“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Maya Angelou
Sometimes I feel like a mannequin in the window of some low rent shopping centre. This anthropomorphized doll with incredibly realistic features. People stop and stare. They squint and turn their heads to the side. They bite their lips and mutter, “So lifelike.” Then they continue their search for discounts and snacks.
The store closes, the lights dim, and the mannequin sighs. It’s spent its whole day watching people live their lives. Silently standing sentry while dreaming of a day when it will be a real girl. It looks out the window, up at the stars, and thinks, “I wish I may, I wish I might, be normal for just one night.”
It’s the Pinocchio effect without the lie induced rhinoplasty. Poor guy, he just wanted to be a real, normal, boy. I feel your fairy tale pain little dude! I feel it deep because I too would give anything to be a real, normal, girl.
It’s tempting to pull out the old standard washing machine analogy. We’ve all heard it and checked to see if our machine has that setting. Yep, there it is: Normal. The comparison is simple, maybe a little cheep, but the desire for normal isn’t. That need to fit in is so complex and, for some people, it becomes a never-ending journey.
For a lot of us, we crave the safety of normality because we live in the margins of society. We don’t fit in or belong. We feel this overwhelming sense alienation and loneliness. We’re told our differences make us special but that doesn’t make us accepted or wanted. Try as we might, what makes us special turns us into an alien in a strange land.
Or so it feels.
I’ve said this before, but it’s something I need to remember: Feelings aren’t facts. We might feel like a little green humanoid but that doesn’t make us one. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that feeling is justified. Some of us are just plain peculiar and that doesn’t jive with the label makers. If we don’t fit into their precious boxes than there’s no room for us anywhere.
Sometimes, however, we’re so afraid of the world around us that it’s safer to feel like we don’t belong. It hurts less to pull away and not care as much as we have in the past. It’s easier to blame others for our uncomfortable feelings than face our fears. Running away, pushing people away, is more comfortable than staying and holding on.
As someone who lives in the margins, I know that feeling very well. This need to fit in, collides with a fear of fitting in. There’s a desire to be normal that’s fighting a need to be more than ordinary. Wanting to be special but also wanting to belong and have a community. Living on the outside while looking in with jealousy and defiance.
I believe it’s called cognitive dissonance? Having opposing thoughts, feelings, and believing them to be true. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle?
I’ve always been different and a little strange. If it wasn’t my illnesses pushing me to the side; it was my lack of social graces. I’m an awkward, shy, introvert. As much as I want to fit in, belong, I never do and trying has led to some awkward, gut-punching, moments. The look of surprise and an ounce of annoyance. The shake of the head. There’s a glance over the shoulder. They’re looking for a way out. It’s okay, you can walk away. I understand and it’s fine. I’m not normal, and it’s uncomfortable for everyone.
I’ve spent a lot of my life chasing normal, and I think exhaustion has triggered an embrace of isolation. I’ve been alone so long, it’s hard to tell if I’m being pushed or if I’m pulling away. It seems like the difference should be easy to spot but sometimes I don’t see it. I’m sure the clues are there but finding Waldo with a blindfold on is pretty damn impossible.
I’m so used to being pushed, being the odd one out, that maybe I react with anticipation instead of waiting for the facts to present themselves. I see myself as weird, and peculiar so I assume others do as well. Yes, some do see my peculiarities and walk away, but there’s a chance some want to get to know me. If only I could tell the difference between the two.
In spirit, I’ve accepted my place as the odd one out but in my heart, I crave normality. I would love to be normal and fit in somewhere. I’d give anything to belong and feel accepted. I’d give everything to feel like a real girl for just one night instead of playing tug of war.
I think that I’m the rope. Normal pulls hard on one side and the peculiarities pull from the other end. I’m stretched as tight as I can go but neither end will concede. Who will win? The spirit of individuality or the heart of normality?
“If you’re always trying to be normal you’ll never know how amazing you can be.” Maya Angelou wasn’t wrong. When we let go of normal, we’re opening ourselves up to the extraordinary. Isn’t that what we want? It’s what I want! An extraordinary life. A single-life that lives a hundred lives is a life well-lived. It’s a life that leaves this world content and joyful.
However, being different is often very lonely and normal isn’t as solitary. Different is scary. Normal is safe. One brings a community. The other brings critics and judges. Being different is hard and normal? I don’t know if it’s any easier but, from the outside, it looks like a comfortable existence. Maybe it just has better lighting.
I’m learning to embrace my oddities and peculiarities but, on some level, I’ll always crave normality. Despite a desire to be more, to have my life count for something, the lure of normal lays in its security and community. To be normal, to me, is to be accepted. It means that I fit in somewhere, and I belong to a tribe of people. Normal is a safe place to shed a tear and relieve my burdens. It’s a well-lit room that keeps out the darkness.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop chasing that version of normal but I don’t want to get caught in its other trappings. I don’t want to be a mannequin made from a mold. I don’t want to blend in and disappear. I don’t want to be just another pretty face. I don’t want to be ordinary.
There has to be balance but how do we achieve harmony in opposing ideas? The push and pull of two halves is exhausting. Embracing them both? Can we be normal and extraordinary?
There has to be a middle ground. A place where portions of both identities meet and unite. A safe place to be who we’re meant to be without the labels, boxes, and judges. A sacred ground where we can make peace with all sides of our personalities and leave feeling whole. It’s this place where normality can become something truly extraordinary.
You’ve heard my definition of normal. I’m curious, how do you define normal? What does it mean to you? Let me know, down in the comments. Have a great week!
So many things I feel I want to say to this… but right now, oddly enough, don’t have the words for.
This post sums up so much of my tangled relationship with normal, so beautifully.
I don’t think you have to be “normal” to fit in or feel like you belong. There are some social circles where I feel more comfortable than others and I do envy those rare people with the confidence to glide easily from one group to another (skaters to superstars) and seem to find a way to relate to everyone. Just because others might view me as normal doesn’t mean I feel I am & often I wonder if others find me weird but accept me anyways, or because I’m trying so hard to please everyone!