It’s been tough.
But not for any linear reason, thing, place or activity.
I remember really vividly every single move I made from age 5 to 36. 8 different grade schools, dozens of different rental houses and at 20, selling all of my things and moving to San Francisco then at 25 selling it all again and moving to New Hampshire. This move to Charlotte was different. I got to not only bring all of my things with me to Charlotte but also my wife and our dog. It was a family move versus a ‘I can just buy a new couch’ kind of move.
Yet that didn’t change the situation. Not for better or worse, really.
I think the difference is I needed to be back in Florida when I was in middle school and we picked up in Alabama to move back south. I missed my grandparents and the beach. I needed to be in San Francisco. I yearned for it and took immense risks to move across country. When my mental health waned and burnout struck, I needed to be in New Hampshire. I yearned for it. Leaving NH and moving to CLT was because of a job and an insanely great career opportunity with an added benefit of being able to ride my motorcycles year-round and be closer to my family but there was not a yearning.
We can get by on a high for a while when we attain what we’ve been yearning for.
I’ll talk about the job later but this has nothing to do with the job. Any job I would have taken in any place except San Francisco would have been a similar quench. My wife and I talk about it every day. We’re here for one reason. This is an investment in us, our future and my career. To achieve a lifestyle and retirement we can live well on back in New Hampshire.
Why isn’t Charlotte doing it for me?
Charlotte is great. There are over a million people here. We’re going to movies, concerts, sports and events many times a week. We spend our mornings and weekends hiking on the wonderfully maintained trails and preserves that dot the city and the outskirts. I’m 5 miles north of horse-farms and 10 miles south of the city center. I can be at my mom and dad’s house in 6 hours versus 21 and we have an airport 18 minutes from the house. Any kind of food I want, it’s here. No shoveling snow or putting on winter tires or dealing with seasons that last entirely too long. It’s a typical southern city like many dozens of other southern cities. Everything was built in the last 100 years and it has everything I need.
Charlotte is not northern New Hampshire. Dirt roads & natural trails that run to canada, clean and clear lakes, a complete lack of traffic. Charlotte requires I ride my dirt bike 50 miles on pavement to find dirt roads and sit in 30 minutes of traffic to get 10 miles. It’s 86 degrees out all week and it’s only May so it’s only going to get hotter. It really is missing the community feeling and culture I had in NH and keep in mind, I never really made a lot of friends up North. I had friends but they were all tied to hobbies so if I gave up beer and motorcycling, I wouldn’t have any friends left. I had Heather’s family but if something happened to her, they wouldn’t be calling me up every week to see how I’m doing. So to yearn for NH while in Charlotte isn’t a social thing that will be fixed by making friends down here. It’s truly that the wide open forests and culture and lifestyle of being up North..that self-reliance to chop your own wood and always have a full tank of gas and communities who take care of each other because it’s truly life or death. I miss that. I miss the makers who have a true sense of place to homestead and make what their parents and grandparents made. Think of Charlotte like Minas Tirith and New Hampshire like The Shire. Even without friends, the shire is a far more quaint and warmer place to live than the stone-structure of the last city of men (Lord of The Rings reference).
In only 6 months, the amusement of Charlotte and the proximity to family and the lack of shoveling snow didn’t make me miss New Hampshire any less. I miss New England. I’m not afraid to admit it.
Is this yearn strong enough to have me quit and move home? No. This isn’t a yearn like someone would for oxygen when drowning. It’s not that dire. I can miss something without needing to escape and go back to it. Heather and I have been very honest. A few years some place other than where we consider home is okay and a sacrifice we want to make. If you work with me and are reading this, don’t worry.
I mentioned San Francisco earlier. What gives? I still want to be back there. Heather has been there a few times with me. We both yearn to spend some of our years in the Bay Area. I look forward to going back for a bit and she wants to live on the west coast for a while. This will continue to be a goal for us. If something opens up over there and allows me to do the kind of work for the kind of company I’m at now, it’ll be hard to pass up.
We’re going to continue living our life in Charlotte, saving our money and enjoying the local amenities. I know life will happen eventually likely in 5 or so years when her parents need her care and we’re forced to move back North without a lot of wiggle room. That’s marriage. She would do the same for me once my parents get old. A little known fact that I was applying to jobs all over the country. Again, this wasn’t about Charlotte but instead my career so we were up for almost any city except a few and I feel to have really lucked out to have a great job in a brand new industry (Finance) in a relatively affordable area. We would have to have made some big sacrifices for any west coast job so I’m thankful for Charlotte as the jumping off point.
Since I moved here for a job, how is THAT going?
A caveat that every job I’ve ever had contained ups and downs. I really enjoyed working with people at Arby’s running the drive thru when I was 16 but I did not like having to take over the fryers during lunch rush. Coaching and mentoring people at Apple was a blast but living in the age of Apple of immense secrecy beyond what current Apple is like was again, tough to swallow. I’ve had a dozen jobs. None of them perfect.
Where I’m working is pretty close to perfect and I think it’s because from the very beginning, the founders of the company and their first dozen or so hires focused on employee morale, satisfaction and a culture of inclusiveness. All of us have to get the job done. It’s a high-tech environment where you show up ready to work. You are going to be creative and use every bit of your intellect every single day but you raise your hand without any fear of persecution or judgement. You feel comfortable speaking up and sharing. You won’t feel shame and everyone at every level has a voice. There were individuals at my last job with these ethics but to have this with everyone around you is really special. I want to do my best work because I know it’ll be valued and folks all around me are going to appreciate it. It’s a culture I have never had before and I’m the happiest at my job than I have ever been at every single job in my life. It’s a hard job but emotionally fulfilling.
So…what’s not perfect? First, every company is struggling with this but when I show up in the office I want everyone on my team there. Every tech company is trying to drive an office culture post-COVID and it’s really tough. Being a global company, there will always be someone on Zoom. You can’t avoid it. I LOVE team meetings when everyone is in the same room. I’m hungry for it and I don’t know if that is shared by the rest of the company yet. Also, I’ve transitioned from a company where 80% of my team is 6 hours ahead (Belgium) to everyone being 3 hours behind (Oakland) so where I used to have afternoons free for productivity, I now have my mornings to be productive before the west coast wakes up.
Finally, I’m really hungry to meet and work with some of our experts. We must have folks who are the top in their field/product/industry working here but I haven’t met all of them yet so I really just want to get on a first name basis with our fellows or alumni. We had these at TomTom and boy was it a treat to just have lunch with them and walk away feeling inspired and fired up. TomTom was 30 years old and CK is only 12 so these sort of things take time.
Overall, I’ve been very clear to everyone who asks. Moving to Charlotte was a pay-cut. Plain and simple. My wife went remote and we traded a northern NH cost of living for a city cost of living. My mortgage in NH was $1250 a month. My rent in CLT is $2000. My motorcycle insurance for 4 bikes went from $600 a year to $2000 and our cars doubled as well. Food is 30% more expensive and we spend $400 more a month on utilities since my NH house was solar powered and well water serviced with wood to keep it warm. Charlotte is roughly 50% more expensive so we’ve cut back on a lot of our travel and pulled way back on spending. We were going to Belgium, SF, Florida and a few other places 6 times a year in addition to upgrading cars every 3 years and always having the latest iPhones. We have gotten way more conservative and eat out just once a week now.
So I am putting in 200% of myself into this job in hopes to earn (not be entitled to) a raise at some point. I must earn it and the truth is, at TomTom I was at the top of my pay-band for a decade and a promotion would have required someone retiring and with an average tenure of 15 years in my office, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I have upward mobility here that I didn’t have at TomTom and, if I’m worthy, I want to earn a place as a leader in my team and help our org get more done than we ever thought was possible. I believe this to my core that I can have that effect and if I’m successful, I’ll be making more than if I had ended up making staying at TomTom…not much more but more and that’s why we’re here in Charlotte to save for retirement, pay off our house in New Hampshire faster and hopefully set myself up for the next stage of my career as a Director of Global Program Management for a spec and process driven multinational company in the next 6 years. Because at some point, when we have to move back to New Hampshire, I need to have the skills and resume to find a remote job. I’ll travel for business as much as needed but a remote job that pays enough to put kids through school without financial stress. We’re not there yet and the kind of remote jobs I qualify for don’t pay as much so here we are…putting our necks out there to make something.
This is probably the most honest I’ve been on this blog in a very long time. Maybe it’s being in my late-30s that’s causing me to be a bit more direct into the universe about what my intentions are…the kind of things I said on this blog when I was 16-22 years old and before I felt like an adult.
Overall, Charlotte is a tough place to be BUT man I am so luck to have found this amazing company. The best place to work I’ve ever seen and I hope what I’m doing for them is adding value enough that they think it’s worth rewarding. I’m putting it all out there but I want to earn it and I hope this big risk we took leaving home and our jobs to come down here will be worth it in the end. Only time will tell.
That’s my 6 month update. See you in another 6 months. I’m happy but I miss New Hampshire.
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