Meet Jason | Sr. Risk Systems Analyst
I was voted “Most Unique” in my high school class. I have always clung to that as a badge of honor; it was why I didn’t need to belong. Ultimately, it was an excuse to ignore any feelings of loneliness I felt creeping in.
I have always seen the world differently than most people. I lived in a hyper-logical, black-and-white world where every social interaction was a cause for anxiety, and emotions were an unwelcome, alien intrusion into my stoic existence. I would run through long lists of “if they say this, then you say that” and completely shut down if the conversation went off-script. Every day I tried to fake it until I made it.
After over a decade of therapy, countless medications, and a couple of in-patient stays in the behavioral health wards of hospitals, I have learned there is a better way. I still don’t really understand emotion, and I’m horrible at reading a room, but I’ve learned that some things in life are just grey and will never make logical sense. I have learned to apply my unique perspective in a way that makes sense for me and allows me to thrive. I’ve also learned being unique is an asset and a reason to belong, not a reason to withdraw.
PetSmart has been with me through much of that journey. Since my senior year of high school, I’ve worked at four different PetSmart stores before being hired at PHO. Life kept sending me down paths that would see me leave PetSmart, but something kept pulling me back. I never could say precisely why I continued to be drawn back to PetSmart, but it was always where I wanted to be. In retrospect, I’ve felt a consistent sense of belonging at PetSmart, even when I tried to tell myself I didn’t need to belong anywhere. I still struggle sometimes with my neurodiversity, but it is a core part of who I am and deserves to be embraced and celebrated. These experiences, along with my friends, family, and coworkers, have filled me with a drive to create a space where everyone can belong and thrive.
This drive pushed me to approach the Belonging team and create PetSmart’s newest associate resource group, AVID. I want other people to know that it is okay to not be okay, and PetSmart (and I) welcome you as you are. You are not alone if you are neurodiverse, have a disability, or a mental health condition. We all belong at PetSmart.
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other.