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Interview

Anh Nguyen.

Hello! My name is Anh Nguyen, and I am a 16 year old, second generation Vietnamese-American based in Houston, Texas. I am a people person; that is, I find joy in connecting with people, telling their stories, and advocating for them. Outside of my leadership roles and activism & storytelling, you can find me having second lead syndrome over a multitude of kdramas, being active on k-pop stan twitter, curating Instagram feeds for a friend’s band, or even curling up with a good book. 

I see that you’re the executive director of The Asian Articles. Could you tell us a little about the initiative?

The Asian Articles is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and uplifting pan-Asian youth, primarily through writing and the arts. It’s difficult to represent the entire pan-Asian community when you’re based in the United States, because even up until now, representation in popular media has been primarily of the East Asian community. Moreover, many Asian communities are only covered in news or media because of the tragedy they experience. Our initiative as The Asian Articles is to normalize the representation of West, Central, South, and Southeast Asians in media through publications like our zine collections and articles and to ensure that the pan-Asian community is represented in a positive light rather than just tragedy. 

What is your overall goal in life? Furthermore, how is the path you’re going on right now going to lead you to your goal?

My overall goal in life would probably be to just deeply impact at least one person. I think it would be remiss of me to say that I want to change the world or something along those lines; it would be too idyllic. However, I would be content if I knew that my work positively impacted just one person, because that person can then deeply impact someone else. What I do with The Asian Articles, Dear Asian Youth Houston (as one of their cabinet members), or even in my local community has kept me on a direct path to this goal, and I’d like to think that my work has already affected one or two people in some manner. 

What would you say about mental health in the Asian community?

Mental health in the Asian community, especially the older generation, is still taboo. While the community here in America has definitely opened up more to discussions of mental health, it’s still something that many Asians can’t bring up to their parents or close relatives without receiving mixed response. I’m remembering a past conversation I had with my mother, who was raised in Vietnam until she immigrated here at around 18. She didn’t understand why mental health wasa  prevalent issue for so many youth, and it had to do with the culture she was raised in. The collectivistic values that many Asian cultures hold can raise extremely high barriers when it comes to free discussions of mental health, so I think the Asian community would benefit from adapting some of the individualistic values of Western culture.

What would you say to your younger self?

To my younger self, I would say, “Don’t be too resentful towards your parents, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake.” When I was growing up, it was difficult for me to empathize with my parents. I didn’t understand their harsh parenting, but now, as I’m older, I understand it was a result of how they were raised themselves. At times I’m even grateful because without the harsh parenting, I doubt I would be as hard-working or tenacious as I am now. With the harsh parenting came a constant expectation to be perfect, and this perfectionism has been a foible. I didn’t like making mistakes or asking for help (both things which I’ve worked on and am continuing to work on), which lead to some incidents during my childhood that could have been avoided. However, those incidents became memorable lessons for me, so I can’t say I’m not grateful for them.

Who have been your biggest role-models or resources in times of unsureness, grief, and healing? 

My older sister, by nine years, has been my shoulder to cry on and a source of stability for me during times of grief and unsureness. We’ve both experienced much, especially her, and our ability to empathize with each other has made her an invaluable person for me to go to whenever I’m uncertain, etc. As for role models, I think it’s stereotypically ARMY of me to say BTS, but I think I really can say that BTS, as people and as artists, have been a wonderful resource for me. I’ve always relied on music to get me through everything and anything, but the message of hope and reassurance that BTS brings has been even more comforting. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

The continued absence of people and their physical presence in my life has made me increasingly lonely, but being a year into the pandemic has inured me to that feeling, and I’ve found ways to cope thanks to technology and the internet. It’s been difficult to stay focused and motivated at times, but in some ways, the pandemic has allowed me to improve my mental health and back away from falling into burn out.

What are the most beautiful things about life to you?

The most beautiful things about life, to me, are the moments in which I’m able to slow down and appreciate my time on Earth – whether that’s to experience good food, sights, or people. I think different interactions with people are what make life special, and while many are mundane, there are some that leave a lasting impression on you and that you’ll have for the rest of your life, which I believe is very special. 

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

I’m not sure about notable, but I believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased somewhat within my local Asian community, as well as the general community, primarily due to Gen Z (and millennial) efforts to bring mental health to the forefront of conversation, especially in terms of stress, burnout, and more. Social media, especially Instagram with accounts like Revive and Project Lotus, has given young folx the courage to begin discussions of mental health outside of the bubble it used to always be trapped inside. This initiation is key to destigmatizing mental health.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

To me, mental health means recognizing my own boundaries when it comes to work and stress and prioritizing those boundaries. With hustle culture being so prevalent and a need for productivity driven into my Gen Z brain, it can be difficult for me to know when how much is challenging myself and how much is pushing myself too far past my limits.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell Revive’s audience?

Don’t ever be afraid to prioritize your mental health. I know that’s easier said than done, but sometimes, doing something for the sake of your mental health is better than sacrificing it for the sake of something else (like work or academics).


Check out Anh & The Asian Articles!

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