It was a red Mazda RX-7. I was driving at nearly 100 mph on the empty road in the middle of the night. I had finished a fifth of Jack Daniels, and had half a joint in the ashtray, along with a cigarette – to hide the smell. Seemed logical at the time, although who would smell the marijuana at this speed?
This wasn’t my first night on the lonely road. It also wasn’t my last. I wanted freedom. Freedom from the feeling of different, of the burden of being an outsider in the middle of being on a team. I was a freshman on a conservative college campus, thinking that immersing myself in sport and school would remove the cloud of attraction to women.
I hoped I would blink, sneeze, flinch, fall asleep, anything that would send my car over the side of the road, no one would miss me, at least not until practice tomorrow afternoon, and even then it might be a relief for them.
This is my story of a moment in time, years and years ago, and the “coming of age” moment when I realized being gay was being different, and nothing more. Sports have saved my life many times over, none more than those nights on the open road, going well beyond the limit, and driving more impaired than I can ever imagine at this point.
The recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain remind me of how much energy we spend living. The speed of information, of the world around us, and the separation we are creating from each other, both through technology and polarization of ideals and principles.
As we consciously and unconsciously look to slow down change and check out through media (especially social media), we eclipse the speed of the world, and also our ability to relate to one another. The more we use technology, the less we develop our compassion and empathy. The more we isolate and separate, the less we relate and connect.
We have much to align ourselves with in our human experience, no matter where we were raised, where we grew up, how we were educated, what job (or lack of) we have, and other ways we are unique in our “doing”. When we get still, we realize we are still “being” human, with complex emotions and thoughts, processing speeds that defy computers in uniting these complexities.
As leaders, now is a great time to check-in with your team. How are they doing with the stress and turmoil of the world? How are they influencing and responding to their people? What level of check-in conversations do you have? Are you inquiring solely about projects and deadlines? If so, how about some dialogue that is more personal and purposeful toward connection?
I’m not suggesting there aren’t a multitude of issues involved in suicide, including mental health concerns at a minimum. I’m suggesting that each of us can lend a hand to someone who drops a pen, shows distress, or seems removed. Have a conversation with the people in your life, including your care and concern for them. Find where you are alike, instead of different, in your colleagues, friends, family, and acquaintances. Even one thing, find one thing.
Each of us shape the world we live in. Now is the time to create a new world, instead of disparaging the one we have. Today, on this day, start a conversation to build unity, be curious about differences, and believe we can do more Good by being a light.
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