I read a story on Medium the other day and it changed my life.
I know, I know, hyperbole isn’t usually my thing either, but in this case I feel it’s merited.
It was called “Be Normal At Dinner:” On Geniuses, Lovers, and The Asks We Make of Both and you can (and should) read the whole thing here.
There are so many things to love about Annie’s incredibly perceptive take on something I sensed but couldn’t have come close to articulating. The parallel she draws between geniuses (in particular, artists) and lovers is shockingly juxtaposing and right on-the-money. The deceptively simple explanation she offers for the gap between the whirlwind honeymoon-period of early infatuation and the routine of everyday life is fresh and astounding, and just feels, right.
But for me the part that echoes most within me is this idea that at some point, apparently we all got together and decided that Normal was good. It’s like we all entered into an unspoken covenant whereby any thought or word or action that makes us feel anything or inspires us to move or change or do, or challenges us, or makes us wriggle in our comfy seats with discomfort: that these things are inherently dangerous, and weird and definitively Not Normal.
I’ve said it before, my preferred method of moving from my desk to the photocopier involves either aeroplane arms or French cancan dancing. I just don’t see the fun, or the point in walking Normally.
I like having big conversations not making small talk.
I have large opinions and a voice that carries.
I believe that any two items in my closet can be worn together in any combination regardless of season.
I’d choose leftover Thai green curry for breakfast over croissants and jam any day.
Sometimes I finish teaching a group of students and I am so happy and proud and impressed and inspired by them that I want to shout and dance and gather everyone for victory high fives and happiness hugs.
When I’m sad I want to put my head in my hands, sit on the floor, wherever I am (metro, public toilet, shopping centre), and weep.
I like meeting new people because new people are like a loophole. When you meet new people you’re allowed to be super funny and engaging and a little bit offbeat. You can be crazy and exaggerated and wholly yourself in the moment. But it never lasts.
Don’t you ever get tired? Friends ask me, referring to my hundred-miles-an-hour talking speed, or my enthusiasm for any and all group gathering. No, being Not Normal isn’t the exhausting part. What tires me out and makes my soul ache is the relentless pressure to be Normal. It requires discipline to remain stony-faced and upright in the metro when all I want to do is bust a quick move to the cool song in my headphones (disclaimer, the ‘cool song’ is always Beyoncé), or to actually laugh long and out loud at the amusing text my friend just sent me, instead of silently typing LOL. It grates against my instincts to sit quietly behind a computer, eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for the rest of my life. Despite the fact that a nine-to-five office job is considered 100% Normal.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt but what if familiarity itself is the problem? We are creatures of habit, and so the more time we spend with the same people, the more set in stone we become. The less room to move we give ourselves.
But when did spontaneity become a rarity? And predictability our currency of choice?
We’re expected to Be Normal at dinner, at the office, at home. To smile and drink tea and wait for appropriate breaks in conversation to interject. There is nothing normal about Being Normal. Our gift, our value, our wonder as humans; is wholly and entirely wrapped up in the fact that we are all supremely and individually, seriously Not Normal.
And the biggest scam of all is that we think we’re not allowed to show it. That showing our real thoughts and our big emotions and revealing our awkward, twisted, uncomfortably-human desires makes us weirdos, exiles, pariahs.
When in fact all it makes us, is human. No more, no less. And our every single non-linear, wouldn’t-work-as-a-plotline imperfection is a chance, is something for us to grapple with, is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of what it means to walk this messy, divine place we call earth.
But we aren’t there yet.
Misfit, rebel, oddball, non-conformist, anarchist, radical, strange French-can-can-dancing-girl-in-the-copy-room: pick whichever you like best.
Just don’t you dare call me Normal.