Millennial Spotlight with Laura: “I find myself saying ‘I’m just trying my best’ alot. Some days are more tough than others, but I know if something doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world.”

At Massey Books: a fantastic Indigenous owned bookstore (Vancouver, Canada) *Photo credit: K. Fung

Laura Nguyen (@tlauraflora)
Age: 24 | Profession: UofT Grad Student

I woke up today a year older. I was excited to post my next Millennial Spotlight on the catchy “Millennial Mondays” but as much as I love my fellow millennials, it didn’t feel right to post about someone else on my birthday. So here I am, creator of Toronto Millennial, seeing what it’s like to be the interviewee for a change. It made sense to join the crew sooner or later. I hope you enjoy!

Read more about my thoughts on our generation below in today’s Millennial Spotlight.

1. What are some characteristics that you share with other millennials?
I am quite aware of taking care of my mental health and I think that others my age are happy to talk about mental health and share resources. There is a general trend towards increasing mental health education, resources and support because of the increasing dialogue about mental illness in our community. Many of us are recognizing that taking a step back to take care for your mental health is not a sign of weakness, but that it’s essential to maintaining a healthy life. It’s a powerful statement that you are in tune with your body and that you’re not ignoring its needs. That may mean taking a break from what you’re doing, talking about how you’re feeling, thinking about what may need to change in your life, or seeing a professional to get help. Our generation is having a healthy conversation about mental health, and it’s benefiting alot of people.

2. What negative perceptions can you think of, and do you agree/disagree with them?
I hate the association of laziness with millennials. We are the most motivated, the most hard-working, and the most opportunistic group of people. Sure we make jokes about how many naps we take a day, but I’m confident that people out there don’t think it’s their destiny to sleep for the rest of their lives. No one wants that for themselves. If you ask anyone they will tell you what they are doing full-time (i.e. school or work) and what they are doing on the side – the side hustle – to make a decent living. Millennials are not lazy.

3. What makes this generation different from the last?
I was having this conversation with my family the other day that I’m finding out about more and more successful Vietnamese women out there. It’s really amazing to see women that come from my ethnic Vietnamese background who have grown up in North America and succeeded in various fields. There are the famous Vietnamese Youtubers: beauty guru Michelle Phan, Natalie Tran from communitychannel and Linda Dong from LeendaDProductions who each have millions of followers that love their content. I’ve also recently met Dr. Julie Nguyen who is a political science and business professor at the University of Toronto; she is the first Vietnamese professor I’ve ever known. Finally, when I was randomly scrolling Instagram I discovered Amanda Nguyen who created the “Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights” in America that involved celebrities Terry Crews and Evan Rachel Wood (West World folks). This is a list of truly incredible women.

I don’t know if previous generations would have found the same representation and role models to look up to because there just wasn’t that diversity and acceptance of different cultures. There are still many challenges and barriers, but it’s a whole new world out there full of opportunity if you can make it past that. In addition, some of my favourite shows including Fresh off the Boat and Kim’s Convenience are breakthrough all-Asian cast shows that made it to mainstream North American TV. It’s a really exciting time for Asian-Canadians in media (not to mention the raving reviews for Crazy Rich Asians). In sum, my point is that our generation can find more than one role model of their own ethnicity out there, and that’s an amazing thing.

4. As a forest conservation grad student, can you speak about millennials and forestry?
There are alot of parts that make up forestry but two major things we study are the large-scale operations like what you see in northern Ontario and urban forestry which is managing trees in an urban setting like in cities or towns. There are a handful of millennials that are really in tune with nature and can thrive outdoors if they are put there (i.e. the type that will make a fire out of scratch, start eating fruit from who knows what tree, find a way to start tapping maple syrup, etc.). That’s not representative of the majority. I think many of us appreciate hiking and the psychological benefits that you get from spending time in a forest, but a majority of us grow up in the city and the reality is that getting out to large provincial parks is challenging. It would be amazing if those types of forests are more accessible, but most of us spend time in urban parks like High Park and the Rouge than out in Killarney (a provincial park in Sudbury). This is my observation. I think millennials genuinely care for the environment. They see the larger picture that climate change and human actions are threatening our forests and wildlife, and education/awareness is really important for change to take place.

5. What are some of the main thoughts on your mind right now?
I really need to pass grad school. That is 100% on my mind right now.

I am really not an ideal student, and I find school incredibly challenging. I just learn in a different way. I don’t appreciate that alot of school is so conceptual and abstract. It doesn’t really matter that you’ve helped advance your field in the real world. The focus is on remembering an obscure concept or taking mandatory courses that you have no intention on using in your career. If you can’t work well with a group, or if you are finding it tough to please your supervisor, then you’re weeded out really quickly. There are alot of times when I feel put down in my studies and I feel that graduate school is just not the right place for me to be. I find myself saying ‘I’m just trying my best’ alot. Some days are more tough than others, but I know if something doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. My program is not very long – just a year and a half – but it’s frustrating that there weren’t many quality opportunities out there with an undergraduate degree, and that your competition already has their master’s degree so you have to be just as competitive by getting yours. I just have to keep my chin up, try my best, and remember that my worth is not reflected by the marks I achieve in academia. 

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