Blueprint (for summer, sorta)

Trying to be serious about summer, but fail as usual

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This year’s summer has been delayed. It is now June, and every morning, I will habitually check the temperature before heading out, as if spring has never left in the first place.

The weird familiarity carries over to blog writing. For me, picking up the pen again and writing something about summer is not foreign. I wrote some blogs last summer and maintained a mostly functional blog site (certainly not the most aesthetically advanced, but it gets the job done). Going back to writing reminded me the good time of contemplating with words in an air-conditioned room, recalling the excitement of working on a real job that initiated positive changes and forgetting, for once, the sweating summer days.

This time is somehow different since this summer will be my second working for Vietlead. Last year I focused most on others, on describing how much I had learned from others, who were quietly changing the world we live in. This summer, I have a bit more space for myself, after sharing others’ excitement. Sure, the second year means that you now have more responsibility, but responsibility is indeed another form of recognition. Looking back, I see that I had grown and changed a lot, one year from the moment when I first started my internship at Vietlead. If one year ago I was mostly observing, now I do have some tools in my disposals to practice more and do more. The organization had grown tremendously (last year we fit our training in one quad-room size meeting room, but this year we need a hall to host staff training), I knew that I also need to grow along with the organization. Also, the growth should not simply be reflected as a bump of job title or an increase of real working hours; it should be more along the line of quality. When I re-applied for this job, I saw this opportunity as a refinement, an opportunity to catch some mistakes that were made before but never fully acknowledged. I am glad that this year Vietlead is preparing for more staff training and workshops because they are truly a great opportunity for growth. 

So going to back writing blogs, I think now I have more of the energy and intention to engage in personal and real reflection. A lot of my tasks this summer will consist of creating and hosting different workshops, and a key and yet often overlooked component of workshops is debriefing. A typical day has only 24 hours, and because we often want to absorb as much as possible, in reality, we usually left too much not fully digested. Or, we might have acquired certain skills that are very useful but do not have the time and opportunity to apply them in real life scenarios thoroughly. I want to utilize writing, one of the most powerful tools of reflection available, to recall the work that I had done and sharpen my understanding of the world around me. It is the same old stuff, but this time it is going to be a bit more.

Well, in all honesty, summer is also about taking time and stay chill. As notorious Supa Hot Fire had remarked:

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Will this work?

Fortunately, working as an intern also teaches me that my work does means something.

This is my first blog ever, so it is a milestone. First mile is always the tough one, and I hope to finish it well. As always, constructive criticism is welcomed here.

Now, it is story time.

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First Peek (Courtesy of Adventure Aquarium, Camden, NJ)

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I like shelves, because it is a place for glory and establishment. By having that one limited edition of Merriam-Webster Dictionary or placing that one championship trophy there, you can constantly remind yourself of what you have done and how you have done them. No matter where I live, I usually have shelves at locations facing the windows, so the sunlight can shine on all of my collections.

I like to have my desk and chair in darker corners, however. Maybe it is a type of superstition, but I think I work better in place without sunlight (though, I will turn on a lamp, for the sake of my eyes). Well I can easily get tired too, after working (sitting) for a long time. It is great that I still have the power to complain, so I can fearlessly imagine the world without work.

But working as an intern teaches me that you have to work.

I had worked mostly around desks for past two weeks, and I began to appreciate standing. Sitting reminded you constantly the power of gravity; you were comfortable sitting, but you were not freed sitting. Certainly, I liked the fact that I was not sweating in Philly’s summer. However, throughout the days, my world was confined to pencils and pens, papers and paperclips, rulers and rules. It was fine working, but it is not much fun working. Furthermore, I felt defeated, when I thought about the possibility that nobody might actually read the paperwork and will not mean anything.

Fortunately, working as an intern also teaches me that my work does means something.

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Looking for the light (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History, New York)

Moments of revelation came from my experiences as an interviewer last week. My organization serves as a bridge between youths, who have diverse cultural backgrounds, and mostly come from low-income families; and the mainstream society. Each summer the organization will choose 20-30 high school students and give them opportunities to intern in different professional work sites. For our organization, interviews are very important. Sometimes, they are the only opportunities for us to actually learn about these applicants (outside of their application), before making the final decisions.

So on a Saturday, I sat at the quiet teen section (with library’s permission) to interview applicants, for the next two and half hours. Recalling my high school era, interviews were more like performance. I prepped for them, and they worked out fine. So, I was not expecting much.

But these high schoolers surprised me. They might stumble from time to time, however, their optimism was inspiring. For instance, I was interviewing a graduating senior who was thinking about becoming a biomedical researcher, and I asked the motivation behind his choice. So he told me that he wanted to find a cure for his grandmother, who suffered from breast cancer. Wow, I was shocked by his answer, because he was energetic and positive throughout the interview. It is hard to imagine how much he has to go through, as a teenager.

Of course, the interviews were not all about emotional heavy-weight lifting; they could be fun from time to time. My interview of that day was with a Vietnamese youth, who is a graduating senior now. Though my interview was supposed to be asking him about many different aspects of life, we ended up talking for thirty minutes mainly about basketball and photography, two things that I really wanted to master in all time. His understanding of the society was very in depth too, and seem like that he could give me a lecture on youth activism in South Philadelphia, though he had only been living in the U.S for five years. As an immigrant myself, I deeply understood the difficulty of living in a foreign land and trying to understand the weird things happened there. Needless, every immigrant is an hero.

Walking out of the library, I realized that all of my seemingly boring work meant something. It is such a wonderful thing to apply my knowledge and energy to creating a platform for these youths, who possess the unlimited potential. They deserve canvas, palettes and brush for their dream, and everyone in our organization is working hard to ensure that they have those.

To end this blog, I just to have to say that there is so much to learn from high school students. Most importantly, I admire their optimism. Most of them come from low-income families and witnesses the dark side of society, but they believe that there is light, and they are willing to fight for “the light in the end of the tunnel.” Compared to them, maybe I really complain too much and work too little. Now, I feel truly fortunate to have this internship.

It is great so far to walk out of the bubble and see the world.