Purposeless, Jobs and Public Relations in North Carolina.

My zip code used to be a castle. 
I hit the submit button on the application for a job I don't really want. A horrible call-center in Greensboro not unlike the one I used to work at many years ago. Sylvestor Stallone's Rocky voice rolls through my head, "Did we ever really leave this place Adrian?". The thought of taking this job is enough to make me crawl into the bath-tub, pull the curtain closed, draw a warm bath and gently take a rusted razor-blade across my wrist. I ask myself, "Maybe a master's degree from an ivy league UK university was a bad idea?", as I clutch my student loan bill. The veins in my head pulsate as I peruse the classified sections of two major newspapers in the Piedmont Triad with only about three actual jobs in them. "Did I really put all this effort into my education to become a biscuit maker at Bojangles again?", I contemplate.

Three weeks ago I was travelling across Spain on foot. I walked from southern France over the Pyranees to the west coast of Spain with only a backpack and a bit of courage. My feet became raw, the skin de-gloving itself from my toes and becoming infected before I spent three days in a Spanish hospital where no one spoke English.  I've now lived more in Europe these last few years more than I have in the U.S. In that time I've learned other languages, accrued five degrees and traveled to more than fifteen countries. I've visited Nazi war camps, karaoked with drag queens, crawled in ancient Roman caves in hidden underground cities and climbed to Napoleon's final defeat among numerous other adventures. Along the way, I've met the most beautiful, wonderful people who have taught me a bit of German, Hindi, Chinese and other languages. I've slept in some weird places (old barns, monasteries, a nunnery), and had some experiences that would be difficult to explain in a single blog post (like living next door to a castle). Then about two weeks ago, after three days on planes, sleeping on benches,still  riddled with an infection and my last clean pair of underwear, I landed at Raleigh Durham Airport. Suddenly, none of that mattered.

Since I've been home, I've fallen back into routine, I'm looking for work now.  I've been incredibly hungry. I've eaten at every Mexican restaurant in North Carolina. I grabbed some Bojangles, dropped by Smith Diner more than once and gained an untold amount of weight back that I had lost walking across the Spanish Meseta.  Before I graduated in July, I had high aspirations for working internationally, maybe even having a job that paid enough so my children and my spouse wouldn't have to worry about where the next meal was coming from. I started out with nothingness and clawed my way through education and experience. I desperately want to work in my field but the opportunities here seem to be limited. I know I have a lot to give. I won't go into accolades, but anyone who knows and follows me knows I've been an influencer both online and off for more than a decade. I'm good at it and that's why I've traveled down this road.

This road, one that I'll admit I didn't expect would bring me back to North Carolina. A place where most people don't seem to understand what public relations is. If they do, they seem to have an alternate idea of expectations compared to my experiences in Europe or to that I've witnessed from friends in Asia. It's a highly professional field that encompasses everything from executive consultancy to corporate communications between both internal and external stakeholders. When I do find jobs in North Carolina, they're often looking for high-schoolers who can Facebook or Twitter. Sure I can do that (really well in fact) but I can also clean your toilets and rebuild carburetors too. I didn't go to university to work for minimum wage selling kitty litter to people who love Grumpy Cat. I went to school for something more profound. At least, I hope I did.

Look I know I'm supposed to act all professional. Pretend like I'm on the verge of success at any moment, but I'm human. I'm fallible and I'm struggling to figure it all out. I've graduated, I've finished my summer abroad and now I'm unemployed (or technically self-employed as I still earn an income from writing), purposeless and just trying to make it to what's next. I'm okay with admitting this. I'm okay as long as I don't have to go back to that person I used to be before this whole adventure started. Don't force me into a southern accent, a pickup truck and a sustained unconscious ignorance of my own lack of expectation. I can't go back, I won't go back.

If you've ever wondered why graduating students don't stay in North Carolina afterwards, maybe this is why? You live here, you die here (many at a young age). Meanwhile, those of us who stay (reluctantly or otherwise), hoping to change, who are fighting on these front lines of North Carolina's (possibly antiquated) hiring practices and workplace hierarchies, are simply trying to survive right now. I have friends who have graduated with bachelor's degrees (from UNC) working at coffee shops, Target, and sandwich shops.  Is this the life that we can expect as graduates of higher education? To serve coffee from a drive-thru window to the "good ole boys club" as they mispronounce "cappuccino" from the windows of their tobacco filled company cars?  Is it corruption we're fighting? Ignorance? How long can I stay here having seen so much?  How long will I keep fighting for a job in my home of North Carolina when I know how little there is left for me to stay?

They say life is simple. You make a decision and don't look back. Maybe my biggest mistake was ever coming home?


  1. I'm selfish so I'm glad you are still making the attempt to call North Carolina home (and maybe maintain your blog). However, your points are well stated and probably true. Another decision may have opened real doors given time. So I'll make a suggestion which has probably already occurred to you and ask if you have looked for firms which need to maintain public relations with North Carolina?

  2. I'm looking at all my options. I'm really considering all serious opportunities. Unfortunately, I'm either ignorant to where these real opportunities exist, or I'm not effective enough on paper for hiring managers to consider myself qualified.

  3. Hang in there. NC is going to need some serious public relations to undo all the damage to our reputation, once we get #onetermPat out of office. We'll need an entire team of PR people to repair that damage.

  4. Thanks Art3mis... I'm hanging in there the best I can!


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