Being a first-generation college graduate has placed me in endless moments of “being the only one”.
From an early age, it was clear to me that I was going to stand out in many rooms. Part of this is being in a room where you feel like no one relates to you because you didn’t grow up learning about The Beatles or Charlie’s Angels. When I was the only one that spoke Spanish, I was told to stop speaking it. When I was the only person of color, I was told to wait my turn, or, that because of the color of my skin I would not be chosen. In all these experiences I could have become hateful but instead I became grateful. I am grateful for the skin, language, and culture I’ve been gifted.
My pathway to where I am today has been a roller coaster of attempts at different careers. On campaigns I was usually the only person of color within a 100-mile radius, or at least it felt that way. You see, the thing about growing up in a small town with a very small population of people of color is that I became okay being the only woman or person of color in the room. It was my normal.
The older I became and moved up more in my career, I started to see other people, other women, that looked like me, and that’s when not being the only seemed surreal - you mean there’s more of us??! While I see more of us, however, we know the reality is that there really aren’t enough of us at the table, leading the way, and building a path for our future selves. I work in predominantly, how I describe it… “white spaces”. It can be really intimidating when you try and explain yourself and it is frankly infuriating that you have to.
When I was young I hated school, but I loved learning. So, I take this all in as a learning and challenging experience - every. single. day. To be clear, being the only one hasn’t pushed me to shy away from anything but instead to see it as an opportunity to start something new.
Farah Melendez is the Campaign Services Director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which provides political and policy support to Democratic state attorneys general.