Finding Your Normal

Walking down the street the other day, I heard someone say something to the effect of, …and it’s just not normal. Well, not normal by our normal, anyway.

I wanted to go and shake the woman’s hand. Damn it, I wanted to hug her. In all my years of searching for normal, I never considered that I could just define it for myself.

There’s a running joke in our house where, when confronted with a problem, we ask ourselves what normal people would do. I live with this perpetual notion that I’ve missed a trick, that everyone else knows what’s going on and what to do in all situations, and I am a klutz that gets everything just a little bit wrong. My furniture doesn’t match and my clothes are never quite right for the weather. We sometimes use plastic bowls from the picnic set because we don’t have enough china. I use a jam jar as a toothbrush holder and I don’t own a pizza cutter. I’d rather walk to the next bus stop than wait more than five minutes for a bus. The list goes on and contains an oddity of behaviours and reflections on things I presume are a bit, well, abnormal. So I apologise for them, or worse still, I hide them.

When it boils down to it, though, normal is just a set of expectations that a group shares. And if you boil anything down for long enough it becomes nothing. (Right..?) Sure, sometimes normal is good for society, like the norm of regularly showering or covering your mouth when you sneeze. Public health aside, a lot of the other things we do are based on what we presume other people want to see. We think others expect certain things of us, and we go with it to make sure we don’t seem like a weirdo. It can be big or small, from how we spend our money and our politics to how we drink our coffee. (Confession time my caffeine aficionado friends: I often drink weak-tasting instant coffee. And I like it.)

The confident people out there might not get this. They live how they want to live and don’t care what others think. Maybe “normal people” are actually just confident people. There’s definitely something appealing about individuals who are passionate about their interests, however unusual, geeky, or off-the-wall. For sure, living your chosen life-style apologetically is more abnormal than most of the things you’re apologising for (with notable exception, cheaters, liars, or thieves to name a few). Probably no one is normal, just more or less confident about how they go about their day.

But for me, this hasn’t always been obvious. For me, there’s always been a fear of getting it wrong, a somewhat destabilising and debilitating worry of being considered weird that leaves me feeling awkward and uptight. And it’s probably not normal that overhearing a stranger’s out-of-context commentary on normality would make me reconsider this, but, well, it did and I’m not sorry. How I live is basically like everyone else, with its own brand of me splashed in. And it’s okay to be okay with that.

So I say to each his own normal, quirks and all.

Oderwald, Standard Normal distribution with shading between -2 and 2,, 2012-07-05 accessed 24.06.17

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