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Love of Learning

Thirty-one and Master of None: A Juncture in Ming Sun Lam’s Life

By MINA WONG - February 27 2024

A short story by Mina Wong 

My name’s Ming Sun Lam from the big city of Toronto. Thanks for the chance to gab about myself, especially at this point when I’m finally a college grad, and more career-minded than ever before.

Turning thirty-one soon, I still live with doting parents who’re proud owners of a food processing wholesaler. They could’ve turfed me out, but instead, they’ve encouraged me to get an education and even offered to find me a nice girl to settle down with. 

I’m the youngest of four, with three sisters happily married to industrious professionals. Working and raising energetic children, they all wonder why I reject traditional family values: work hard, save money, get married, have kids, support parents, and retire well – in that order.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and admire Chinese culture, but having been in Canada since kindergarten, I also see many choices outside those made by my parents and sisters. 

All my sisters attended college and established careers before marrying. But I liked trekking north to Baffin Island or south to Yosemite. Wandering blissfully for ten years after high school, I always earned my keep working for local people. I also learned handy skills along the way, including brewing beer, building portables, and fixing hotel faucets!

I even came across potential careers in unlikely places. After painting murals in Norway House four years ago, I was offered training and licensing to work on the Trans-Canada Highway. But, not ready for trucks or winter in Manitoba, I headed home for Christmas instead.

Then when I got back three years ago from Yellowknife and Fort Simpson with a fat wallet of earnings, my dad said, “We’re so glad you’re back and safe from Covid. How about staying for a while, and maybe studying something? Mother and I may have the tuition if you can take care of the expenses.”

Deeply moved by my parents’ kindness, I registered for an online marketing certificate. For the next two years, my time was split between studying and working for my parents.

College was fast-paced and demanding, but I studied hard, completed all the assignments, wrote my exams, and graduated with 78% in digital and social media marketing.

The college also taught me excellent innovative skills. Two professors who liked my work got me an internship with an animation artist. I would’ve liked to stay full-time with her, but since she didn’t have paid positions, I worked for my family again, along with a gig as spa receptionist-cum-product ambassador.

I was just about to quit the spa and look for full-time work when Covid sneakily, but violently knocked the wind out of me.

Still wobbly six weeks later with depleted savings, I proposed to give my parents’ factory a digital makeover – if they could finance my collaboration with an industrial designer I trusted.

Four weeks later, the mission was accomplished! We rolled out a sensational website with inviting catalogs and one-touch apps. Dad was so pleased with the sales he gave me a handsome bonus; I hugged him so tight he almost cried.

As another Christmas comes around, marketing positions for new grads aren’t as gainful as I previously hoped. While social media jobs seem aplenty, most of them are small gigs. My best interview was with a Montréal fashion designer who liked my creativity but preferred more experience in copywriting, editing, and public relations, and, “a degree in fashion merchandising would be an asset”.

Yikes! Can job hunting be so merciless I’ll need more training just to meet an employer? My education’s been indispensable, but I’m still a new grad with less experience than seasoned marketers armed with specialized know-how.

As 2024 begins soon, building a viable career may begin with offering my best skills to someone I implicitly trust. So, my New Year resolution is to be more professionally involved with the family business, first in marketing and advertising, and later in public relations. I’d diligently take cues from my industry-savvy sisters and brothers-in-law, breathe longevity into Mom and Dad’s brands they created twenty-five years ago, and let them retire whenever they so desire.

I hope my parents will like the proposition even if they won’t raise my salary right away. I’d work hard to learn from their expertise and success.

If all went well, I could even think about specialized studies, financial security, and marriage. I’d be honored to meet a kind, sincere, and sensible lady who could love me with all my flaws. Thirty-one and master of none, but master of my own destiny? You bet I know what it takes, and I’m here for the long haul.

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