That was the song lyric which immediately popped into my head Wednesday night after I had spent hours on the phone with security on a missing persons report when I got the text “she was killed in a car accident.” I had just started heading up the stairs with my phone and my kashi cookie in my mouth. The cookie, the phone and I all fell to the stairs.

I just lost my third associate in 4 years. I can’t believe it happened again. I don’t want to be good at this and yet I am. I immediately shifted to leader to set expectation with my team leads on how we needed to prepare for work the next day. I started planning schedule updates for meetings first thing in the morning to inform our associates. I called HR. I got the grief counseling documents ready. I knew what to do because I have done it before which shocked the security and HR teams because it’s unprecedented.

I pulled into work when “Bad” by U2 came on; a song my Spotify playlist seems to know to play whenever I am experiencing tragedy. If my body had a sound for grief I think it sounds a lot like that song. I had a hard time getting out of the car knowing the day ahead. I once posted about not being able to get out of the car when John posted back, “Christine, it starts with taking off your seatbelt.” John had the kind of dryness about him that when he made a joke, it was very unexpected and funnier for that reason.

John was the first to die. 31 years old. Drug overdose after a stint with rehab and sobriety. A devout Catholic who treated everyone with kindness, probably to the point he dealt others people who annoyed everyone. Everyone else would walk away but never him. John quit our job when he realized it no longer aligned with his values. His only mistake was not knowing how to find the thing that would.

The 2nd was Adem. 38 years old. Had a really bad headache but didn’t want to take time away from work to see a doctor and he didn’t really trust doctors. Wellness check discovered him dead alone at home in bed. Devout Muslim who believed faithfully in his God.

This week. Courtney. 31 years old. Married 3 years. 2 year old daughter. Excited to go home early and surprise her husband. Died in a tragic car accident minutes later. Driving home at night now I see the tree she hit. Every night for the rest of this job, I will see that. Courtney loved Jesus. Courtney brought life into every room she entered.

These weren’t net neutral people. These people were all proactively amazing and adding bright to the world more than those around them. They were faithful servants of God. And God has taken all of them so early. I don’t understand that God. In the dark world we are presently in, we need more of them, not the subtraction of them. They believe in that God. I hope it’s just because they all knew something we don’t. I just don’t know.

This isn’t about me or my grief at all. But my grief starts a reckoning. I was alone in a conference room hiding so I could study for a license because I want a promotion I have deserved 4 times and this might be the inky way to get it. So I don’t even remember if I said “hi” to Courtney on Wednesday. I wasn’t there when she left. I didn’t know if she had had a bad day which was happening to her a lot lately. She was good about talking to me about that stuff. We were both empaths and believed in a lot of the same things. Because I knew she was an empath, I understood she may have bright and bubbly all the time but there was also an exhaustion tied to it so. Being present for her was important to me. But I haven’t been present for anyone this past month because I have spent every extra minute of my days studying and going late into the night so sleeping less. Everything I am doing doesn’t align with my values either, John.

I got pretty well dissected by a grief counselor yesterday. I still had a call left to review for Courtney and I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting myself into “execution, feel nothing” mode by hearing her voice so I could cross that off my list. I lost it. I admitted to the counselor what I was doing when she left and why. She asked me about my childhood. Really? You think this has something to do with that?

I explained how I was different from my siblings and not in a way which pleased my parents. Be easier, be quieter, be less sensitive, be less passionate, be a soccer player, be thinner, fall in line, don’t upset your father, be less lazy….fall in line like your brother and sister do. It’s just easier. The problem with that is I was born with intense determination and perseverance so instead of doing what was easy, I fought back to prove to them I could actually be me and it was ok, that I was just as valuable as even if I wasn’t simple. There didn’t have to be just one way and my parents didn’t have to be right about everything. I very strongly believed that who I was shouldn’t change but when you are a child, it’s about survival. Not being valued was life and death for me. This set me up for a life of chasing value I would never get.

But it’s what I do. I have to provide value. When I don’t, people die. I don’t get what I have earned. Other people might have been right that I should have just been like everyone else. I get mixed messages all the time…that people like me are who make companies grow, who make the best leaders and yet, lesser leaders get my due because my best is expected of everyone. They know I am dying to be validated and will do anything for it so they don’t have to give me anything to keep getting that. Others do one good things and get an immediate reward, I think, because “they” fear that person won’t do it again without the motivation of reward. It’s not naturally in them so it must be induced.

I certainly don’t believe any of this comes from a place of malice. It’s out of their awareness and is human nature. Everyone has done it to me my entire life. Work, relationships…all of it. I give more than I get because I don’t go into it looking to get anything but everyone goes into it with me looking to get everything, I go into it wanting to give and just be validated. But no one has ever validated me so I am still running up that mountain. That’s what the counselor told me. And she is right. It’s embarrassing. I’m like a puppy dog doing any tricks I can for a treat but nobody is watching. They are all staring at the sleeping dog poised with a treat in hopes it just does something. How fucked up is that about human nature?

I want a promotion more because I am embarrassed and humiliated that I don’t have it when I look at others who do. I have a regular therapist who points out I pay a lot of attention to equity in order to “grade” myself at how I am doing keeping up with everyone else. When they surpass me, I look for their differentiators. When I don’t see them, I get very confused. And then I get embarrassed because if there are no differentiators, it must mean I have detractions…that something is wrong with me and everyone sees it and is reminded of it frequently the same way I am.

That’s what this is stirring up in me. There is no actual joy in what I am persevering at right now. I am just someone who gets at it and gives it everything. Point me wherever you need. It doesn’t matter if it’s what I want. It’s all about what’s expected of me and what I don’t want…shame, humiliation….feelings I cannot handle. And because of that, I wasn’t where I should have been when someone else died. And even then, I don’t believe that’s where I want to truly be either.

I have trapped myself in this prison of validation. I know what to do about it but I can’t. I travel alone. I go where I want to go. I do concerts alone. I eat in restaurants and drink in bars alone. I read amazing books. I like to read my horoscope. I love podcasts, especially ones about psychic, meditation, witchy shit. I like all these things about myself. I’m convinced that I do my life far better than anyone else would do my life. And yet, I am not valid, anywhere.

3 very valid people I have had the blessing and joy to work with have died. They have left gaping holes in the lives of all their people. I hope they knew they were valid. It’s a richer life knowing that than to be capable of doing everything you set your mind to and never get stamped.

So that’s where my reckoning is going right now. My heart is broken. The world is infinitely not remotely better without Courtney and leaving a motherless child in it. There is no sense in that. And I will think about that every night after 5 when I get through the tolls at exit 10 and look to my right less than a mile down and see a tree with pieces of bark shorn off it and now spray painted as a scene of investigation.