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Monday, December 10, 2012

The big move

Twenty-six years ago today, Gail and I loaded Ryan (13 months old at the time), one dog, and two cats in our cars and headed north on I-85 from Atlanta. It was moving day at 5:00 a.m.

I was frustrated because this was the very scenario I had tried to avoid. Four years prior, I worked for a company that eventually became part of Sprint. They wanted their engineers, who were scattered across the country, to relocate to a central site. I had already traveled to Kansas City enough to know that I didn't want to live there, so I found a job at Nortel. Six months later, Nortel announced that the entire group I had joined would relocate to Raleigh. I raised my hands in surrender and muttered something about God's will that was theologically incorrect if not sacrilegious.

I'm thankful that God has a sense of humor. Even the process of relocating had a funny moment. Most of my colleagues had already relocated twice at Nortel's behest -- from Montreal to Ottawa, then to Atlanta -- and were not in the mood to relocate again. Raleigh HR sent two brave souls to reassure us. The conversation:

  • You'll love Raleigh.
  • Oh yeah - why?
  • There's so much to do. You'll be two hours from the beach, three hours from the mountains, and four hours from Washington DC.
  • In other words, we'll be hours from anywhere we'd really want to be!
That's a tough audience. Intellectually, the concern was that we were moving from a large city to a medium-sized city -- but one that paradoxically had higher real estate costs. Would there be as many job opportunities in Raleigh in case Nortel didn't pan out? Would Raleigh be like Hooterville?

It turns out that Raleigh has been grand -- so much so, that in retrospect I'm happy we left Atlanta when we did. Raleigh grew and became a decent-sized but very liveable and likeable city. Most everyone in our neighborhood was a transplant too, and consequently the part of Raleigh where we landed was at least as diverse and forward-thinking as Atlanta, if not more so. Raleigh has been a great place to raise children, and we have thrived here. As we look ahead to retirement, there is nothing to compel us to move elsewhere.

But watching the sun rise over the South Carolina countryside on Dec. 10, 1986, I didn't know that the outcome would be so positive.