52

It’s easier to assume this isn’t yours
because when it leaves, you
won’t feel disappointed.

After all your hard work
and all you have achieved
that milestone on the horizon
just out of reach
and success just doesn’t taste
as sweet as you thought.

This word, ‘just’
like a small favour to yourself
grovelling, “please, just finish this now
and relax tomorrow,”
putting necessity aside to
cross your to-do list and finally consider
this belongs to you.

Sometimes the weight of every paper stack
misaligns your spine
topsy turvy, too
aching for equilibrium.

If you fall behind because you need rest
to find your calm
thankfully, your work
is not the centre of your universe;
you are.

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51

A border drawn down my spine
of believing in me
and believing others

If we were put here
to compete against our neighbour
it’s no wonder my fists are callused
and yet I still feel
defeated

Your achievements are not
my shortcomings
I’ve spent my whole life envying strong women
until I realized maybe
I’m one, too

All my failures, and their embers
the ashes of every rejection
of something done wrong and tried again
I’ll gulp the fear of not being good enough
dust off my dancing shoes
and just do my best.

Tips on How to Brave an Internship

As some of you know, I started an internship at the beginning of this summer to get my foot in the door as a first year student. I’m happy to report I’m still there and working part time on a month-by-month basis! It was such a shock to receive the offer because they knew I was going back to school, but still tried to keep me around. It was such an amazing experience this summer—and I wanted to share it with you!

First, I want to explain that the process of getting the internship was difficult from the start. I was a first year student with some great success from this blog and my content, but I was still someone who had no formal experience in the industry. On paper, I knew I sounded like a gamble.

I had put out at least 30 applications as a PR, communications or marketing intern across Toronto and came up with ‘No’ or more often, no response at all. In the same day, I had two requests for interviews. I nearly threw up from being so nervous.

If you’ve been on this site long enough, you know what’s coming next! Here are my three key things I learned about internships:

Understand that in an ideal world, an internship is meant to benefit you more than it benefits the company.

We had one-on-one chats every week to talk about how things were going, how the workload was, and most importantly—how I felt. Did I feel like I was learning something new? Was there a project floating around the office that I wanted to get my hands on?

There are a lot of jokes about how interns are tasked with getting coffees, printing documents and menial tasks. Mine was definitely not that–I worked directly on client campaigns, coordinated events and made sure to touch as many things as possible. Which leads me to my next point,

Get involved in as many things as you can, so that the moment you’re gone—people notice.

This goes down to the little things: I ran the dishwasher every evening and unloaded every morning. I reorganized the recycling and garbage system to make it more efficient. I always played music for the office throughout the day. These weren’t expectations for me—these are very minor details that I inserted myself into in such a way that the second I didn’t do it, you’d know. Even in bigger things—I’d get emails on non-work days for certain items my colleagues knew that I knew. My value became apparent both in my presence and in my lack of it.

When the going gets tough, tell someone.

The most challenging things about being an intern is that you are an assistant to everyone. Which is good because you get to cross disciplines and learn many different things, but it also means that no one person knows how much you have on-the-go. One person needs your help organizing a deck, another needs a content calendar out this week, another needs a byline proofread in the next hour. To a single person, they’ve only asked you for one task. However, four other people did the same thing—suddenly, you’re drowning.

There are a lot of romantic ideas of “always say yes!” or “keep your head down and make it happen!” but there is a limit where you’re stretched thin and won’t provide a few pieces of great work, but rather many pieces of average work. Knowing this limit doesn’t make you weak, but it actually (and this surprised me) makes you smart. This work can be distributed. It’s not the end of the world—but it might be if you don’t speak up.

It wasn’t easy, and I definitely got my gigantic foot through the door because of this experience. I was as fresh as they come—but I swore to them that I would try my absolute best. And here we are!

So that’s it! Have any of you done an internship before?
How did it go?
And if you have any questions or if you’re starting one soon, feel free to reach out!

 

Love,
ELLE

50

Addiction like
a familiar fiend
staring down the bottom
of a porcelain bowl
I forfeited what I believed
I didn’t deserve.

Finding my old self there
the one who spiralled to this moment
a girl who used to believe
that size zero had gravitas to it

I felt comfort in the past
of reminding myself of who I used to be
and all I still have left
to become.

Progress is progress is progress
and relapse is not an eclipse
just a moment within this large expanse
of forgiving oneself
for turning out the light
before it got dark.

A paper boat may not sail the seven seas
and may not get to
the finish line first
but she is still a boat
and she is still
getting somewhere

49

Alone in a crowded bar
with nothing but the
ringing in my ears, I
can finally hear myself think.

Drunk off an invisible high
of every lyric falling off my tongue.
Dozens of other pairs of sneakers
sticky checkered dancefloor
a roar of us singing a song they wrote
back at them.

The bass kick like an echo in my bones
reverberating through me as if
I’ve carried this beat
every day of my life.

I once heard that no two people
hear the same song.
How many people in this bar
had their heart broken to
the tune of a song I loved?

I biked home, humid summer
sweat dripping off my nose onto the
pavement I’m leaving behind, hurriedly
I wondered if I was being
rinsed clean.

I went to a Lydia concert a few weeks ago and still think about it now. A bar filled with a hundred people knowing every lyric, this is the song I waited all night for. I’m still listening on repeat.

Thanks for coming by!

Love,
ELLE

48

My family began on the sea
fleeing a country to enter another
in high hopes of
a happier life.

My mother recounted stories of
explosions during lecture time
she fled so I would
never know what
that sounded like.

My parents worked laboriously
to keep our lives moving.
They often sighed, broken-backed
that we’d have nothing to inherit
when that time came.

I remember all five of us
decorating our artificial Christmas tree
trips to the community pool in summer
long car rides to amusement parks

Homemade birthday cakes with our names drawn on,
playing cards in candlelight
Blackout of 2003
and I know for a fact that they were wrong –
there is nothing in this world
I’d rather inherit
than this.

47

As long as I can remember, I wore Nguyen like a shirt my mother forced me to put on. I was bombarded by my peers with, “Hey, my cousin said his best friend has the same last name as you. His name is Tommy—are you related?”

During roll-call, my teachers would see a line-up of two Nguyen surnames and sigh like it was a chore to sift through and memorize us. She never did that for the three Smith surnames at the bottom of the list.

My friends would hear any Asian language and ask, “What are they saying?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know that language.”

“Oh, I thought you would. They all sound the same.”

My father would call me and I would respond in English. He would growl, “Answer me in Vietnamese, please.”

My surname always felt like a bag to carry. I was always being compared to so-and-so or some restaurant that bore the same name. I felt the farthest from individual—it constantly felt as if people needed a concept to ground themselves in, before they could fathom, “Hey, it’s just a name.”

From when I was nine until at least 16, none of my friends even knew I spoke Vietnamese fluently. I never brought Asian foods for school lunch because I was terrified to be made fun of. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be just as bad at French as my peers were—even though Vietnam was a French colony for a lot of its history, and in fact, I was pretty fluent because a lot of the words were the same. I wanted to melt into this suburban mesh that I wasn’t designed for.

When we were children, kids would ask if I’ve ever eaten dog. The first thing I would think of was that my Chinese Zodiac sign is the Dog, and it means that I am honest, reliable and considerate. I’d laugh off the joke with those kids and pretend it was funny.

There are even people today in 2018, who ask me, a 23 year old adult, if I’ve ever eaten dog. In Vietnam, there are some beautiful domestic dogs in my friends’ homes, who are adored and coddled. My considerate nature only goes so far—I tell them to go fuck themselves. I don’t know anyone who has ever eaten dog, not even people born and raised in Vietnam. And so what if they did? None of our business.

I hated everything about my surname for a very long time. When I moved from suburbia to Toronto for university, I met dozens of Asian students who were unapologetically so. They brought rice and egg omelettes and watercress to class. They answered calls from their parents in their native tongue. They asked me why I was so ‘white’.

“I thought I had to be.”

The world is raving about Crazy Rich Asians. They’re obsessed with this glimpse into the lives of people they previously weren’t interested in. Representation matters so much; this is a film that celebrates Asian diversity, that celebrates those of us who dealt our whole lives trying to make our names easier to pronounce for someone else’s convenience.

In many Asian cultures, you’re identified as surname, then given name. You’re introduced as “This is Nguyen, Nhi Michelle.” Because your family comes first. Because your story begins and ends with the origins you grew into. I’m sorry to my past self for forgetting that. I’m sorry to my past self for stifling all I could have become because I was scared of what others thought of me.

The truth is, I’m filled with pride to be who I am. It took me a long time to reclaim everything I used to hate about myself. I answer calls alternating in Vietnamese and English. I read in French if I want a challenge. I’ll get bánh xèo whenever I feel like it.

Be unapologetically you. Don’t forgive those who try to demean that. You’re the sun’s first light on Tết, you’re a cart of kêm sold on a hot humid night. You’re you. And you’re worth more than the mould you’re forcing yourself into.

Love,

ELLE