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LCFC Journal #25: A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

17 Sep

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Dear Kevin,

 

I’m your future self, ten years from now. First and foremost, congratulations!!! The beginning to the rest of your life begins now. How are you feeling? You’re probably going through a constant flux of emotions currently. I know you feel a lot of angst about college but you’ve been raised right by your parents. You are going to get through it!!! The reason why I’m writing to you right now is because I’ve been through some of the things you will have to endure in due time and I figured I’d write to tell you what to expect on the journey up ahead. The first thing you need to realize is that college is a good idea for anyone wanting to get ahead in life but the schooling you’ll receive alone is not the answer. There is a lot of grit, determination, persistence, effort and hustle that will get you to where you need to be.

Now do I know exactly where you’ll be in about 15 or twenty years personally? Of course not, because if that was the case, I would have been figured it out for myself as well. So, I think that it is safe to say that we’re all learning. It doesn’t matter how old you are. There’s something to learn in every way possible and life lessons to be experienced every step of the way. You’re probably thinking that you’re going to make it throughout the entire 4-year college experience with the mindset that you will major in one field exclusively. That can happen but I also want you to be understanding that your desires, career path and expectations will change every step of the way. Whatever you do young fella, don’t limit yourself. Take advantage of every single opportunity college has to offer you: social life, networking, internships and building relationships with people that share the same interests as you and have similar mindsets.

Also, I know you feel as if you have an allegiance to dad but if you know deep within your heart that computer engineering is not for you then DON’T DO IT! It doesn’t make any sense to be paying for an education that will grant you access to a career that you hate. What I’ve learned over the last ten years is that in life, we need to be reasonable but a bit selfish sometimes. If you’re going to study something make sure that it’s in something that you love. Will it guarantee you a position somewhere with full benefits and a salary? Maybe. Probably not. So, why not just focus on happiness and letting the rest play out as the days and years unfold? Also, you are not alone in this journey!! You have a full support system around you or will come to have one in due time. There are good people out there you just need to find the right ones that fit you as a person and as a future professional. Another thing: don’t break the bank in order to service your education. If you come to a point where you cannot afford to pay for private school consider going to a community college. These colleges are affordable ways to gain educational experience and if you commit your time to studying and being focused you will prepare yourself for further schooling afterwards. Most importantly Kev, just be you. There will be detractors and critics out there that want to see you fall flat on your face. It will be up to you to block it and cancel out all noise. Last, but not least, in your quest for happiness and success don’t let ambition and desires deter you from spending time with family. If I had the opportunity to do it all over again this is something I would certainly press a hard reset on. No matter what it is that you will be facing in college, you will never have the chance to have another support system in your life as much as family. Doing well in school is cool, following your dreams is great but what’s the point to all of that when you’re not making time to celebrate accordingly with the ones you love? Alas, I am done here.

Being 28-years-old doesn’t afford me enough time to say everything that I’d like to say due to bills, workload and being at a crossroads of possibly switching careers. But nonetheless, I know you have what it takes to make it happen Kevin. You’re bright, funny and very generous. Your energy is magnetic and it lights up any room that you walk into. You’re going to be fine. Be sure to keep God first every step of the way and remember that life is a journey. You must experience it every day in full in order to get to the next part of the journey. If you don’t know what I mean, don’t worry young fella, you’ll soon understand in due time. I wish you nothing but the best and I hope to hear from you in ten years or so. Let me know how it all works out for you down the line.

 

Signed,

-Your Older Self

Kev Elev

 

Kevin Anglade is a writer, poet, scholar, educator and publisher from Queens, New York. He started taking writing seriously at the age of 21 in 2012 and since then uses art as a way to educate and promote self-expression. In the summer of 2018, Anglade took residency in Takoradi, Ghana as he was selected to take part in Limited Resources Teacher Training, a fellowship that takes teachers to various countries to provide instructional training and resources as a form of equitable exchange. Anglade holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s from the City University of New York in English literature (Brooklyn & Queens College). He is a part-time professor in the General Ed Studies Department at Goodwin College and currently teaches English Language Arts at the Ethel Walker School for Girls in Simsbury, Connecticut. He enjoys, reading, writing, hip-hop, stand-up comedy, basketball and is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, “A Flower That Rose” (2021).

LCFC Journal #24: Self-Worth vs. Market Value (In 5 Parts)

13 Aug

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Part I: Believe in Yourself

One summer’s day, I tuned into the Breakfast Club in 2018 and the crew happened to be interviewing the lovely and super talented Amanda Seales. While I was watching, DJ Envy asked her why she chose not to quit in pursuit of her dreams when things weren’t going her way. And her response to that question certainly struck me as she said: “I’ve always believed in my actual talent. I always knew my worth but you have to know your market value. And so, people don’t understand the difference between that and that’s how you get in the way of advancing.” When I heard this during an afternoon drive, I nodded my head profusely. At the time I felt as if that was something I had been dealing with my entire existence. I always had to fight to be recognized for my talents. I always had to fight to prove that I was worthy enough to be in the same room as people that were just as or more successful than me. I always had to fight for what I believed in and prove that I belonged. However, there were people or institutions that always passed on me. Whether they thought I was good enough or not, I’ve always felt as if anything I’ve ever really wanted in life I’ve never gotten. Little did I know at the time that I was wrong, and I had come to terms that if I didn’t believe in myself than who would ever believe in me?

Part II: Practice Patience

After graduating from college with a degree in English literature, I remember being in a state of shock. There were no job offers. No fellowships. Nothing. I remember thinking to myself, “what the hell is going on, right now? Is this for real?” I just couldn’t understand how someone such as myself who had completed two internships in the publishing industry and finished undergrad with a 3.5 GPA would find himself with no opportunities. The state I was in connects back to the conversation Miss Seales had on the Breakfast Club where she also stated, “Sometimes we get frustrated on the path and to your point people give up because they’re like damn, why shit ain’t turning over yet?” Frustration wasn’t even the word for me. Angry was more like it. By the time summer 14’ came and went, with it also went any guarantees or inkling of a job. I was livid as I started thinking about all the things I possibly did wrong in college. Maybe I didn’t join enough clubs. Maybe I didn’t do enough internships. All I wanted was an opportunity to work in the publishing industry and it seemed as if it was never going to happen.

Part III: Self Perception vs. Expectation

In November of 2014, I started working at Queensborough Community College as a part-time secretary. During that time, I remember thinking that working there was only going to be temporary for me, at least, so I thought. Personally, I didn’t expect to be there any longer than 6-9 months. However, the universe had other intentions as I worked there for two and a half years. In August of 2015, I remember being very miserable due to the amount of applications I had put in with no responses to show for it. Once again, I felt like a failure and what didn’t help was that I never planned to work at my old junior college. Before long, I started to think my just due would soon arrive. There was no way that I was going into 2016 still in the dilemma I was in. Which leads me back to another bit in the interview where Amanda said, “I think a lot of that too is that people think they’re owed the turnover. Like, I put in the work why hasn’t it happened? That’s when you have to really step back and think: what are the ways in which I’m getting in my own way?” In 2015, I expected a major turnover for my own life. I expected it. I craved it. I wanted it. But it didn’t happen. Someway, somehow, I stayed positive. I stayed focused.

Part IV: Stuntin’ On The Gram

Social media is a killer. Seriously. I remember when I was amid my quarter life crisis trying to figure out what direction I was heading in and would constantly be on Instagram. My time spent on the platform wasn’t good as I would often find myself comparing my trajectory with those of my peers. This was and still is (in certain ways) the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with growing up as an adult. I would see people taking photos on swanky vacations or posting about their new careers and how happy they were in their field. Seeing this made me think less of myself and that I must have done something wrong along the way. For me, I know I’m someone that is truly talented and can offer a lot to a company in writing, publishing or media. But I felt as if the world felt the total opposite and chose to ignore me along the way. It wasn’t until I heard Amanda’s perspective on this that I started to make connections with my situation. In her interview with TBC, she also stated, “The reason I say it’s so important to know your market value versus your own personal value is because that’s what drives you crazy. And there’s all these folks out here winning and you’re like, what am I doing wrong?” All I wanted was a shot as I hoped that I’d get one along the way.

Part V: Validation

Last fall, I applied for a PhD in English at several institutions in the north east. This past spring, I heard from all my schools of choice and they said, “no”. At first, I didn’t sweat it much as I was waiting on one school in particular to get back to me which was Brown University but as I waited and finally received my rejection letter I remember going home and crying a bit that night. Brown was an institution that fit my research agenda to a T. In addition, it’s an Ivy League so I knew that the potential for major opportunities would be endless at a school with such renowned prestige. But when they said “no” there I was again feeling like I had come so close only to let an opportunity that was once in a lifetime slip through the cracks. I was crushed. I felt like quitting life altogether. I couldn’t understand why things once again did not go my way. A few days later, I remember driving back home to Connecticut after spending the weekend in New York and I found myself listening to Amanda Seales’s Small Doses podcast (which I absolutely recommend) and she once again mentioned the idea of self-worth vs. market value. In another episode, Miss Seales read her personal statement that got her into Columbia University where she did a Master’s in African-American Studies with a concentration in Hip-Hop. I couldn’t help but smile as she rejuvenated my thirst and quest for higher education. Thanks to her I began to realize that the rejection notices weren’t personal. I just had to try again and hope that the next time around the schools I’d be applying to would see value enough in my credentials to want to take a chance on me. And in that very same BC interview she said this: “A lot of times we get bent out of shape and we quit because we don’t understand the game. We don’t know the difference between knowing your worth but also knowing other values to other projects and you gotta get in certain spaces to increase other peoples perception of your work. This is the game.” Bottom line here: Never give up on what you think is for you because if it is for you, the universe will grant it to you in due time. Thank you, Amanda Seales for inspiring this post. We’re all capable of achieving our dreams and deepest desires, it’s just a matter of having the right eyes fall upon your work in the right place and at the right time. Hence, market value.

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He recently taught 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

 

LCFC Journal #12: “To Be Young & Black in Grad School”

23 May

20170517_183328To this day, I still remember my first taste of graduate school. It was August 27th, 2015, summer was rapidly on its way out and I happened to be running behind schedule for my first class of the fall semester.

After leaving work and catching my buses headed towards Queens College, I contemplated on how the first session of my English M.A. program would go. Grad school was something that I had convinced myself I was ready for, especially after having been out of school for 20 months upon finishing my undergraduate degree. However, as the bus neared the school with each stop I couldn’t find it in me to suppress a tiny voice from asking if I was sure that a Master’s degree was something I could complete.

Upon arrival, I remember walking into the designated building in which my class was being held and making my way to the seventh floor.

The classroom itself was a long conference room and to the least of my surprise was filled with students settling into their seats. The professor, (a tall brunette woman) seemed welcoming and handed out the syllabus with worksheets.

As the materials went around one by one, we volunteered and read these sheets as they consisted of stories that we would cover throughout the semester. However, upon reading them, I felt a pang of anxiety as my chest tightened. Suddenly an unwavering sense of doubt drenched my thoughts as I felt as if I had instantly drowned in water. In that instant I honestly said to myself that I wouldn’t be able to complete the work and that grad school wasn’t made for someone like me.

Further along, the more I took the initiative to complete the assignments and do them well, I found out that I wasn’t that bad of a student. I made A’s and A-’s on a majority of my assignments and was very relieved upon receiving these grades as these first few marks certainly boosted my confidence.

However, I still felt conflicted somewhat as I dealt with the large elephant in the room. The elephant being that I was one of few black men or people of color within my courses. I know this sounds absurd especially since undergraduate programs are generally swarmed with white people but for some reason I felt like an outlier in my classes while listening to discussions on literary criticism, English Renaissance in the 17th century and anything Marx and Engels related. To be clear, I of course didn’t connect with my classmates but in regards to my education I also didn’t connect to what I was learning either.

My vision heading into grad school was premature at best. I honestly thought that I would concentrate on African-American literature and would in the process write a Master’s thesis in which I’d hone the skills that I had only begun to sharpen in my undergrad program while simultaneously showing that I had the ability to write, publish, articulate, and discuss on the graduate level. Nonetheless, over the past twenty-two months I’ve managed to do work in sectors unrelated to what I specialize in as I recently submitted my thesis on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” and now stand days away from graduating from the program.

Looking back, however, I still feel conflicted about the whole thing. For one, I consider myself to be a person who loves to experience what he is a part of. But somehow, I never felt as if my time within my graduate program was an experience. To me, it felt more like a task within my journey.

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Surely, one can ask if I took advantage of everything the school or the program itself had to offer and I would say that I did the best I could. I mean, I attended some readings sponsored by the department’s MFA program. From Zadie Smith, Cornelius Eady, Jackie Woodson and Kia Corthron, I extracted knowledge from their readings as well as their sit-down discussions with moderators, but a part of me still felt as if something was missing, as if I was a little guppy that had lost his way swimming in a sea of strong bass fish.

Moreover, I felt as if the entire time I existed within a bubble often finding myself awkwardly alone and staying to myself as others connected. Nothing felt inclusive, as I consciously harbored upon my blackness and whether my peers thought if I belonged or not.

On the days I had class I always felt as if I had something to prove. It was important to me that my classmates saw me as a competent black man who deserved to be within their presence. And so, I took it upon myself to engage and ask questions every single session. Although I felt as if they knew I was smart or capable enough to hold my own, I was never satisfied and always found myself trying to fit in.

During my time in grad school there were no study sessions, no support groups, no trips to local bars for drinks, nothing in which I knew I could be present in. And to be completely honest, this frustrated me. I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to fit into the whole graduate school paradigm and I was frustrated because of the lack of people who looked like me within the program.

Overtime I grew accustomed to being alone and started treating it like an actual job. Get in, get out, read, research, write, repeat. These are the things I told myself. It almost became some sort of an ethics code. Something to live by and not think about as much.  And although I felt out of place, I cannot say that I didn’t grow to enjoy the work. Again, some of it felt pointless to me, but along the way I picked up essential knowledge from professors I admired as well as writing methodologies that will serve a great purpose moving forward as I plan to further my studies over the next few years within a doctoral program.

At the beginning of this spring semester, I found myself releasing tiny sighs of relief as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally, I was elated that I would not only be writing my thesis but would only have one class the entire semester. Being in several classes with people who I wasn’t sure wanted me there put me in a state of depression often. But the mere fact of having one class while focusing on my thesis project with my adviser made me happy because for the first time I worried less about what people thought of me and of my place within the program.

As the months passed, I remember receiving e-mails from my program director inviting all students within the M.A. program undergoing their thesis to participate in writing workshops to strengthen our drafts. Looking at the date of the first workshop, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to go because I was still in the early stages of the paper and up until that point hadn’t even drafted two pages which was the minimum requirement to participate in the workshop. But deep down I knew that I was only making excuses as thesis proposals were deemed acceptable for those wanting to participate.

Personally, I didn’t want to be in the space that made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be judged, I didn’t want to be critiqued and more specifically, I didn’t want people to look at my writing, cringe, and think I was stupid because I was black. And so, I didn’t go. I skipped the workshop and pretended as if I hadn’t seen the e-mail. However, a month later another e-mail came around asking for us to participate in the second workshop. When I looked at it, I initially dismissed it yet again but something told me to give it a shot this time around, especially since I had completed my first draft just before spring break.

And so, the following day I mustered up the courage to attend and found myself sitting with my former professor and M.A. program director as well as the assistant chair deputy of the department. But unlike what I had pictured in my head there were only two students present: two young women. Instantly, my mood improved as I released nerves that had been built up on my way to the workshop. And by the time it was over, I left feeling much better than I had anticipated. The critiques weren’t as bad as I had thought they would be and it honestly felt great working in such a small group in which I wouldn’t be judged for the color of my skin. It left a great impression on me as I decided then and there on the spot that I would be present at the last workshop which was scheduled to take place in the first week of May.

Two weeks exactly after this final designated workshop, I was scheduled to meet with both my adviser and second reader for my graduate thesis oral exam. I remember being very nervous and thinking that the worst of the program had yet to come. In my head, I imagined them both questioning my every decision and writing technique I had incorporated within my essay. However, it turned out that all they had wanted to do was have a conversation about the work. From the moment, I entered the room, I felt comfortable and at ease. In addition, the fact that they had both complemented me on the writing itself made me feel (for the very first time) that I had belonged within the program. After receiving my grade of A on the exam and looking at the smiles stretched out across both of their faces, I really took the time out to recognize the sincerity of their compliments and their approval of my work.

The faculty had been rooting for me all along and were happy that I had accomplished something significant that I could take out into the real world as an academic scholar. Within that very moment it put everything into perspective for me. It wasn’t the school or the program itself that I had issues with but the fact of me being a young black man in an English graduate program surrounded by people who were possibly unfamiliar with my presence as a person of color. It made me second guess myself and question every move or thought I posed along the way.

Now as I prepare to walk down the commencement aisle over the next few days I’m going to think about my experience and how much it allowed me to grow as a student and person in academia.

People are born into a world in which we control only what it is that we can control. We can’t get too high and we can’t get too low on an array of things. But what we do control is our productivity and our choices. Had I believed my inner voice that very first session and thought my presence wasn’t merited or worth being a part of the institution I honestly would have quit that same day. But to the best of my abilities, I worked hard, persevered, and did my absolute best so that I could see the day in which I would be able to graduate while being one step closer towards my dream of being a college professor. Sometimes when you’re uncertain of yourself and haven’t a clue of where to turn, all you could ever ask for is your best effort. Again, you can’t change the way others think of or about you, but what you do have is the utmost power to control what you (as a sole individual) can control. And to be completely honest, that’s all that really matters in the end.

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Anglade

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection Life Comes From Concrete: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #6: “The Hood & Fail, Success & Yale”

22 Nov
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Yale University-Main Library, General Floor

A little over a month ago, I had the fortunate pleasure in visiting New Haven, Connecticut on a Columbus Day weekend. My reasons for heading out there was because a friend of mine whose name is Shayne McGregor, is currently in his first year of a PhD English program at Yale University. Both Shayne and I have known each other since 2012 as we were fellow undergrads at CUNY Brooklyn College.

In the fall of 2012, we were enrolled in a seminar course called Postmodernism: Poetry & Politics. In this class, taught by Professor Ben Lerner, a literary talent who happens to be a force in the publishing industry, (former Guggenheim Fellow & MacArthur Genius grant recipient) Shayne and I came of age as we learned about poetry during the early twentieth century and how it affected the politics of America’s society in the years to come.20161009_144848

Fast forward to the fall of 2013, and we both transitioned to our final semester of undergrad writing our senior thesis’ which would cement our legacy as English majors.

Since then, however, Shayne hasn’t looked back at all as he immediately furthered his education the following semester and pursued his Masters degree in English.

After completing his M.A. last spring, Shayne entered his doctoral program at Yale. I, on the other hand, am now in the final year of my Masters English program at CUNY Queens College.

What makes this story interesting, however, is that I remember being at a poetry show early September when I received a call from Shayne as we caught up and talked about Yale’s PhD program and what life as an academic has been like for him thus far. Moreover, Shayne offered me to come visit and get a feel of what the program was like since he knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in the near future.

Soon after, I wasted no time and took him up on the offer by making my way to New Haven, Connecticut via Metro-North Railroad. And once I got there, I was hooked.

Being able to walk on campus and see what the energy was like was something that I’ve never experienced.

To be in a such a space where students were not only working, but collaborating together and taking their work seriously, was truly a real sight to witness.

Shayne also gave me some sound advice about the PhD process and what it was like for him during his time of applying. I also learned how to plan in advance before taking action whenever I decide to fully commit myself to the application process.

More than anything, besides staying in Shayne’s graduate apartment, meeting some of his cool PhD friends, walking around the beautiful campus, and visiting its prestigious library, I learned more than anything that just because I grew up in a working-class household, and average neighborhood, that doesn’t mean that my dreams aren’t valid and that going to an Ivy-League institution is an idea that is unfathomable beyond my circumstances.20161009_144614

Honestly, every kid whether poor, middle-class, or wealthy, should feel as if they have the same shot or opportunity in possibly attending such an elite institution. No one is or should be exempt from this and as long as one works really hard to make such a dream plausible, they can actually make it a reality.

In closing, as I wind down my final year in the M.A. program at Queens, I know that a PhD is definitely not within my immediate future, but after my next move which is scheduled to be in effect within the next year and change, I’m sure that I’ll be ready to embark upon the journey that is life as a PhD student and when I do, no one will be in my path to tell me I can’t. Those days are over. I no longer believe that I’m just average.

 

Sincerely,

– Kevin Anglade

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of Tales of the 23rd Precinct, a collection of detective fiction. Kevin was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. He is also the author of Life Comes From Concrete, a poetry memoir.

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek