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Just a Simple Question

Written By: Lauren Howard

“Do you want to run and get gas while I finish up?”


Just a simple question from a colleague, but it filled me with anxiety.

We were driving to a client about an hour away, and I was low on gas.

Her question was fully reasonable, but she noticed that I hesitated.

“Wait. Is that a problem?”

I wasn’t honestly sure what to say. I didn’t want to sound like an unreasonable person, but this was like… a thing. I don’t go to gas stations alone.

I could just not say anything, go, and call my husband to have him on the phone while I went? Just in case? He would sit on speaker while I filled up. I wasn’t familiar with the stations near the office because I worked from home, but that could probably work?

Or or or I could just suck it up and do this simple thing right? It’s just a gas station. Nothing was going to happen. Right?

Alert! Alert! You’ve been in your head too long! She’s noticing!

She could see something was happening in my brain. “Okay. What’s up?”

I hesitated and considered lying because it was a weird thing to bring up at work. Then it all just kind of tumbled out.

“Well, uh, I kind of don’t go to gas stations alone? The last time I did a few years ago a guy approached me and tried to talk me into getting into his car and when I wouldn’t he started to get aggressive and backed me into my car and I managed to get back in and lock the doors and speed off but then I saw him on the news arrested there that night and…”

I waited for her to tell me how silly it all was. We’re adults. We go to gas stations.

“That’s terrifying!” She said instead. “We’ll go together. No problem. Let me just finish this email and let them know we’re headed out.”

She never once asked me to go alone again even though we traveled across the whole state together multiple times.

She didn’t treat me like an incapable child. She didn’t try to give me solutions that I no doubt had already tried. She just adapted.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that moment was perspective shifting. She modeled what it should be like to support a whole, authentic person at work, and I will never forget it.

It has been a guiding principle for me as a leader since.

I’m still weird about gas stations, but better. Every now and then, I still call my husband just to have him on the line while I fill up.

What I’m not weird about is bringing my whole self to work because it’s not like I can detach parts and leave them at home.

And it’s not like you can or should either.

If you’re working through something at home, you’re working through it at work, too. Your needs are not an inconvenience to your co-workers. All of you is allowed to be employed, not just the convenient parts that are show ready.

All of you is welcome here.


Founder & CEO at elletwo


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