A Pitfall to Passion

Graduating with an undergraduate degree in journalism was a mistake. I had no clue what I wanted to do in college; I just knew I wanted to go. I come from a long line of college graduates, HBCU grads to be exact, so I had large shoes to fill. I initially admitted as a pre-med major, for no reason other than impressing others and thinking when I graduate I’m going to shit on everybody with six figures for the rest of my life. Typical freshman mistake with goals and no real plans, just desires. It did not take long for me to switch majors after realizing the logistics weren't what I thought nor wanted to learn. Lost in the web of core curriculums and passive advisors, I listened to my parents for guidance of my next move. “You were always a good writer,” my mother said. Trusting her word, I changed majors to mass communication with a focus on journalism. The road seemed less harsh and my GPA healed from the scars of those biology classes. Everything was in accord. Everything made sense. My professors would even use my school newspaper articles as examples for lectures. I was feeling myself. Not only did I contribute to my school newspaper, I had the opportunity to start a Christian newsletter and be the managing editor. I loved the moves I was making but could not jar the feeling I was not challenging myself.

I still owed six credits when I walked across the stage during graduation, but acceptance into the Institute of Political journalism before I graduated was a cushion. The plan was to get an internship that would set up into a job and take two summer classes that would transfer over to complete my degree. The plan was set and I spent two months living in D.C. Since Lincoln University was in a small predominantly-white blue-collar town, the only fun you had was behind the campus gates — or drive to Philly. Despite minor setbacks, I worked for a non-profit in the communications department as a multimedia intern and had the time of my life on U Street clubbing and sightseeing with friends I met from all over the country and to this day we stay in touch. I was 21 and beating the odds of the struggling college graduate, or thought.

The internship ended, the liquor dried up, and my bank account was on E. I moved back to Delaware, got my degree in the mail and with no idea what to do next. Job after job rejected me and out of desperation took a job at Urban Outfitters to make ends meet while working after school as an English tutor. I was now in the margin of other struggling graduates who were lost and yearning for any guidance to keep our heads from sinking into our own self-doubt and preconceived failures. I was now 22 and for the first time in my life without school to fall back on, I was alone.

Despite an unfulfilling retail job with annoying managers, I enjoyed working with youth. The pay was trash but seeing progress in students made it worthwhile. At the same time, I became a contributing menswear writer for an online magazine in London. I’m an introvert by nature, so clothes was always my way of expression. After a few more rejections, I took the opportunity to work at Delaware State University for the summer as an advisory teacher, assisting incoming ninth graders to transition smoothly into the next stages of high school and offer early credits. I loved it. I loved helping students and shown admiration. Despite the uncertainty and disdain a few months earlier, I learned to spread positivity. It’s amazing how contagious it can be.

Months later, I joined Kappa Alpha Psi and started a new job at a collections agency. I was getting consistent pay and at first sight seemed like the best work environment for growth. I was the youngest on my team and considered the most ambitious. I was out of my shell and asked questions, offered solutions to problems and maintained a consistent attitude of appreciation. I surprised myself but was happy to see managers taking notice of me too. After a promotion to working with bigger clients, something in me shifted. After about five months, I began to notice the pushback and passive aggressiveness of office life. I was fighting to take credit for my accomplishments and fighting my own morality when it came to my job. I had to make a choice: stay stuck and unchallenged or move on.

Two months later, I quit and started substituting again. In my personal time, I decided to take the knowledge I learned from writing menswear and apply it to a design project that focused on my own clothing brand. After financial setbacks, depression, and trial and error I had perfect sample garments and an ecommerce site to distribute. I planned for this and found my passion to keep me stimulated through mental stress. My garments are token to years of doubt, planning, and creative thinking to find a solid space to build and push ideas as I go.

I’m still finding my place and if you’re reading this, life will cruise you in directions you never imagined, but enjoy the ride and you’ll find a warm place. As warm as my garments have been to me.

Alex