If I had to describe my personal history in one word it would be “nomadic”. If you know one thing about me it is that prior to 2000 I did not live in one place for longer than 3 years. But after 15 schools, 4 states, 5 countries and 3 continents I seem to have finally found fertile ground in which to set my roots. Ten years gone I still get the occasional feeling of wanderlust, but in my heart I know that Seattle is now my home.
Thinking back on the past 10 years of my life I’m confronted with a myriad of feelings ranging from glee and happiness to cringe-worthy embarrassment.
I moved here on August 5th. Two days later I began my employment at a place I affectionately call Wonderland, but others simply refer to as Microsoft. I’ll never forget that first day…I actually met Bill Gates and I recall thinking how much he looked like a young Mr. Rogers in his v-neck sweater! Really.
The excitement of my first day quickly wore off and the first few months at Microsoft and in Seattle were challenging, to say the least. I had gone from the relative security of boutique law firms where I was coddled by matronly lawyers who took pity on me; thrust into the back stabbing, cut throat corporate world. On my 3rd day my boss at the time, a petite yet tenacious woman, looked me square in the eye and said “Do you even know what you are doing?” To my credit, I was able to recover from that accusation and clumsily explain myself, to which she replied by taking a deep breath and saying “OK. I get that…but we do things differently here.” It was then I knew I was in for a roller coaster ride that would transition me from just having a job, to actually having a career.
As for Seattle, it’s a different vibe here. People are not welcoming of strangers, which is odd when you consider that many people who live here are not from here. I suspect this is because those native to the area are tired of having outsiders come into their city and taking away from its natural charm; transplants have struggled so hard to develop their own social circles they don’t want newer arrivals upsetting the delicate balance. Whatever the reason, it took a long time before I felt like I had an adequate support network. But once I found my niche, it was right.
A few moments immediately stand out in my mind as significant, though if I had the time I could certainly go on and on about the ups and downs of my tenure here.
In February 2001, five months in, I experienced my first major earthquake. I had been particularly moody that day for some reason, so had just shut my door to focus on my work. No sooner did I sit down, that the building start to shake. I looked up and saw my co-workers running around the halls seeking refuge. Not knowing what to do, I followed them. We had a couple locals in our group who were shouting at us from under their office doorframes to stop running and find a place to brace ourselves. Just as we ran outside (which I now understand to be a BAD thing to do in an earthquake), the ground stopped shaking. Fortunately I thought to pick up the phone and call my mother right away to tell her I was safe. Within 5 minutes the phone lines were jammed and I wouldn’t have gotten through, which would have made my mother panic (which she did anyway when this brought to the forefront of her mind that all her children were living on the “Rim of Fire”). *touch wood* I’ve not felt a quake like that again.
9/11/2001. No further explanation needed. I woke up that morning to a panicked phone call from my sister exclaiming that planes were flying into buildings all over the country and we were under attack by unknown assailants. I switched on the TV and that is indeed what was happening. Just then my father called to say he was in NH at the time and was ok. However, he was worried about my mother who was working at the State Department. He explained that she was likely being evacuated, would likely not be in touch for awhile, and to just hold on. I went into work visibly upset but the aforementioned tenacious boss lady refused to send anyone home…after all, *we* weren’t in any danger. Later that day, we got in touch with Mom and she was fine…just shaken up as we all were. What a day.
The “Canadian Whiz Kid”…my biggest client success story and the experience in which I learned that it is ok to think outside the box and to not be afraid of failure. At the time, it was exceptionally difficult to secure a work visa for someone who had little work/life experience and no post-secondary degree. I met the Kid through a mutual client/friend. He was 21 at the time, had 2 years of schooling under his belt and about five years of work experience. He also had a pregnant Canadian girlfriend and was feeling pressure at home to “do the right thing”. His work group was willing to do anything they could to keep him for a long time. The visa he was on was only good for a year at a time, with no guarantee of renewal year over year. He married his girl, and she was able to move to the US as a dependent, but they were not sure of their long-term prospects. I had read an obscure piece of information somewhere that seemed to suggest one could equate actual knowledge to meet the requirement for a Bachelor’s degree. After meeting with the Kid, I managed to convince my manager/his attorney to go for it. Long story short, the Immigration Service not only approved the longer term employment visa, but also his green card before he was 25. Not one to pat myself on the back, I was truly proud of this accomplishment…and happy for the Kid and his young family who are now living the American Dream!
By 2007, I was pretty well burned out in my chosen career field. The long hours were taking a toll on my health and in November I ended up in the ER with stress-related symptoms. Clearly, I needed a change and in December an opportunity dropped into my lap. I had a chance to capitalize on a pretty solid skill set built during long hours of expelling blood, sweat and tears and trade it in for an equally challenging yet comparatively calmer work environment. This is how I came to be in the position I hold now. I admit the first 6 months I was questioning my decision to leave the field that I had come to respect and to love, as one comes to respect and love their torturer after 7 years of hellacious submission, if only because I had no flippin’ clue what to do with all the free time on my hands! I went from 16-18 hour work days to barely working 8 hours. And if I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn I was suffering from PTSD. As with any new challenge though, I found my stride and carved a little niche for myself and – dare I say – have even managed to find time for fun projects outside of work. Now I totally get what they mean by "work/life balance"!
Other thoughts of note:
I fell in love with the wrong person.
He tore my heart out of my chest, stomped on it and kicked it to the curb.
Then I fell in love with the right person.
Unfortunately, he had to leave after his visa expired.
I made new friends.
And I lost old friends.
But I healed.
I welcomed new family members and went from being just a sister to a sister-in-law and an aunt.
I lost family members.
And ultimately healed.
I watched the stock price go from a high of $112 down to less than $20
From this, I will heal eventually..
And I smiled…
Here’s to the next 10 years!