Deep introspection, enhanced by way of Cannabis, has allowed 21-year-old Victoria Shiyun to find a path of fulfillment and deepen the connection with her heritage as a Chinese National who was adopted and brought to the United States as a child.
“It’s taken a while, but I am trusting the world to take me where I need to go,” said Victoria, who is a patient care specialist at Storehouse Dispensary on Falls Road in Baltimore.
Victoria estimates she had “28 jobs” before becoming the youngest budtender at Storehouse last winter.
“This is the first place I’ve stayed at for this long,” she said. “Before, I really just couldn’t find anything I liked.”
A graduate of Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Dundalk, Victoria has recently been tasked with the responsibility of using her artistic talents to create an angelic wall mural inside the store – exchanging the wings for a pair of Cannabis leaves that will provide patients an opportunity for some photographic fun.
“I was sitting at the desk doodling. I gave [the sketches] to my managers and they said, ‘Let’s make this happen,’” she said. “I love it here. We’re not a chain dispensary, so [management] often opens things up to the staff and allows us to make choices. It’s nice to feel like you’re a part of the business.”
Artistic endeavors have been foundational to Victoria’s life, where she has created production sets and backgrounds for plays at Patapsco High, and more recently expanded her talents to crocheting as the pandemic made for an abundance of downtime. But art is not just an inspiration for Victoria, but also an outlet for her depressive bipolar disorder and an escape from the throes of daily anxiety.
“I used to hate modern medicine, but I have come to realize that it is sometimes helpful,” she said, acknowledging a balance between Cannabis and prescribed medicine for bipolar disorder. “With Cannabis, I’m able to manage myself in a way that isn’t completely reliant on medication all the time.”
Victoria kicks off the day with a gentle meet-and-greet with her 50th anniversary Cheech and Chong bong – preferring a hit of a terpinolene-based sativa to steady her mind for the upcoming day. If working, she’ll set her focus on being as helpful to patients as possible, understanding that the wisdom she has accrued in the industry might be life-changing for a patient.
“Every budtender knows the patient that just wants the highest THC – and there’s a place for that,” she said. “But others come in and need specific guidance on terpenes. They’ll say, ‘I can’t sleep.’ Or, ‘I have severe depression.’ Or, ‘I am addicted to opioids.’ Those are the ones I put my heart into because we’re truly helping them medically.”
Daily conversations have allowed Victoria to be more open with her family about her own use of Cannabis. The industry has also strengthened her pride in her Chinese heritage after learning hemp originated from her birthplace.
“I was in Releaf Shop and they had the history of Cannabis on the wall, and I was like, ‘No way!’” she laughed.
“I’ve always struggled to feel a connection to my heritage,” said Victoria, whose mother is Caucasian. “It hasn’t always been easy being Asian in a predominantly white setting. These last few years with the Covid stuff, it has made me think a lot more of who I am as a person. I grew up watching Chinese culture, but never actually tried to do the traditions.”
Victoria hopes that she can be a voice for the voiceless in the industry, dismissing “stereotypical views of Asians” as passive and submissive. Her passion for patients and her talented artwork may just be the springboard for her future success.
“I’ve been telling my fiance that,” smiled Victoria, who was engaged to her long-time boyfriend Noah in 2020. “Everything I am doing in life is setting up my future. One move could change the trajectory of my life.”
Trust, she says, is the key.
“You gotta trust the universe,” she said. “But at the same time, know that you are your own universe. You are the creator.”