Building My New, Inclusive Intersection

I’ve never been very good at tribalism. Probably due to my Gen X status, an unusual upbringing in New York City during some very challenging times and my choice of Social Anthropology at Harvard. As much as I might try to “fit in” with groups I was supposed to be a good fit for, like the “Christian Students Association”, it was just too weird (and boring) to spend Friday evenings watching A River Runs through It and talk about the symbolism of “fly fishing” and “fishing of men” when Hillel House down the road was having a lot more fun circle-dancing at Purim and the Latin American Students and Black Students Associations were also having lively dance parties. The challenge was I’m pretty clearly NOT Latin, Black or Jewish. So what Tribe was I meant to be a part of?

But that challenge didn’t really begin for me in college, I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, observing the behaviors of “the cool kids” as if I were in a John Hughes Film, rather than feeling comfortable enough to join in.

It wasn’t until I built a place of my own and found some relatable kindred spirit outsiders in the LGBTQ community and my professional circle of creative nerds in advertising and tech, that all that began to change for me. Not because we labeled ourselves as anything in particular, but because we didn’t.

As an Anthropology student turned consumer insight and cultural strategy professional, I understood and understand all about the importance of what we now call Intersectionality.

When it comes to hyper-segmenting the market based on the racial, gender, physical and behavioral elements that separate us and shine a bright light on discriminatory practices, I knew how to “find the low hanging fruit” and attract “people like me” but I never wanted to and still don’t. I’ve never found that sort of thought process helpful either personally or as a professional, regardless of what I was told would deliver better performance or profitability. Just like in college, it felt small, and boring to me. I didn’t want to be labeled: Elite, White, Single, Female, Christian, Liberal, Ivy-league, Home-Owning New Yorker. When there was so much more to learn about the world, and honestly, myself in the world.

I do understand that many people feel safer and more comfortable self-identifying and self-segregating into “tribes”, and I’m very happy for those who do find the right ones for them. That just hasn’t been the reality for me, or for the majority of people, it seems, who gravitate towards me. We, as I noted, seem to let the labels of race, gender, age, profession, education, religion and sexual orientation at the door and assume the single initial “H” for Human or “F” for Friend. In my house, “Speak Friend and Enter” is the way we all roll. And have a wonderful time doing it.

This Truth has been brought home to me many times, but probably most meaningfully at my last Holiday gathering in 2019, pre-Covid, pre-move and pre letting go of the lifetime of friendships I’d built in New York. At that party, a dear friend and mentor, Charise Mita looked around my rowdy and overflowing living room of old and new-found friends and connections (as shown above) and pointed out. “Holly, you’re an intersection”.

And I had to be quiet for a bit, look around me, and smile. I wasn’t on the outside any more looking in and observing. My life, home and existence were the reason for inclusive and meaningful friendships and connections to happen.

And now, it’s time to rebuild.

Holly Lynch is a 20+ year communications veteran and life-long social impact advocate and strategist who has helped individuals and companies tackle the toughest challenges in their worlds. Having survived countless life setbacks and two rounds with terminal cancer, while seeing the country-wide collapse of the systems and safety nets for the most vulnerable in and outside our communities, she is now shifting her life and career trajectories to focus on coaching those facing down fundamental shifts and transitions as they try to navigate and rebuild their lives and businesses during these unprecedented times.

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