Why the Peace Corps? (admittedly idyllic)

Throughout my life, many people have made sacrifices in order for me to have the best experiences possible through education and overall, having the support and the knowledge that no matter what I try, whether I am successful or not, I will have them waiting and willing to encourage me in my next pursuit. Although I have always felt happy and satisfied with the choices I have made and the paths I have treaded, there has always been an emptiness. A throbbing and chronic dissatisfaction in myself for not reaching out and acknowledging the troubled world we live in. The thought that most compels me is that not everyone has that foundation, that certain someone who is there unconditionally to assure them that they are supported. Even if I have nothing else to offer someone, the ability to give selfless love and recognition of their struggle and to aid them in their pursuit for health, a home, or a voice, is the most powerful and motivating ability in the world.

Beyond the desire to take part in someone’s brave battle for justice, I want to be a Peace Corps volunteer in order to gain a new perspective. I do not want to go through life ignoring the rest of this vast world and without experiencing the deeply rich and invigorating aspect of human nature throughout different countries. I do not want to ignore the crises occurring simply because of the fact that it is  not affecting my own life. I want to make someone’s story heard in a sea of voices. I want to take responsibility as someone who has something to give and admit that I have even more to gain.

A Little History

     As the daughter of a wild, free thinking single mother, I experienced a great deal of movement while growing up. We moved about the country often, and I encountered many different cultures and personalities. Although there is a certain and definite American culture, to a young girl trying to assimilate, the ranges between cardinal points are distinguished. When I attempt to recall my hometown, a blur of different surroundings and faces results. 

     To me, the definition of hometown is not an actual designated border yet a memory. Literally, I was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Yet within my mind, I consider all of the places I have resided until now to be my hometown.The definition I have learned to designate hometown is a recollection of memories and settings that have helped mold you into the person you are. They are not always fond, though most tend to linger on the more desirable reminiscences of birthday parties and the playgrounds they frequented. 

     I lived in Phoenix for the first seven years of my life. There I can most vividly remember hiking with my mother, the Montessori I attended and my grandmother’s garden. I believe I accumulated my adoration for nature here. Next, I lived in Olympia, Washington. I thrived on the city’s diversity and I realized the variety that the human race possesses. 

     When we moved to Virginia, I felt differentiated from my peers. Despite this, I knew I must adapt to this new lifestyle. This stimulated confidence and a sense of unique individualism. I also had a short encounter with the busy big-city life when my aunt in Houston and her engineer husband had twins during her already hectic residency. My mother rushed to her aid to help them, and I enjoyed a brief encounter with fast paced living. 

     However, I must overall say that the first thought that comes to mind when the word hometown is uttered, is Virginia Beach. These city limits have held the most enduring and awkward times of my pre-teen and teenage life. It is has instilled creativity and distinctive characteristics within me.

     When I think of traveling, I see it as an opportunity not to go somewhere new, but to be someone new. Every place I visit gives something to me from its history and the vibrance of its people and I enjoy adapting and making a part of that place a piece of who I am. 

Box Installation Project

     Here are some photographs that I am considering using in my box installation project. The box will be similar to those of Joseph Cornell’s and include pressed flowers, small various antique frames, a picture jar and botany illustrations.

Profile: Patrick Evans-Hylton

Patrick Evans-Hylton stands behind the kitchen bar in his apartment and smirks at the camera focused upon him. The smirk says everything. It shows that he is a man of confidence and wit, but a quick glance behind the thick-rimmed designer glasses gives a glimmer of something much deeper. His blue eyes give him away. There is a compassion and vulnerability that argues that being as accomplished as he is, as host of a food segment on the local news and senior editor of Hampton Roads Magazine, it’s nowhere near as easy as he makes it look. 

As Patrick continues filming his “Everyday Gourmet” segment for WVEC, channel 13 news, he slices, sizzles, and sautés with the adeptness of a chef that has been cooking since puberty. Nonetheless, Evans-Hylton didn’t begin cooking professionally until his 30’s after a chance meeting with Martha Stewart who encouraged him to attend Johnson & Wales. The intensity of the adoration for his work is apparent, but the journey for Patrick to find his perfect career was full of tribulations.

Patrick’s parents were just 16 and 17 years old in Dalton, Georgia when his mother’s parents caught them messing around. They were immediately forced into a shotgun wedding that same day. “They weren’t in love; they were simply young,” Patrick says in between takes as he nods wisely. Patrick was born exactly nine months later on March 30, 1965. However, his father was from a wealthy family who did not approve of the wedding and paid his mother’s parents $10,000 to have her put into a mental institution while they arranged a divorce. After the divorce was finalized, an additional sum was given to have her sent away entirely. 

Consequently, Patrick was raised by his grandparents on his mother’s side in the suburbs of Atlanta. It was not until 1982 when he found his mother as a homeless alcoholic and addict who was unresponsive to offers of care and love. Patrick has not spoken to his mother in a year and last heard that she was not visiting the doctor for her progressing emphysema, colon, and breast cancer. He does not know if she is dead or alive. Evans-Hylton whispers sadly, “I can’t say exactly what emotions I have for my mother. Love, but not the same love a child has for a mother. Compassion. Sympathy.” He does know how he was impacted not knowing her growing up. 

Patrick learned maturity and how to perceive crisis in his life in a different perspective. He never falls victim to a situation, yet makes the best of it. He also feels its unimportant whether his mother and father raised him, but that those who did showed devotion. “Life is a series of comings and goings – and the labels we attach to people we get to know along the way do not matter as much as the relationship we have with those people. There is something to take from everyone, and something to give one and all. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just life.” Evans-Hylton knows that connections with people are the most significant aspect of his life. Through his freelancing, editing, the many books he has published, and his show on television, Patrick impacts the Hampton Roads region instantly with the obvious sincerity and ambition he possesses. 

Patrick states as another influence from his childhood that affects who he has become today, his aunt, Brenda. Brenda was the same age as his mother, and although she went to Georgia State for teaching, she was unsatisfied with the area and became a flight attendant. Patrick describes her as worldly. As he whips and purees, his eyes move up towards the ceiling in reflection and recalls her; “…My aunt was young and beautiful – a kind of Mary Tyler Moore – very sophisticated.” She lived in Washington D.C. and on a visit there he tried his first ethnic food, one of his current favorite cuisines.  

Brenda often scheduled a delay in Atlanta for a few hours, and Patrick and his grandmother would go to the airport and have lunch with her. An automatic fascination with aviation blossomed and soon Patrick knew many of the pilots and flight attendants who let him wander around and inside the jets. Eventually, his grandmother would bring him to the airport and sit and read for hours while he explored. 

After seeing “Airport” with Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bissett and Helen Hayes, Patrick grew into the familiar adventuresome character he still is these days. “I was fascinated with the way the Helen Hayes character just walked onto a plane and stowed away. I knew I had to try.” It was early 1978, and the airport security was much less complex. Evans-Hylton gets a devious sheen to his eyes as he explains how he asked for a ticket jacket at the gates, borrowed a grease pencil from another counter, and soon he had a remarkably convincing ticket to Wichita. 

Patrick hid in the lavatory until the plane took off, and then found a seat and enjoyed the ride. “Funny thing how you don’t always think things through. Once we landed, I realized I had to get back to Atlanta. I stood at the gate and cried, and a gate agent asked what was wrong. I said I had gotten on the wrong plane. She asked where was I supposed to go. I said Atlanta. She said, ‘But you just got off a plane from Atlanta.’ I cried harder. I said ‘I’m only 12 years old, I’m confused,’” Patrick says as he demonstrates his early use of persuasion. It was plain that before long Atlanta would not be able to house the booming personality of Patrick Evans-Hylton.

Patrick applied his finesse to many different professions before finding the one that he loved unconditionally. While wiping the sweat off his brow with his sleeve and simultaneously stirring a fluffy white substance that is growing exponentially by the second he says, “One thing I learned from my grandparents is to work, and work hard.” His first jobs were various managing positions at grocery stores, which occupied him for about eight years. Next, he applied his education in finance and accounting from the American Institute of Banking at the National Bank of Georgia (which later became First American Bank), Decatur Federal Savings & Loan, and Bank South. His banking career started with working in corporate services at the main office, went to domestic money transfer, then to the branch as a customer service representative.

Yet Evans-Hylton felt restless. He left banking occasionally to be a flight attendant and to work in public relations and special events for Stone Mountain Park. Other jobs included part-time at Macy’s, part-time selling newspapers for The Atlanta Journal, and other various means of living. 

Focusing on his interests, he decided to continue his education at Virginia Wesleyan for liberal arts and Johnson & Wales for culinary arts. Patrick then became a food and beverage manager for a country club in Suffolk, ran his own catering business, taught cooking classes at area venues, and began writing about food. He was also a staff writer at two area papers, where he covered a number of beats from cops and fire to courts, city council, schools and lifestyle. Patrick shrugs as he adds to his monstrous list of achievements, “I have also freelanced a lot of writing – too many publications to even remember.” Despite everything he has accomplished, he is most proud of his latest projects.

Patrick Evans-Hylton is now Senior Editor at Hampton Roads Magazine (HRM). HRM will also be launching a statewide food and wine magazine next year that Evans-Hylton will act as the managing editor for. He additionally hosts the weekly cooking segment on WVEC TV-13, oversees some public relations and special events for Miller Oil Co., and is the contributing editor for Edible Chesapeake Magazine, among other things. When asked how he went about getting his competitive positions, he answers, 

“I have found that in life, you go right to the decision maker and you ask for what you want. No pussy-footing around. You go in confident of your abilities and only promise what you know you can deliver. And while you have to remain flexible, on items you have to stand firm on, do so. What is the worse that can happen? Someone says no? What is the best that can happen – someone says yes. But you may never hear “yes” unless you take the first step.”

Patrick understands what people respond to, and that only you know your own abilities and should be able to market them. 

 Patrick is active in volunteerism, currently serving on the board for Tidewater Community College’s culinary arts program, March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, and others. When given an astonished look in response to his current job description, Patrick states, “I guess like in all of life, the more you do, the more you are exposed to, the more people you meet, the bigger database you have in the way you live your life.” However, passion is not only found in his work. 

One definite difference between Patrick and all the other usual workaholics is he actually has a love life and unlike most of us in general— a good one. Patrick refuses to be limited by those who feel sexual orientation defines a person. Evans-Hylton has been with his partner for 17 years and regards him as his soul mate. Patrick says he could have been with a woman just as easily if he had loved her the way he loves his partner. He exclaims, “So many people only see the act of sex as being gay. Is Senator Craig from Idaho gay just because he likes sex with another man? Well, I hope he’s not on my team. Anyway. Love is love and sex is sex and only love defines who you are.” 

Patrick has met many adversaries to his beliefs on love and the freedom of it, luckily only affecting his career in banking. Sighing and looking around the room to see if anyone’s paying attention, he says, 

“But regardless, I feel I have to be who I am, and if someone else doesn’t like that, that’s fine. I probably don’t like who they are either. I am not going to let the fact that I am gay, or that I have blue eyes, or that I am right handed, or any other thing about me that I can’t change, dictate the way I live my life.”

Patrick is admirable in his fortitude. His ability to be strong yet sensitive is inspiring professionally and personally.

After the last shot for the segment, he begins handing out the food he just prepared on camera to the crew and guest appearances. The entire day has been seamless and Patrick appears to have perfected every aspect of filming effortlessly. He tells how he is talking to producers about expanding his career in television and radio and the devious smirk appears once again, giving hint to the domination of another field. 

When asked what he would like to be remembered for, he jokes “Being able to tie together two maraschino cherry stems in my mouth,” then seriously adds “I don’t want people lamenting about me after I am gone. I’d rather people enjoy the contributions I make now, rather than later. I try hard to work with youth to get them on the right path for their culinary careers. I try to work hard to promote our restaurants and chefs. I try hard to preserve our foodways. Tell me you like what I do now, not later.”

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