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The Legend of Billie Jean (Movie) - When do I get a body like Helen Slater?
Hillsdale Lake is situated just off Battleground Avenue up Strawberry Road. It's a gorgeous lake on a quiet side road with a small pier and a tiny pavilion. Throw a 1977 Instagram filter on your selfie and lay out on the wood boardwalk as the warm summer breeze blows over your mid-drift. It all takes you back to simpler times. Think 80s movies like the Legend of Billie Jean. You could easily Pinterest Hillsdale as the idyllic life for Greensboro. That's until Becky shows up in her mini-van.

I've been going to Hillsdale since I was a teenager. A friend of a friend divulged this secret skinny dipping spot to our band of merry troublemakers in a former life. During the 90s, we were chased out of this community by the cops more times than I can count. As a teenager it was warranted. We'd arrive after midnight, often doing what teenagers in Greensboro do.

Yesterday, after a bit of chicken and waffles from Dame's we drove with the top down on the Mustang out to the lake, a car unlike my teenage years, good enough to pass (barely) to the bourgeois whose homes line the lake. It was for a bit of nostalgia as I just wanted to see the old place. I was surprised that I could remember exactly how to get there as it had been more than a decade since I had visited. It still looked exactly the same... beautiful and empty, isolated.

We walked out on the pier, sat on the edge and just enjoyed what could have easily become the cover of the next indie band's LP cover. My eyes were closed as the sun hit my face as I heard Becky's mini-van roll up. I could hear her heavy stepped walk approach us with hesitation as she unloaded her numerous beach items from her vehicle. Slowly, she prepared her squat on the man-made beach letting out audible grunts of frustration.  As the boards on the pier creaked with her approach, I could feel both her apprehension and her disgust that two women dare share her neighborhood lake.

Becky with her corpulent legs poking through her swimsuit had seen better days. She deserved a day at the beach, no doubt. Her ample thighs were the first thing I caught sight of as I opened my eyes, somewhat ruining the gorgeous scenery. As a fat girl myself with my own shameful body, I understand the vulnerability of going public in bathing suits (it took me 30 some years to buy my first bikini). As Becky began her interrogation of why we were on the pier and lake (owned by the home owner's association), I could sense her feeling of vulnerability and that she expected no one to be here. I get it.

I explained to her that we were just checking out the old place and we weren't causing any trouble. She demanded we leave. A giant lake with no one using it, but Becky wanted it all to herself. I accept that I don't look my age, I know she doesn't know who I am or my education level. In this moment, Becky wanted to teach me the lesson of the 1%. Clearly, in her eyes, I wasn't apart of that elite Greensboro demographic. As I translated her tone and language to words only us poor hoodlums could understand, I heard "go back to where you came from". I asked her, "Does it bother you that we're here?" - She seemed flustered, and stated that the lake is only available for people rich enough to own a home here and their guests. She could have easily offered to sponsor us, but why would anyone share nature when you're entitled to the whole damn place to yourself. "We will leave if we make you feel uncomfortable.", I said. She shrugged and couldn't even muster a "yes" as she turned to grab a water bottle, clutched so tightly that the plastic sides of the container began to crack under the pressure of her hand.

So we left. So, Dear Becky of Hillsdale Lake and other residents. Sorry for invading your beautiful solitude. Sorry for sharing a moment in the sunshine of in the shadows of your beautiful homes. I'll go back to my cow patch now and dream about those moments from the windows of the trailer park. Here's wishing you and your day at the lake was the best. Thanks for your southern hospitality and warmth in our shared humanity.
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?
Back to The Future
Brown Versus The Board of Education was handed down May 17, 1954, now, some sixty plus years in the future the remnants of the court case that ended separate schools for blacks and whites still remain. In the small town of Liberty, North Carolina still exists West Liberty High School, known by many locals as The Old School.

Built in 1966, it was the newest of schools in the Randolph County School System and would have made a perfect place for the bright young minds of the area after integration. However, the town was split in two. Two downtowns, two schools and two colors were literally divided by the railroad track through the middle of town and that served as a barrier between Liberty and West Liberty.

Rather than close the older "white" school or permit both schools to operate whereby white students might need to venture into the "black" side of town, the school board, undoubtedly with racist political pressure, decided to close the newer school in West Liberty. The result was that students were required to walk the three miles into town to the remaining school on the "white" side of town. Residents who remember the closing of the school claim it was "devastating" and "meant a loss of community and pride".

Now privately owned, the structure remains abandoned and in decay despite pleas from the community for the city to purchase the infrastructure and turn it into a community center. Recently, it was added to the record of historical structures in Randolph County.

We decided to do a bit of urban exploration at the old gymnasium and was amazed at what we saw. While it's a sad to witness, I find it a bit ironic, especially in light of the recent HB2 legislation, that there's still something to learn here some sixty years after desegregation.

The gymnasium floor, stage and basketball goal.

The clock and scoreboard stopped in time.

It's amazing, there's still toilet paper on the roll from the mid 20th century.

A hallway inside the main building.

An abandoned classroom.

Image credit: Chance Jones