Finding Yourself In College

Finding Myself and The Citadel Complex

(Vernon Keeve III) The strangest thing happened to me in the Bay Area—something that I spent the longest time in Virginia trying to do.

I found myself.

As an undergrad writer, I got to a point where I felt I had found my voice and grounded in my style, but I still felt hindered—like I wasn’t be all I could. If anything, my first semester of graduate school has taught me: yes, I have a voice and I have a certain style, but those two mediums are continually evolving and adapting with our educations and our surroundings—and you are always adding to yourself. What I do have, that is a constant amongst variables, is my experience. A take on the world that needs to be written, drawn, photographed—expressed through art somehow so that the message is spread through the boundaries that separate us—race, religion, language, etc.


I spent seven, long years as an undergrad student on a journey, with myself as the destination. I started off at a school and with a major that was far from where I ended. When I had finally finished, I was lucky enough to have attained two bachelor degrees in fields that both helped me learn something about myself: English and religious studies.

The entirety of my final semester was spent searching for the next step. I felt called into both worlds by powers beyond my own—whatever name you deem it deity or metaphysics—


the good energy that binds us to our purpose in this world.

Pure luck landed me at California College of the Arts, where I am now working towards my M.F.A. in Writing. I received rejection letter after rejection letter for my writing, and there was no cure for my depression or writer’s block. Then I got an email that said I started an application, the deadline had been extended, and would I like to finish.  I did. And,




I walked out of Virginia with no confidence.

And little by little I found myself noticing more and more about the Bay Area that I liked. Because, I stopped looking at my own footsteps as I walked down the street. I simply stopped living in my own world.

The state I was in—the citadel I was locked in—I call the Citadel Complex. We all fall victim to this complex. It is a place where we find comfort in being ourselves to the fullest—it can be your home, your dorm room, your entire college campus—the place where you feel the most yourself.


It is a place where we find comfort in being ourselves to the fullest


The problem is that we always set these places up in temporary locations. Even when I was locked inside of myself, I knew I needed to break free. I knew it was a place I could not stay long. I knew there was something I was supposed to do in this world and I was keeping myself from it.


Writing is how started expressing myself, and as a writer I took classes and was introduced to other writers—artists who fight the same mental stigmas as myself. Learning about world religions allowed me to see common and concentrated GOODNESS in the world and I wanted to share it in my writing.

I liberated myself

by finding my niche

in college,

and I still

strengthen it.


Find your passion, know your passion and work on that passion. When you do school work won’t feel like school work, and hopefully you will find a career that has the same rewards.

I still fall victim to the Citadel Complex, as I always will,  as we all will. However, I have found a way to turn the problem into a solution. Now that I’m in the Bay area, I find myself submersed in my fortress (mind you, there are still places that I dare not go, but those places are few and far between). If we are always going to fall victim to the Citadel Complex no matter the scale—why not live in the place where your stronghold is the largest? Go to a place where the cultures (and subcultures) that make you who you are are appreciated—visit them, now, if you can. If a place calls your name from across the choppy waters or the dusty lands, visit it.

It may be your liberation.

It may be the place where you find yourself. You express yourself in forms of art that you did not in previous places. You explore the world more—it makes you want to explore the world more. You begin to care about how the other people in your fortress of progress view you. You will better yourself in ways you would have never thought of.

Then the day will come when you find yourself.  Down the road: after you’ve found your grandest bastion of YOU-ness, you will revisit that place that made you feel like you were in a prison and not a castle, and it will all fall into perspective—you will see all the reasons you left as clear as rocks falling from the sky.

When you are black in the south, you know there are places that you do not go for your own safety. When you are black and homosexual in the south, the number of places you feel comfortable are greatly diminished. I placed myself in so many towers like Rapunzel, becoming my own antagonist—keeping myself from being all I could be because I was afraid of being called out of my name. Take control over your name—so no one can ever take it from you.


Express Yourself.

Don’t let






Maybe you can be the person that walks in the largest citadel of them all, the world. Truly comfortable with you who you are.

10 Comments on “Finding Myself and The Citadel Complex

  1. What I love about this article is its truthfulness. We are also told to get out of our "comfort zones." But what if our identities are felt to be safe within certain limits? What if there is a danger in leaving a comfort zone? Comfort zones exist due to real fears and concerns. You invite us to strengthen these zones, expand them, and realize their temporality. In that is true comfort. Well done!! <3

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    • Hello Matt,“Life is expressive and it is our business to express ourselves harmoniously and constructively.”That is a wonderful expression of the potential that is out there for all to grasp. To define who we are by “being” and then “becoming”.Thank you for your wisdom, which makes sense since you brought up Solomon!Keep the Smiles,Stevie

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