In a conversation with my boss today, I use the phrase “I was born for this.” It was in response to me updating her on my project work and why it’s been causing me migraines.

I have an amazing opportunity to influence how we design the workforce of the future. I’ve landed on some pretty sweet projects requiring someone articulate and able to connect different viewpoints, to ask tough questions and suggest new ways of thinking. That’s me. I was born for it.

A lot of people figure out what they were born to do many decades before me. I’ve always been this person, an “other.” But it’s not popular. Parents and community are unprepared and ill equipped for it. Plus, when you are young and and sometimes mentally ill, all your amazing traits of empathy, defiance, independence, emotional intelligence, questioning authority can come out very clumsily to a audience not primed to receive it in this “caterpillar” format.

The people parents and society desperately pray for is the Big Man On Campus (BMOC) and the Homecoming Queen(HQ.). To get either of those means your kid is born attractive, socially acceptable, maybe some athletic prowess….they will be popular and easy. You will be friends with lots of “cool” parents. In reality, there are lots of “others” out there and they don’t have a big voice because they don’t get the encouragement of being awarded a tiara every year or being the captain of everything. They shrink into whatever category they have been assigned and try to survive. Parents dread ending up with the “other” kid because it’s a depressing, uphill battle trajectory with carpool whispers attached.

BMOC and HQ are often white with privilege. While I don’t say they don’t work hard for what they attain, they believe their hard work is what has afforded them all their fortune. Because they are shielded from being “others” they are conditioned to believe anyone without their level of fortune simply hasn’t worked hard enough. In fact, they simply have far fewer obstacles and aren’t required to work all that hard for their gains. They don’t know that everyone else is working just as hard or harder but being held back because of whatever it is that defines their otherness. They really do believe everyone just needs to act like them and they too can be popular and successful. It’s actually kind of sad how surprised they are when someone tries to explain white privilege to them.

While I’m sure some of them are intentionally mean, racist or snobby, I believe most of them are nice people who mean no harm. They were born into a protected, silver platter neighborhoods and schooling was pretty secure from being exposed to people of color. After all, their neighborhoods were purposely designed to protect them and keep people of color out. All they had to do was not be born with some disfigurement and they were guaranteed a good life.

They also make up a very small, but powerful part of the workforce. They have the big titles and they have a certain way of wanting to work. Often extroverted, they need to be in the physical space of others. They need adoration and to hear their own voices out loud. The need to be able to shout out whatever comes to mind because once they are in a quiet space, nothing new is coming in like it does for introverts. They don’t do well in isolation. No one there to pat ‘em on the back or to laud their newest idea. No one to talk to about golf or Tom Brady.

The majority represent everyone else….like 90% of everyone else and while they don’t mind popping into the office here and there, they don’t want it to be mandated or put in percentages. They mush rather remain in a very thriving remote environment because it has leveled the playing field. They are only a Zoom away from a contact. They don’t need to rely on bumping into someone in the hallway hoping to be invited out for golf to get their next promotion. That approach only works for BMOC and HQ. BMOC and HQ don’t know what to do with themselves now. They have never had to adapt to build other skills other than public adoration and saying the right thing in front of the right passerby. And they want everyone back in the office with them as much as possible.

That’s just not what people want. While there’s still a lot of diversity work to be done, regional boundaries have been shattered. People are collaborating all over the country, even internationally, with diverse people they never would have met depending on geographic location and in person office meetings. The mentally ill, the introverts, those with attention deficit disorders are having their best career moments of their lives now. I am one of them. I am in the position to speak and advocate for all the rest of them.

The migraines comes from the constant brain washing drip which has started from BMOC and HQ saying “ we will be back in the office…”. “When we are back in the office….” “ we value collaboration and face to face contact so we will be in office at least 50% of the time.” in the meantime, the 90% are screaming on the inside and asking “what collaboration? You have never collaborated with me. In fact, I am only now experiencing collaboration through the remote environment.” I represent the 90% but I have to present to BMOC and HQ and somehow try to bring them along to accommodate the majority. It’s a massive, stressful, tightrope walking responsibility. But I was born for it. I can speak for the majority. I just have a gift for it.

The complication is that while I am representing multiple points of view and trying to massage this situation in the best interest of the most people, I have my own personal needs to consider. Remote work has virtually cured my mental health issues, or at least filed them appropriately so there is room for the real me to come out and she is an absolute wonder. A marvel of brilliance, a unifier, a pattern identifier with oratory skills better than any well coached President of the United States. She’s always been in me but the noise, the lack of personal space, no boundaries, being fired at constantly, she can’t even breath let alone be creative or thoughtful in an In office environment. I have always known what my problems are but I had no idea how truly “sick” I have been until this last year when I have finally become a normal, healthy person.

Because I need to consider my health and it’s impact to my family, I know that if I can’t influence the environment the way the others need it to be, I have a parachute. I can easily get an accommodation requiring I never have to set foot in the office again. I have 2 doctors who practically wants to write books about me right now who are insisting I don’t go back.

I now understand the quandary my sister was experiencing just before the election. Trump spent the last 4 years strategizing ways to set the government up so that LGBTQ could eventually be stripped (same thing with the rights of women and the Black community.). It was a very well planned attack and the pawns had all been put in place so that if he won, we’d start moving to the next phase….very similar to Hitler’s Germany. For real.

Many members of the LGBTQ community are considering their options for leaving the country to flee to safety. My sister and her family were definitely among them. They have a solid Canada connection to guarantee 100% safety for my sister in law and the kids, probably about 75% odds in favor of my sister too. We told her to go. Her conflict was in feeling like she couldn’t abandon all the other members of their community just because she had a parachute. She felt obligated to stay and fight. For us, we just wanted her to be safe and at that point integrity and personal sanctimony became second priority to us when those are the values we live on. Love and protection were bigger to us.

Approaching adulthood with depression, my parents insisted that nobody stayed home from work because they were sad, nobody stayed in bed all day. No one was going to financially support me like that and I wasn’t allowed to be a drain on society. As harsh as that sounds, I’m supremely grateful for that. I’d rather be a high functioning depressive who is able to support myself than couch surfing my way through life because I can’t hold down a job. I feel terrible for people in that situation but they also serve to frighten the shit out of me enough that I can employ doctors to buffer me through what it takes to “keep up appearances.”

Last weekend my father told me to get an accommodation. That is quite a statement. I am certain my family has always had to worry about me a little more than the average family. Now I get the feeling they’ve all been sleeping with one eye open every winter praying I get through my depression without getting arrested, cracking my skull open from falling on a toilet or dying. I feel awful about that. How different a person was I appearing as in all my depressive episodes? Truthfully, I never thought I’d live this long but I purposely never tell anyone that because I assume they aren’t thinking the same thing. I thought I was doing a better job putting them at ease.

Here’s the thing. It’s great knowing I have a parachute. Granted, pulling it would end my career. I’d be able to keep my job but I’d never advance and they’d just keep me there until some “random” lay-off that only seems to wipe out people with FMLA cases, over a certain age or perennially bad performers who also have bad managers who never told them that or tried to help them get better. All companies are like this. While I’m still a little too ambitious to keep myself engaged and challenged to ever want to have to consider this option, it’s there if I have to do it to protect my health and my family.

But what about the others? How can I just parachute myself away from them? Isn’t that another kind of privilege? Nope, can’t do it yet. I have to fight for them, for all of us because it could change all of our lives for the better. There’s enough mass in the numbers it could even change the trajectory of what our country prioritizes and create a different future that places family and health above everything else…to create work that compliments life, doesn’t compete with it the way it has until this point. I don’t know if I will succeed. I might not. We all might get screwed and BMOC and HQ keep being the only people seated at the table. It may take years for the damage of talented people flight catches up with them and they decide to give another inch but I’d love it if they could just give the inch now and trust the beauty that will come from it. To claim revolutionary success. To be an innovator who challenges America to be better. Whoever claims I am a pessimist is a bonehead. I am actually borderline Pollyanna in my hopes for this kind of change. I have nothing but optimism, my thoughts and my voice. And more frequent migraines. But this is what I was actually born to do. This is my purpose.

I have real value and I can advocate for real people, the others. They are beautiful and crazy and artsy and off the grid and different colors, shapes and sizes. It’s their time. They are the ones with the talent and power to change the world in the best of ways. I’d love it if BMOC and HQ would join us. We would totally accept them as simply one more pattern on the quilt, whereas when we do it their way, it’s just kind of like a boring coloring book where it’s demanded we color within the lines at all times. I’m a much bigger fan of Jackson Pollock than I am a coloring book picture where everyone’s page looks exactly the same.