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"Only" Words

My passion for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work comes from my lived experiences, unquestionably. Have you ever been in a room and shared a thought, opinion, or memory and several people started nodding knowingly? Are you nodding knowingly right now? What’s that like?

If you are giving your screen the blank stare right now, welcome to my world. The world of feeling like the Only Only.

If you’re asking yourself what an Only Only is, you’ve already answered your own question. However – as I always end up having to – I’ll explain.

An Only Only is the person who no one has anything in common with regardless of the room they are in. There is no place where we fully fit in. There are a lot of labels I can put on myself when looking for descriptors. When I get in the room with one, two, sometimes even a combination of three of those descriptors, I still stand out as different. When you combine everything, I land nowhere. When I’m in a room of brown people, I stick out. When I’m in a room of women, I stick out. When I’m in a room of LGBGTQIAP+ people, I stick out. When I’m in a room of college-educated people, I stick out. When I’m in a room of neurodiverse people, I stick out. When I’m in a room full of people who grew up poor, I stick out. Throw in being agnostic while you’re adding it all up.

Now, think about that combination and you’ll understand the lifetime, ongoing feeling of “Different – Party of 1”.

I don’t try to create inclusive spaces for any one group. I’m determined to create inclusive spaces for me, the member of all and none at the same time. I’m not going to fit in, however, I deserve to feel like I belong. I don’t need to learn how to play by your rules or figure out my lane and stay in it, I’ve done (mostly) just fine playing by my own rules and the thing about lanes is they can be wide, bendy, and you can change them - although it should be mentioned that I don’t care for lanes, I much prefer open fields.

Why should I have to get in where I fit in, when I don’t? Why can’t you make room for me?

I imagine there are a lot of Only Onlys out there. We just don’t say anything because of the reactions we get when we dare ask someone to inconvenience themselves by allowing space for difference. Why should I have to think before I speak? Why should I have to listen to what you have to say? Why should I consider making changes? There’s more of us than there are of you. Maybe…and maybe not.

How many of you are desperately trying to fit in to this narrow version of perfect that doesn’t exist? How many of you are annoyed with others because you think they are perfect or you think they are trying to be perfect? How many of you are coming down hard on others for daring to be different? How many of you are tired of having to think all of this through? Are you all raising your hands right now or am I truly the Only Only?

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