Southern Moves

Mix Well in a Large U-Haul Truck

  • 19 years of Thomasville, North Carolina
  • 2 years of Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 1 year of Cary, North Carolina
  • 6 months of Thomasville, North Carolina
  • 2 years of Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 4 years of Cary, North Carolina
  • 2 years of Morrisville, North Carolina
  • 5 years of Fuquay Varina, North Carolina
  • 3 years of Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 1 year of Thomasville, North Carolina
  • 4 months of Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 3 years of Cary, North Carolina

Yields: 17 moves

Add ingredients one at a time.

Warning: out-of-state moves should be pursued with extreme caution.

white and black lighthouse under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Oz Abu on Unsplash

Despite moving across North Carolina back-and-forth several times, you’ll see that the one place I wind up most is in the Research Triangle and all the cities are in the same state. The state that I have called home for the last 40 years of my 40 year life, and no matter where I go, will hold an immense place in my heart.

So, why on earth would I want to reduce my physical footprint and pack up to move to Baltimore, Maryland of all places? Am I really trading “Land of the Beige” (Cary) and “The City of Oaks” for the “Charm City”? Money? To start over? To run away? None of those reasons, actually. In fact, I’m moving to a strange land (although, it is south of the Mason-Dixon line) and taking a large pay cut to do something essential to my survival and happiness.

Without disparaging my former employer, it is a wonderful place to work and the people there are wonderful. I will miss all of my former colleagues. But as things would happen in life, it no longer holds a place for me to fulfill my calling to do good for the betterment of the world.

Several years ago, I thought that social work was my calling. And yes, I openly admit, I’m one of those bleeding-heart types who cares about everything and everyone. I was ready to throw 15+ years of software engineering experience into the trash and enter an entirely different field, where people, not machines, were the ones being “worked on”. I couldn’t see that my first love, the one thing I was good at, was useful for the common good. Well, not at least to the extent I wanted.

It’s true that at one time, I tried to write a mobile application that would assist mental health professionals and consumers connect with real-time symptom reporting, but that project, unfortunately, never got past the ideation phase.

Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash

After 15 years, I had become jaded working in the IT industry. Most of my former projects and employers existed to make the company money and nothing else. (I’m looking at you, Big Blue.) I’m not here to debate capitalism at all. I know full well, as a former entrepreneur myself, that for-profit companies exist for one reason and one reason alone – to make profits for its shareholders. There are exceptions to this rule, but only one company I wound up in 15 years did something I considered good. That company, which has traded hands since I worked there, still produces online programs for training medical personnel, primarily doctors working with infectious diseases in poorer countries. Unfortunately, I was laid off when a project to train nurses was cancelled.

About two years after I won (or I should say, started winning) my battle with mental illness, I wound up at a wonderful company, TARGET PharmaSolutions in Durham, North Carolina. Their mission was to help research rare and incurable diseases. Again, I enjoyed the company of my colleagues and the work I did there. I was proud that as the system programmer for the company’s REDCap system, I contributed, albeit small, to the common good. Unfortunately, as the company grows, and its needs become more complex, they outgrew REDCap.

They offered me the option of becoming a Golang developer and moving on to other projects, while keeping the same salary and benefits. However, I felt that I could not keep up with my peers on the technology team, and I had grown fascinated with the REDCap system and its power to change the course of medical research. This was further validated when I was part of Duke University Health System‘s COVID-19 surveillance study, powered by REDCap, and not proprietary software.

REDCap is the only known EDC that is open-source (well, sort of, but that’s a complicated story). I can use my 20+ years of experience in the PHP programming language to make REDCap even better through customizations and sharing in a community of over 4,300 research institutions using REDCap. So, it disheartened me when I heard TARGET PharmaSolutions pulled the plug on REDCap. I had spent the last year learning the entire codebase with no help, no documentation, and a lot of trial-and-error. I still wanted to work with the system and further its capabilities, either for the entire REDCap community, or at least for another research institution.

baltimore, harbor, bay
Photo by 1778011 on Pixabay

That search led me to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where they were the lead institution for the Major Extremity Trauma and Rehabilitation Consortium (METRC). One day after I applied for their opening for a REDCap developer, I was contacted, and my first interview was setup for the next business day. They conducted all of my interviews within the same week. During the interview process, salary never came up. I thought I would accept any amount where I could still support myself (and most importantly, my children). After some negotiation by the hiring manager with university human resources, they came back with a number I could literally live on. However, a meager salary with a world-class university and hospital system isn’t something to take lightly. The opportunity to grow my career and knowledge is priceless.

For me, the move is a win-win-win. Not only do I get to work on a project that helps people, but I get to work on an amazing piece of open-source, but it takes me out of North Carolina for the very first time in my life. Living wise, that is. Not that I’ve never left the state. Though, I can count on one hand the times I have literally left North Carolina. Unfortunately, the only loss that may come into play with me moving 6-hours away from my children, is the relationship I have with my children. They both have paid cellular phone plans so they can contact me 24×7 either via voice or video, but the physical time I spend with them will become more limited. I spoke with them and they seem to be okay with it, but that might only be because the move hasn’t happened and won’t until January 2021.

So, while I am excited about the move to a research university and to a “larger” city (technically Charlotte is larger in both population and square miles) it’s also a bit nerve-wracking. I haven’t even visited Baltimore, only passed through it on my way to and from Philadelphia. I literally do not know a soul that lives there. It’s dizzying arrays of neighborhoods, is, well, dizzying to me at the moment. The transit map made my eyes bug out of my head. This move will be, without a doubt, one of the largest adventures of my life. Of course, transition has been and will be the adventure of my life. (Yet another post for a different day.)

So join me on this blog as I start off on this new adventure and experience all the joy, confusion, and expense of a transwoman moving to a whole new city in a whole new state on a whole new job experience. I promise it will be fun and exciting.

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