Despite the fact that each of us is magnificently unique, we refuse to quit believing in the notion of “normal.” It is what parents hope, in some respect or other, for their children to be, and it is what children, themselves, yearn to be. The journey from childhood innocence into adolescence could arguably be described as the recognition of “normal” and the deeply held fear of deviating in any way from it. This, of course, is why middle school is so gross.
Adolescence shifts into adulthood, and most of us begin to grant ourselves the right to our weirdness. As grown adults, we earn our own money, we decide for ourselves where to live, what to eat, what to wear, and how to spend our time. We don’t need to continue to squeeze ourselves into a mold that clearly doesn’t fit in order to be gainfully employed or maintain relationships.
Yet the fear of deviation persists.
We either force ourselves to stay on the “normal” path, or we delude ourselves into believing it’s where we want to be. Until we get bumped off of it, an inevitable occurrence in a world as varied as this.
We might have gotten bumped off the path by getting sick, or by having someone close to us fall ill.
We might have lost a job and, as a result, had to dramatically shift our life style.
We might have had a problem with drugs or alcohol.
We might call it quits on a marriage.
We might fail out of college; maybe we never went to begin with.
We might have lost ourselves for years, and then have spent several more working our way back to ourselves. Maybe we’re dating/applying for school/applying for jobs/ having babies older than most people now.
There are as many hypothetical ways to deviate from the “normal” path as there are kinds of people in the world.
Beyond the logistics, beyond the therapy sessions, beyond the aim to return to a happy and fulfilled person, there is one thing that seems to plague people forever after: having to tell people about our deviation. We imagine meeting new people and having to explain it–the dark mark on our normalcy, and are filled with anxiety.
“I’m going to have to tell anyone I meet in the future that I’m divorced.”
“I’m going to be the first person these people have ever met who isn’t college-educated.”
“What if someone asks me about my job?”
“What if someone asks me why it took so long to get to this point in life?”
“What if they find out.”
The more self-actualized we become, the less of a shit we give about seeming “normal.” We follow our intuition, and we are motivated more to follow our bliss than to stay in line. The best course of action is to move closer in that direction, so that other people’s reactions to our unique life circumstances are not what define us.
But becoming self-actualized can take time, and we’re putting ourselves out there, with all our weird baggage in tow, today.
The surest way to reframe our stories to ourselves is to begin immediately to hold them as a benefit rather than a hindrance.
See, when we’re worried about being rejected by others, our differences make us feel lesser than. When we own our trajectory, whatever it has been, we see that our differences are the best screening tools in our arsenal. How a person reacts to what we tell them about ourselves tells us everything we need to know about who they are as a person. Sucky, judgmental reaction–sucky, judgmental person.
The thing we’re petrified of having to disclose may just be the speediest test we can rely on for deciding whether or not to welcome others into our lives.
We are all auditioning each other. We have as much power as anyone else to cast someone into a leading role.