Getting Tatted at 21, Regretting it at 22

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

When I turned 21, I got three tattoos within two days. I got a huge flower along my collar bone, my name spelled in Vietnamese on my chest, and an arrow on my arm. This was a time where I was rebellious and wild. I got a lot of piercings done, too. I wanted to have a “bad-ass” reputation and be covered in tattoos to look cool and hardcore. I was living my life recklessly and didn’t think about the consequences that may come from my actions. But now I want to rip all my tattoos off.

I have become more serious about my studies and career goals. Unlike the person that I was when I was 21 (even though that was only a year ago), I’ve matured a lot and take my life seriously now. I’ve come to realize that having huge tattoos on my body could potentially get in the way of my career path, and that’s part of the reason why I want to take them off. The other reason is that I don’t find tattoos aesthetically pleasing anymore. I no longer like the look of having drawings and symbols on my body.

My nose piercing, which my parents hated and served as a symbol of my rebellion, was easily taken off. Only in my dreams would it be that easy to take my tattoos off. I guess it’s OK to be young and make mistakes, but I wish my mistake wasn’t so permanent. I do plan to have all four of my tattoos removed in the future, but from my research, it would cost a lot and be very painful.

Until I am financially stable enough to go under a laser, I will just have to suck it up and live with the consequences of my irresponsible actions. The person that I am now would never get any tattoos. She is goal driven and only cares about graduating and building a successful career. But when I’m old and wrinkly, I will (hopefully) be tattoo-free and will look back and laugh at how dumb I was when I was 21.

Feeling Lonely in College

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

I remember when I first came to PSU four years ago, I didn’t know anybody. I would see people walking in big groups or people studying with their friends and it made me feel like an outcast. I wanted to transfer to a bigger university because I felt lonely all the time. Things started to get better when I joined student organizations on campus and made a bunch of new friends, I finally started to feel like I belonged somewhere. I finally didn’t feel alone.

Since then, I have made plenty of friends that I’m convinced are going to be my lifelong friends. I’ve made the best memories at PSU and I consider college to be the best chapter of my life. However, since this is my senior year, everyone’s gotten busy. All of my friends are focused on their own thing and we have naturally drifted apart. Unfortunately, the feelings of loneliness that I felt during my freshman year have returned.

I spend most of my time alone on campus now. I can’t meet up with my friends because they’re busy or our schedules conflict. I’ve noticed that making friends in class is hard because everyone is just there to learn, not to socialize. It kind of sucks to be feeling this way, but I’ve found that what helps the most for me is to socialize as much as possible, even if it’s just small talk with the person that I’m sitting next to in class. Also, I have continued to be involved in several student groups, and I’ve met a lot of new people through that.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels alone in college. My biggest advice to anyone else feeling this way is to try to be more outgoing and participate in as many campus activities as you can. Become a member of a club or join an organization that interests you. Feelings of loneliness in college are normal, but with the right attitude, both you and I can overcome it.          

I Can’t Wait to Leave School, But I Don’t Want to Leave

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

This spring, I will graduate from Portland State with a bachelor’s degree in communications. I have long awaited this day since the moment I started college, and it’s been very comforting to know that after spending basically my entire life in the classroom, I am almost done. No more assignments, no more homework, no more projects, no more school. But for some reason, as graduation day gets closer and closer, I have this subtle feeling of not wanting it to come.

I’ve been a full-time student my entire life. Waking up and going to school is all that I’ve done for the last nearly 20 years. So how am I going to adjust to waking up one day and not having to go to school anymore? Sure, I will have to find a job, and that’s what most of my time will consist of, but the transition from full time student to full time employee is a big one, and it will take me a long time to adjust to it.

So after complaining for so long about how much I hate school and how much I want it to end already, I actually don’t want it to end. I am scared and nervous to be going out into the real world where it’s everyone for themselves. However, I guess it’s a good thing that I feel this way. If I wasn’t scared, then I’m not taking a chance.

Until the day graduation comes, I am cherishing every moment I have left of my time here at PSU. This is the last time I will ever get to feel like I’m not an adult. I want to leave, but I don’t. Graduation can wait just a little bit longer.

RIP, The NE Portland Where I Grew Up

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

I’ve lived in NE Portland for my entire 22 years of life. I remember when I was little, my neighborhood consisted of mostly African Americans and Latino families. The entire apartment complex that’s right next to my house mainly consisted of African Americans whom my siblings and I made friends with and invited over to our house. My entire neighborhood was filled with black-owned businesses like barber shops, bars, and little convenient shops. But as of today, all of that is gone.   

It wasn’t until recently that my siblings and I became old enough to fully grasp the concept of gentrification, especially because we watched it unfold right before our eyes. We had a conversation about how our neighborhood quietly transformed so much throughout the years but we didn’t notice it until now. The apartments next to my house are now   inhabited by mostly white people, the only black neighbors I have are the people right across from my house, who have a huge, colorful mural of Prince painted on their garage. The convenience store that was once owned by a black family has turned into a “hipster” brunch restaurant.

It’s very sad to see the community of people that I grew up with slowly disappear. I honestly don’t feel like this is my neighborhood anymore. It’s not the NE Portland that I know. On a positive note, I’ve done research and found that there has been lots of work being done to try to de-gentrify my neighborhood. But I hope the issue of gentrification in Portland gets brought up more in conversations because it’s moving our city in the wrong direction and needs to be addressed.

 

Not Many People at Work Look Like Me

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

Over the summer, I worked at my first internship at a marketing and advertising agency. It was great. The people were nice, I learned a lot about the career that I’m trying to pursue and I gained so much experience from it. But since the first day that I stepped into the office, I couldn’t help but notice one thing: Nearly everyone there was white.

I’ve worked many jobs before. Regular minimum-wage jobs like stores at the mall, and diversity has never been an issue there. But since this is my first job in a professional environment, it really opened my eyes to the lack of diversity in the professional working world. Everyone at my internship treated me well and my race has never been a problem or affected my work, but I still couldn’t help but feel somewhat out of place. It was like a cloud of discomfort that filled the entire atmosphere for me every day at work. It feels lonely when you don’t really see reflections of yourself on a daily basis. There were only three people of color at this office: myself, and two other girls who were also Asian. I talked about this issue with one of them and they felt the same way I did.

From this experience, I had to ask myself: What can I do as a person of color to improve the issue of diversity in the workplace? More importantly, how can I use this struggle to work harder towards my career goals and help others who face the same problem? I’ve looked online and found that there are so many other individuals who have dealt with this issue. It’s great to know that I’m not alone. Perhaps in the future, I want to work with organizations that offer resources that help people of color, specifically students, get into the career that they are trying to pursue. I have found some great internship programs and organizations based in Portland that do just that, and I’m happy that they exist. It’s a great starting point to tackle this rarely talked about, but important, problem.

How I Deal With Stress

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

This summer has been the most stressful summer I’ve ever had. I was balancing two jobs and an internship all at once and it was quite chaotic to say the least.  I remember asking myself, “How do people actually deal with stress in a healthy way?” I know there are people out there who deal with way worse than what I was dealing it, but I was genuinely curious about how people handle this type of mental frustration. I wanted to know what healthy coping mechanisms people use when they’re stressed, so I did research and found that these are the methods that worked the best for me:

1) Go on walks or long drives:

I preferably like driving for a long period of time with no destination with the music blasted. This helps me a lot and gives me a time to think and clear my mind. However, the most energy and cost efficient method is to go on a long walk. It not only gives me my workout for the day, but it gives me a time to just breathe in the air and think.

2) Watch a funny movie or videos

I love a good laugh every now and then but I especially love it when I’m feeling stressed out and need my mood brightened up a little. I would go on either YouTube or Netflix and find the stupidest thing I could watch that will give me a laugh.

3) Get a manicure, facial, massage or any type of beauty and health service

For me, getting a manicure not only makes me feel better because my nails will look good, but it’s also relaxing. Same with getting a facial. It cleanses your skin and it feels so good when your face is getting massaged. And of course, getting a full body massage feels heavenly and actually may improve your sleep quality and mood.

4) Talk it out

One of the methods that I find most effective is simply talking it out with someone. I have a few people who I can always depend on when I need some advice or feedback on my problems. This way, I don’t bottle things up and suffer silently.  

5) Sleep

I saved the best for last. Sleeping is my favorite method to feel better from stress. Sleeping in general is one of my favorite activities to do, actually. For a short amount of time, you forget about your problems and the world stops for a few hours.

 

My Reluctant Craving for Adventure

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

I have never been a traveler. I’ve actually never been outside of the country, but I know that even if I did, I wouldn’t like it. I don’t like leaving the comfort of my own bed and home, and I never understood why people want to travel so much.

It wasn’t until about a month ago, I took a road trip to Las Vegas. A few of my friends and I drove 16 hours to Vegas, and within this short amount of time, my opinion of traveling changed completely.

During the trip, my friends and I took turns driving with each of us at the wheel for four hours. This car ride from Oregon to Nevada was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Going 85 miles per hour through the lonely road, going past the sand dunes, passing by the mountains, and especially seeing the sun rise in the desert was a sight that I will forever hold in my heart. It may sound kind of cheesy, but it was during this time that I realized that there is so much beauty to explore in the world.

I am now looking into studying abroad during my last term of college next year. I don’t know where I want to go yet, but I know for sure that wherever I choose to go, I will make it a goal to explore the nature and beauty of that country even if it’s something as simple as a sunset. Like I said, there is so much beauty on this Earth and all of us should take some time to search for it.