I am usually the only guy in my yoga class.
Placing my mat in the front of the room is generally most conducive to maintaining any semblance of focus, except of course during downward dog when there are many inverted views more enticing than my own belly button.
Within circles of comedians I am usually the only devout yoga student. Whether or not I am the funniest or least funny in the circle I can always be sure that my perspective is at least unique. In the same circle I am almost always the only student of astrology (often creating a social handicap), and might be the only stand-up comic on the planet with a Masters degree in Chinese Medicine.
In Chinese Medicine school I was the only comedian. I was the only one walking the hallways listening to M.O.P. on my ipod, the only one who still wearing baggy clothes discussing our ancient physiological perspective in slang Ebonics at a clinic table full of old Chinese men. All of this made what could have otherwise been a more stereotypically mundane, “New Age” environment a lot more interesting.
I’ve been the only one in the Buddhist dharma meeting rocking a crooked Yankee cap,
the only one in the same meetings who says “rocking,” the only one on a subway car, the only one home, the only one on a street skateboarding past my age past that time of night, the only one high, the only one who doesn’t get high anymore, the only one at the table in love, and the only one with a seemingly irreparable broken heart. I’ve been alone while alone, alone in a crowd, felt crowded by myself, and like I would die of suffocation while surrounded by others. I’m not the only white person to adopt non-derogatory usage of the “n-word,” but to my knowledge I’m the only one who succeeded in publishing an article about ironically how racist it is to suggest I shouldn’t. This perspective is a wonderful gift in its incidental bar-setting of who is eligible for close friendship.
In high school my Dominican girlfriend was from the hood. While chilling with her and her friends or family I was the only non-Dominican. I became about 90 percent fluent in Spanish in that relationship, while everyone else in my honors Spanish class boasted closer to a 40 percent which without practice most likely deteriorated shortly thereafter.
I was the only honors student in my high school to get expelled from school.
In her graduation speech, our class Valedictorian courageously denounced the faculty for reacting so harshly to who was an otherwise good kid. She was the only one, standing alone at the podium, bravely in her voice and decision to share it. Admittedly guilty of prejudgment, I think I was the only honors student who’d had a Bar-Mitzvah finding himself waiting in the hallway once a month to see my Probation Officer.
I wished I was alone, but most often my wonderful mother sat by my side, annoyed, disappointed, embarrassed that she was the only one of her friends who had a felon for a son. I felt bad. Nevertheless, this experience was part of what gave me the gift of great comfort in later being the only white comedian, and often only white person in the room, for most of my shows on the black comedy circuit. I was the only white performer on my episode of HBO’s Bad Boys of Comedy, and my set went perfectly. It was one of the proudest days of my life.
I rode home from the taping on cloud nine, all alone, one of the only people in the world who had done what I just did.
I highly recommend being the only one.
Recently finding myself for the first time “the new guy,” in a new town on the other side of the country, voluntarily self-deprived of my occupational comfort zone and loving friends, I feel again in a less definable way, like the only one. And while it has been a time of great challenge, it has also gifted me with a surplus of self-reflection, internal awareness, and external perspective that the beautifully enjoyable distraction of friendly company can potentially attenuate.
Being the only one, in any capacity, is one of the greatest sources of education—one that I honestly feel trumps anything Harvard, or any book or travel to “see other countries” can offer the human spirit. For when we cannot meditate or be at peace, or even flirt with a bad imitation of enlightenment, the Universe has conveniently bestowed upon us infinite opportunities by which to still experience our divinity. One of them, albeit ironic, is the feeling of being an outsider.
Besides information it serves as a reminder, whether consciously in the moment or not, that you are the only one. You are the only you that has ever existed or ever will exist. It is important to know this, because honestly, with all maternal-type patronizing smoke up your butt aside, it means that you must be perfect.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kimby Maxson/Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Provided by author