When I lived and worked in Germany, the morning sun would warm up the balcony where I sat overlooking a giant mural of the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. I was part of a new global connectivity.

Wherever I went, I was curious. I learned about languages, customs and food.

I learned there is no “abroad,” there are just different countries and cities — and within them are complex pluralities.

I learned that people work differently everywhere, but just as hard. In Singapore, for example, good food and fresh air are a part of the workday.

I learned how to appreciate varying definitions of success — that happiness comes in many different forms.

I learned not to normalize lack of work-life balance.

An estimated 244 million people lived outside their country of origin in 2015, according to the United Nations Population Fund. In the future, more people will cross borders, and we will all be better for it. Our economies will grow and so will our social impact.

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Our multiple dimensions will shine, such as where we were born; where we were raised; and our culture, history, neighborhoods, schools, family and friends. These branch into lessons and enable us to solve problems together.

There was a time when we rejected foreign schools, titles and organizations. Nobody wanted to be known as being from “elsewhere.” I myself have been discriminated against in the workplace — by being told I wasn’t qualified for jobs because of citizenship; by being denied access to work because of identity; by being asked where I’m really from. I want to believe those old ways are gone.

Instead, I look at us becoming increasing reliant on each other. The #MeToo movement is addressing systemic harassment of women in Stockholm, Seoul, Toronto and Tokyo. The Black Lives Matter movement is bringing attention to race-based violence in the U.S. and beyond. The Sustainable Development Goals focus on climate change and call for a global partnership. Technology is centered on our need to connect different people, doing different things, in a diverse range of places and spaces. The rapid exchange of thoughts, ideas and perspectives is growing like never before.

The new global connectivity is not just a map of glowing clusters but an ecosystem of potential. Our future will be about embracing those differences, acting collectively and building toward a better tomorrow for everyone.

Yet it’s only when we see people in positions of leadership — in the media telling their stories, in the boardroom making decisions and in Congress making laws — that we will break institutional barriers and see the true wealth of diversity.

Diya Khanna, columnist for Seattle Times Explore
Diya Khanna, columnist for Seattle Times Explore