Editor’s note: Don Shin is president and CEO of CrossComm, an interactive consultancy based out of Durham that integrates creativity and technology to create a range of solutions. This article was originally published on the firm’s blog.
DURHAM — My wife Deborah and I recently took our four children to the beach for the very first time; with the Atlantic Ocean as their backdrop, the kids felt the unique experience of water shifting the sand beneath their feet, challenging them to re-find their balance. The uneasiness with the foreign gave way to glee as they observed the never-ending push and pull of the waves. We got to stay long enough to observe the changing tides, revealing then obscuring the vast treasure trove of seashells. After rushing to collect bucketfuls of seashells before losing them to the rising tide, my eldest exclaimed, “This is the best day of my entire life!” — which for a 6-year-old may, in fact, be more truth than hyperbole.
The tides of life are likewise never ceasing — refreshing the landscape before us, making old surroundings new, presenting fresh experiences before us and challenging our notions of permanence. For some of you, this might come as news: After 15 years away (with 10 of them spent in Austin), my wife Deborah and I along with our 4 children moved back to Durham, North Carolina at the very end of 2018.
With CrossComm firmly rooted in Durham, the idea of relocating back to reunite with my team has been a recurring consideration for years. But for us, the decision to finally pull the trigger was both a culmination and convergence of a lot of changing life developments; it would be fair to say that the arrival of our 4th child a year ago was a game-changer- necessitating more work-life balance, less travel, and stronger integration with community.
CrossComm’s trajectory was also creating demand for a shift in the status quo: the positive momentum we experienced in 2017 and 2018 made it clear that the company was on the verge of achieving escape velocity towards greater things- assuming there was a requisite increase in hands-on leadership to see it through. And on a personal level, I was finally ready to get past the emotional trauma of the Great Recession 10 years prior and face anew the challenge of taking CrossComm to higher heights. All these life developments- along with complementary changes with Deborah’s work situation- made a relocation to Durham the increasingly obvious choice.
Change is never easy — especially when children are involved. The family landed into North Carolina at the tail end of a cold front; they saw the rare sight of snow for a day, then we all promptly got sick. Fast forward 4 months and the house is still swamped with unpacked boxes, silently taunting us with the paradox of how both precious and useless our belongings are. But our house in Old North Durham is now a home, and we have been able to form new family rituals for thriving in a place that is both foreign and familiar. I’ve gotten over the awkwardness of seeing my team every day and not having to say goodbye at the end of the week (and I hope they’ve gotten over the awkwardness of seeing me daily as well.
In fact, that has become one of my life’s delights — the privilege of seeing both my work colleagues and my family every day and not having to choose between one or the other is still pure joy for which I am daily thankful. I am grateful for being able to solve challenges and collaborate face-to-face with my team members, partners, and clients; I am grateful for reconnecting with old community from years past and reuniting with a city that never left my heart- one with a rich, historic commitment to diversity that continues to reinvent itself for the future. I am grateful for living a more integrated life.
So what’s next for us? For my family, 2019 will be a year of rekindling old friendships and investing in new ones- and of continuing to form new rituals for a thriving life. For CrossComm, this year will be about pushing boundaries to see how far the company can go with a leadership team that is fully present and active- with incremental, steady growth and a more local focus. Our company has spent the past two decades building awesome software and apps out of our Durham office for organizations across the world- but we’ve done a poor job of maintaining a strong presence here at home. On top of that, we’ve always been better about doing great work than talking about it, quietly embodying the North Carolina motto, “Esse quam videri” — to be rather than to seem.
Rather than stay a secret, 2019 will be a year of reintroducing ourselves to our community — increasingly employing our gifts and talents for organizations right here in Durham and throughout the Triangle, participating in the tech revival of the southeast region in a more intentional way. Clearly, we’ve got a lot of work to do — but I haven’t been this excited about work in years.
Returning to Durham has felt like a homecoming- and when I say that the past few months have been some of the best of our lives, I sincerely believe this sentiment is more rooted in truth than hyperbole as well. No doubt, the tides of life will continue to ebb and flow- change is constant and unstoppable. In the meantime, I’m super excited to be back in Durham- collecting seashells, relishing work and life.