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Dear Portland

Aaron Ughoc

Viking Voices guest submission: Myles Boyns, recent Portland State graduate

Dear Portland,

I may be writing this letter a few months early, or possibly even a few years. I’d only feel safe writing this letter to you if I was isolated from the rest of the world, which is what I’ve done.

I remember the first time we met: I heard you were coming to visit my high school in Arizona and I thought, why not? This was during my senior year, and I already had an idea of where I wanted to attend college. My goal was to move to Oregon and study journalism at the University of Oregon, but something told me to check out Portland.

I was fascinated by your presence. I loved how nontraditional you seemed. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I knew you had something I wanted to explore.

I applied to Portland State with the hopes of becoming a Viking. I was a shy, awkward kid in high school, and the last thing people expected me to do was apply for an out-of-state college. They didn’t think I would last the transition from Arizona to Oregon.

After applying to several other nearby colleges, I still awaited your answer. After being accepted to other schools, I still waited for your answer. What took you so long?

I remember when you finally reached out to me. I was just starting track practice and my coach asked me, “Where are you going for college?” I told him I was waiting for you. Seconds later, you wrote me a letter offering me admission to PSU. The kid in me came out at that point—jumping in the middle of the field with screams of joy.

As time went by, my anticipation increased. I was ready to see you for the first time and nothing was going to stop me. The first time I saw you in person I thought you were strange. I’d read about the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ slogan, but damn, I wasn’t expecting you live up to it.

Exploring you during our first weeks together, I felt a sense of premature teenage-love: I loved what I saw and what was around me. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My parents told me to focus solely on school for my first term. However, as soon as school started, I decided to get a job. Since I wasn’t participating in sports anymore, I felt the need to stay busy and earn my own money.

I didn’t put all my effort into school that term, earning a 2.1 GPA. It was the worst I’d ever performed in school. Soon after, I received an eviction notice telling me I had 72 hours to make a payment before I’d be kicked out of student housing. All the stress got to me, causing me to shed tears for the first time as an adult.

The next term I turned my anger into motivation and earned a 3.5. Academically, things got better, but it didn’t solve my other problems.

People took advantage of my weaknesses while I was with you. I typically hide my emotions because I’m afraid of what I’ll become if I don’t. I’m afraid one day I’ll snap and all hell will break loose. At these times, I didn’t want to be around people, so I ran—and ran, and ran, and ran—until I felt like stopping.

Running is a practice I use to isolate myself, reflect on life and calm my mind. A practice used to escape my reality, to keep my inner demons from escaping. I pointed the finger at you to blame.

I felt like the innocent, generous, happy kid inside me had died. You turned me into a darker person who was now in an even darker place. I lost every little shred of self-confidence. I lost my smile. It’s hard to smile when you feel your spirit is blind, looking for a speck of light.

Although some friendships fade away, I have friends who stuck by my side. A good friend told me, “Continue to be a light. God put you there for a reason.” So I woke up.

My eyes opened and my spirit was able to see again how I remained on my feet to serve a greater purpose. I felt as though you were a professor giving me test after test to see if I would give up. You knew what you were doing all along.

You taught me things nothing but God could. Most importantly, you taught me how to deal with life and move on. To that degree, I thank you.

Although one day I’ll say goodbye, I will always carry a piece of you in my heart and in my soul. Thank you for teaching me what life is all about.


Myles Boyns

Viking Voices is an open platform, rolling submission opinion column open to all Portland State students, faculty and staff. Submissions are voluntary, unpaid and not guaranteed to be published. All submissions are reviewed by Vanguard Opinion Editor and will be minimally-edited for AP style and clarity.

To be considered, email submissions of 600 words or less to [email protected]. Include name, major and/or PSU affiliation.