners, offering our collaborative talents and creativity to clients. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t taken the risk to put myself out there to meet someone new.

I encourage each and every one of my PSU colleagues to take a chance today and talk to a classmate who you’d like to become friends with. You never know where that friendship might take you.  Who knows; you could be sitting next to your future business partner!

Living the Dream

By: Sharon Nellist

10258891_10101685513754293_6293913161816303566_oOne of my favorite things about Portland State University is how we are incredibly diverse. I have had the opportunity to meet so many new people from all sorts of backgrounds. I have been exposed to various cultures by those interactions right in my PSU backyard.

January 18 was no different than my past experience with diversity, except in one major way. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), Oregon Campus Compact, hosted over 400 students from PSU and six other local colleges and universities to come together in unity and love. Our goal was to serve and prove that we are not just dreamers, but if we believe then the DREAM will become a reality.

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Coffee’d up and ready to serve!

We served 14 community sites throughout East Portland and Gresham, logged 1,428 hours of service, and made an economic impact of $32,944.

I was privileged to lead a small group of students and AmeriCorps volunteers to serve the Dharma Rain Zen Center on their 14-acre former landfill site in Northeast Portland. In those four short hours it did not matter what school we came from, or what homework we needed to do when we returned; we put ourselves aside and focused on them. We were weeding around bare fruit trees, towing wheelbarrows of mulch downhill, and trying to avoid being poked by blackberry bushes while removing them. And even though we may not see a huge impact from our service at that moment, like the bare trees, we know that the fruits of our labor will be noticed with time and more love.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: “What are you doing for others?”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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At the Dharma Rain Zen Center