Sunday, August 24, 2014

So, You Want to Bike on Campus?

Here are some tips on successfully navigating as a campus cyclist

As an Oregonian, I’ve experienced my fair share of cycling.
In fact, Portland, Oregon is the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.

I mean, hell—our bike lanes look like this!

More than anything, I especially know the commute to and through a college campus.
When I attended Oregon State University, my primary mode of transportation was my bike! Not only was this a great form of exercise, but it also allowed me to learn my town and my campus inside and out.

And through the years I’ve spent biking on campuses, I’ve encountered a number of issues I feel I should at least write about to inform folks about easy ways to survive as a campus cyclist.

Feel free to share this with anyone heading off to college for the first time!
I know it’s that time of year.
So hopefully this can save some folks a headache or two.

Year after year, what’s the NUMBER ONE most stolen item on a college campus?
You guessed it: Bikes.

At this point, most institutions offer a bike registry through campus public safety, or an office of the like. So, on the first day of school—or, whenever you bring your bike to campus—go to this office and register your bike!

It’s that simple.

And if you’d like some more information on this topic, checkout Mount Holyoke’s guide on Bike Theft!

This is step one in making sure you actually get to keep having a bike to ride on campus.
There is another essential way to keep your bike, which is…

2. INVEST in a good lock!
Buy a bike lock from KRYPTONITE 

Protect your bike!

Some campuses even have bike safes!
Invest in that if you want your bike to be truly protected.

3. If you have multiple bikes, don’t ride your best bike to campus.
Like I covered in tip #1, bikes are constantly stolen on college campuses.

If you happen to have multiple bikes, commute with your cheapest bike—just on the off chance that it might be stolen.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have expensive bikes, or that you shouldn’t ride them to campus—but without a combination of #1 and #1, you are cruising for disaster.


4. Buy a light, or two, or three. ALL OF THE LIGHTS!
Seriously, you cannot have too many lights.
Especially if you’re like me and you spend long nights at the library, you need to be seen when you leave campus. People need to know you’re on wheels.
Bicycles are dangerous. So make sure you are seen.

Go Oregon State for having a great bike safety campaign!

 5. Ride responsibly.
Any road rule that applies to a car ALSO applies to a bike.

You are not above the law.
Bike with traffic, NOT against.
Stop at stop signs.
And be aware of your speed.

Don’t swerve in and around people.
Don’t bike faster than you can control.
Learn how to use your brakes appropriately.
Time your route so you aren’t riding erratically.

Most campuses are made up of streets or paths—sidewalks are designated for pedestrians who are walking. Bicycles are not supposed to travel on them.

So don’t. This is my biggest cycling pet peeve.
Respect pedestrians and ride in the street or at a good distance while on a path.

And if you’re too afraid to bike on a street, you shouldn’t be biking in the first place.
Note: But that’s just my blunt opinion on the matter.

7. Invest in wheel fenders (guards).
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen people with pants that look like this:

I’d have a few dollars.

If you don’t know what wheel fenders are, click here
They will literally save your pants and protect your ass.

Protect your ass. Save your pants.
Buy fenders.

8. Bring a change of clothes.
Especially as the weather starts to turn in October and November, you might want to bring some extra socks with you, or a change of pants, or a shirt. I’ve practiced this for years. Yeah, it takes up some space in my bag, but I’d rather have dry clothes while I’m at work or class.

Also, biking can get REALLY sweaty—depending on your commute—so it helps to have a spare shirt just in case. Because you never know, you know?

9. Be aware of your surroundings.
This is an extension of tip #5.
What I mean here to be ever-conscious of the path you are biking on.
(Note: I know I wrote that in the present progressive—because I assume you are reading this while riding a bike. Obviously.)

Essentially, campuses are ALWAYS under construction, which means potholes, nails, glass, jagged rocks, etc. THEREFORE, you need to be aware of your surroundings so that you can spare your tires from exploding every day. My record is THREE popped tires in one week!

Note: Pack a spare tube.

10. Turn down your music—or, ride without it.
This is an important tip.
I know it landed at the bottom, but this is vital to being aware of your surroundings.

If I listen to music while I bike it is either instrumental music, or something turned down—something that won’t completely distract me while I’m operating my bike.
This is important because if someone—or a car—needs to get my attention, I can hear them and respond accordingly.

BONUS: Don’t be a Jackass.
Sure, this could have simply been said during point #5.
But I felt it deserved its own point.
Campuses get crowded and bikes can be highly dangerous.
So bike responsibly.

End of list.

Hope this helps!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

To My Mother—of Whom, I Never Knew

I saved this Post Secret card that I found over six years ago in
hopes that one day I'd get to meet my biological mother.

Hello all.

I have returned to report some somber news.

As some of you know, I am adoptedI was born to very young parents and was almost immediately placed up for adoption. For those closer to me, you all know this is a much more complicated story.

Today I learned that my biological mother died last month at the age of 43. She apparently struggled for years with a combination of cancer, incarceration, and drugs. Not in that order, I assume.

I am just beginning to process how this feels seeing as I have no memories of her as my mother, nor do I have really any connection to her other than the fact that she gave birth to me. Never having a relationship with her is one thing, realizing I never will is another thing.

The only true emotion I have right now is a lack.

Knowing the woman who created me is no longer on earth—regardless of whether I knew her or not—is terrifying. I've watched my adoptive parents (of whom I obviously refer to as "mother" and "father") struggle with illness and aging and have survived. And yet, this woman is no longer.

I do not know her struggle. I do not know the pain she felt before she died.
All I know is she gave me life. All I know is she is the reason I live today.

This is why right now all I feel is a lack.

I thought I would have a chance to meet her one day.
I thought I would bury my pride and resentment of her abandonment so that I would have a chance to meet her one day.

But I was wrong.

She actually reached out to me on Facebook a year ago, to which I did not respond.
I actually wrote about this incident last fall during my first semester of graduate school.

I just revisited what I wrote in October and broke down in tears because I thought I would have more time to possibly one day reconnect with her.

I was wrong.

* * *
Off My Chest

My predisposition to failure began at birth. I was born to a woman who dropped out of high school during her junior year and never returned. Instead, she began a life devoted to drugs and alcohol. I would later learn she went sober when she reluctantly became pregnant with me. After my adoption, I did not hear from her until very recently—September 2013—when she sent me a poorly worded Facebook message apologizing for abandoning me.

Apparently she struggled with whether she should send the message to me for over three years.

I have yet to reply. I have no idea what I should say.
Maybe I will write to her someday. For now, I leave the message blank.

Perhaps by the end of graduate school I will reply to my biological mother’s Facebook message. I will tell her she lost out on having a son of whom she could be proud. I will tell her of my accomplishments. I will tell her of my struggles. I will tell her the reason I choose to not drink or do drugs is because she abused those substances for so many years.

I will tell her how difficult it has been to watch my father slowly die before my eyes.
I will tell her I am not alone.
I will tell her I am a motivated man willing to create change in this world.

I often wonder whether I am anything like my biological mother.
I often wonder where I inherited my optimism and my determination.
My smile and my laugh. My eyes and my horrid teeth.

Maybe I will find out in two years.
For now, the message remains blank.

* * *

That was what I wrote.

And now I will never have the opportunity to write the message to her.
I thought I'd have two years.
I was wrong.

I didn't even get one.

At least I can be thankful she gave me the chance to have a normal life.



Saturday, August 2, 2014

[GUEST POST] Take Risks!

Yet another GUEST POST for the Student Affairs Collective!

I love contributing to this page.

And this series, the #SABeginnings series, asked grad students and new professionals to share their story of beginning their lives in student affairs.

I decided to write about my perspective on why I decided to leave home and fly 3,000 miles from hom ein order to get a new experiences on the east coast!

I feel life is only truly experienced when we take risks.

So enjoy the read!

Click here to access the ENTIRE ARTICLE!

Here are some previews of the article:

"I strongly believe that if you want to be a well-rounded professional in this field, you need to experience as many new environments as possible. And that means, at some point, you need to leave home."

"Comfort is stagnation.
Risk is invigoration."

"Beginning something takes risk—it also takes courage.

Being willing to leave your comfort zone is so important. And I will admit that I get frustrated when people in our field literally land-lock themselves to one state or region. BRANCH OUT! I know some folks have families—yet, for most of us just starting out, we are generally fairly young and have so much time to explore what the world holds for us!"

See you soon with my blog about my summer experience at Towson university!