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.

The Vegetarian Lifestyle

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

I have officially been vegetarian for a year and seven months. The decision to transition to this diet was random and spontaneous, but one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I chose to cut meat out of my diet because I simply wanted some sort of change. At the time, I was going through a lot of struggles and decided that I needed to make some sort of difference in the way I was living, so I started with my diet.

I know that changing  what I eat wasn’t going to affect my personal problems in any way, but it was still a small step that would get the ball rolling for me to make bigger steps. Since then, I have not gone back to being a carnivore, and at this point, I feel like I would never go back.

I’m actually so grateful to be living in this hipster of a city because the vegetarian options for food are endless. Every restaurant that I’ve gone to in Portland has had at least one vegetarian and even vegan and gluten-free options, and it is such a blessing. The bad thing about this is that I got so comfortable and confident that wherever I go there will be vegetarian-friendly food that I forget that this is only a norm in Portland. When I took a trip to Vegas a month ago, I went to a restaurant and was shocked to find that there were absolutely no vegetarian options whatsoever. For vegetarians and vegan, we’re lucky to live in Portland.

I’m not a die-hard, vegan and animal rights activist or anything but I do encourage people to transition to this diet if they can. No, you won’t magically have clear skin or lose 10 pounds in a day but you may (keyword here is “may”) reduce your chances of getting diabetes, lower your cholesterol, and overall feel “cleaner.”

If you are hesitant about making this change, maybe you should try it out for week or maybe even a month and see how you like it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up sticking to it and like me, feel like you made one of the best decisions of your life.