March 2, 2008
Over the weekend, Anh and I attended the Microsoft event for senior technical folks in the company. It’s generally at some sort of destination location, and spouses/guests are invited. Over the past two years, it’s been in Vancouver, then San Francisco, and this year it was in Palm Springs.
The date for this one was significant for me – my three month anniversary for my FFS surgery. The significance was that three months was the date for the last of the “restrictions” on me. The last two were wearing glasses of any kind (because of the “work” on my nose, and allowing the bone to heal so that I wouldn’t get permanent dents in my nose from the glasses), and then being able to start electrolysis again (infection risk).
Coming into this, I was actually a little nervous. This event has been on the calendar since early last fall, and we have been “looking forward” to it since then. I know a good percentage of the 500+ people here (maybe 20%?), and probably have only seen 1% since I’ve been back to work.
As I written about a ton before, work has been incredibly supportive. However, this was different. Instead of being in a day-to-day environment with my team, this was with peers and their spouses. I had expected that it would be “the same”, but really?
The other nervous-making thing was that whole 20%/1% thing. Part of what’s made work pretty stress-free (from a transition POV) is that for the folks I work with on a daily basis – well, they are over it. It doesn’t really come up. This is a good thing – we’ve moved on to the “New Normal”.
Anyway…. In that context, Anh and I dropped of Samwich with family friends for the weekend, then went to the airport. The flight down was full of conference goers, and we got to catch up with a few folks who we haven’t seen in a while. Overall – normal.
We got down to Palm Springs and settled in late in the afternoon. Later there was dinner, followed by speeches by Bill and Steve. Although this year was an interesting milestone for Bill, as it’s his last of these conferences in his fulltime role with Microsoft, as he transitions to do more work for his charitable foundation.
Walking around and mingling before and after was pretty typical for one of these functions. Introductions this year became an interesting word-choice exercise. How do I introduce Anh? That one turns out to be pretty easy in this context at least – she’s my wife. How does Anh introduce me, if I don’t know the person she’s met or is talking to – husband, spouse, partner? What word works? We struggle with this one quite honestly. We are still (and plan to be!) legally married. Words escape us in this situation.
One thing that I was a little bit surprised by is by how many people were surprised to see us. I got the impression from the “how are you doing?” or “how are you feeling?” or “wow, I didn’t expect to see you here again so quickly!” that there was this impression that I was going to be gone longer than I was (it sure felt like a long time to me!). But, that being said there was nothing to take offense to in any of these comments or questions.
Later in the night, I was talking to someone who I had worked with quite a bit before, but not in more than a year or two. He had clearly read the blog at length, and still had a lot of questions. We sat down, had a drink, and he asked the really hard question – the “how do you know?” question, and we had a good long talk about it. He also had lots of questions about “how/why did you decide to transition?” – again, long conversation on that point. (I know, I’ve never really written about that… I will sometime.)
The next morning, we worked out for a bit in the gym and then went on to our planned activity – which was a GPS scavenger hunt. We teamed up with another couple (I had worked with the guy before, but not met his wife), and it turned out to be a great time, as we were all runners, and ran hard between all the way points. One of the tasks in the scavenger hunt was to take pictures of your team in various poses at specific locations. One of the poses that we needed to show was “Passion”. We came up with the idea (which is the same idea that all the other teams had) to get a picture of our team members kissing/embracing (obviously their own spouses!). No pause – nothing… we just did it, and later when the pictures were posted on our results boards, I don’t even think there was a stray glance. (We didn’t win the contest, but we loved it. Anh is mega ultra competitive, and this was right up her alley.)
That afternoon we ended up sitting by the pool, but I had to buy a new bathing suit (I didn’t have one, and ended up going modest all the way), and also sunglasses. Interesting milestone.
Saturday night was the “formal” dinner of the weekend as there are some awards given out to individuals and teams. Going to a formal Microsoft event is typically an oxymoron (it’s a super casual place still), but these events have become more and more over the top. One of the guys I used to work with came with a purple zoot suit, complete with fedora and matching purple patent leather shoes. His wife had a classic flapper (but shorter) dress, and they both looked great, and added a ton of class to the event overall. (The theme for the night was “Classic Hollywood”).
As we were finishing up dinner, I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was someone who worked in the same division that I was last in, but we had never really worked together (or even met as far as I remember actually). He came over to tell me how proud of me he was, and how much courage he thought it must have taken to transition in such a public way. I’m not really doing justice to either what he said or how he said it, but I was blown away. It actually made me tear up a little bit. Here was a guy who knew of me, but no more, who took the time to seek me and Anh out to talk to us. Wow…. Thanks Dilip, that was incredibly kind of you.
As we were walking back to our room, Anh said to me: “This is really a year of firsts. It’s gone well, but I’ll be glad when all of these firsts are behind us. Next year, I bet no one will even notice.”
And on that note, we ended our night, under the stars, walking back as a couple, just like so many of our co-workers did on that same night.