This post was written by Bryant Miller in Corporate Communications. Bryant uses he/him pronouns and identifies as both queer and gay.

I can’t believe I’m going to use a car analogy to introduce my blog post for Pride month, but I swear there’s a point! Okay, here we go…

Do you remember the first time you ever rode in an electric or hybrid vehicle? If you’re like me, the first thing you noticed was how quiet the engine was. But it’s weird, I never thought any of my gas-powered cars were loud or noisy — I only noticed the absence of any vibrations in the electric one.

And that story is how I begin to explain to anyone the journey of self-discovery that the COVID-19 pandemic helped expedite. I’d love to tell you about it.

As you can imagine, growing up as a queer kid in rural Louisiana in the ‘80s was hard. My entire childhood — and even young adulthood — was spent just trying to survive bullying and harassment. So, I quickly learned to adapt, to people please, and to convince everyone I was “just like them” so they would like me and not try to hurt me. This was my coping mechanism for surviving that place and those people.

Even though in my early 20s I moved across the country to a more accepting and affirming city, I didn’t stop using the survival tactics from my childhood — in fact, they became my entire personality.

I spent the majority of the next two decades trying to collect friends, make everyone love me and entertain the masses. I threw parties, I hosted nonprofit events, and I even had a monthly local TV segment! I took jobs that — despite my talent and education — relied on an outgoing personality and ever-present happiness that had been birthed from the darkest pits of my anxiety.

Somewhere along the way, I looked around my life and realized that I was mostly surrounded by cishet (cisgender, heterosexual) people who I had tried desperately hard to convince to love me. I knew I needed to make a change, so over the next few years I sought out more friendships within the LGBTQ+ community, and I searched earnestly within myself to figure out, “Who was that little queer boy really meant to be, and how do I honor him?”

Then in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic started, and my journey to honoring Little Bryant went into overdrive.

I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I was working from home for a new company — my current role here at Blue Yonder — and I was only hanging out with my husband and our tiny pandemic circle, which was just a few queer friends. For the first time ever, I wasn’t spending hours and hours each day surrounded by people I was subconsciously trying to entertain or convince to like me. And that’s when I felt it for the first time. It was the absence of these vibrations that had coursed through my veins my entire life. It was the absence of nonstop, low-grade anxiety that I never really knew I was feeling — until it was gone. It was like driving the electric car for the first time! (See, I told you there was a point to that story.)

I had never fully immersed myself in queer culture and felt the calmness that comes with being around similarly-othered people. I realized I had spent my life expending energy to prove to everyone our similarities (except for being gay), but the truth is — I’m not like everyone else. I am different. Being queer and gay impacts every part of my life, and I need to honor these differences and the lens I see the world with.

With this newfound clarity, I found myself with excess energy each day. Instead of always being mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, I had enough energy left to focus on my health, a close circle of friends, loved ones, hobbies, and my job. I felt — maybe for the first time — like I was truly honoring who that little boy was meant to be.

Just when I was making incredible strides in my journey of self-discovery, life sent me a curveball.

When the world started to open back up a little, I developed deep, crippling social anxiety. I had found a new, peaceful life that reveled in being different — and I didn’t want to let it go. So, when others were excited for get-togethers, parties, concerts, events, and even in-office work, I was crumbling with the fear that I’d have to let go of the new Bryant. I had finally become a version of myself that I loved, and I was terrified that he couldn’t coexist in a world that was trying to return to normal.

After months of therapy, soul-searching and sharing my story with a few close friends, I’m slowly coming out of the darkness. I’m still experiencing social anxiety, but I’m discovering how to live my truth in a world that desperately wants to return to what it once was. So, this year, Pride month looks very different for me than years past — no parades or big parties. Instead, I’m finding my new North Star and trying every day to honor who that little queer boy on the dirt road was meant to be. After all, he didn’t go through that journey just to be like everyone else.

A note from Blue Yonder: We are proud to live our Core Values every day and to provide a safe space for associates to share stories like this. We are a diverse group of people from every walk of life around the globe, and we are united by these values that help each of us navigate our own journey toward self-discovery and acceptance.