Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Normalcy
May 10, 2008 3:15pm CST
Some of my earliest memories as a little girl are of being told, "don't be opposite." I remember them quite vividly now. Some things have always been kind of different with me, my whole entire life. I have always become cold very quickly, I don't know why and I've never been told I had something physically wrong with me, I just chill faster I guess. I remember being told as a little girl to take my coat off, it's warm, when I was very comfortable with it on. If I said I didn't want to I was fine, I was told not to be opposite, that I was definitely too hot. When I was 7 I was at a buffet restaurant, for dessert I picked up a slice of chocolate cake, I still remember the the beautiful swirls in the frosting and the flower on it. I ate about half, but it was so rich, I couldn't finish it. I'd hit my rich food limit. The waiter came by (I guess that's what you call them) to pick up our dishes and ask if anyone wanted more coffee. I said I was finished. He said, "No you're not, you still have cake left." I said, "I'm full, I can't finish it." He said, "Yes you can, all kids love chocolate cake." I took a bite the size of a pea, it didn't taste good anymore, and I didn't finish it. I was homeschooled through the 8th grade. I really didn't have more than one or two friends my age. I never had, so I didn't really feel unhappy about that. However, I always had a very strong sense that I was not normal. I watched some childrens shows on PBS. All those kids when to school, played differently than I did, their rooms looked different. I used to try to imitate them, because I believed this was normal, and I wanted to be normal. I tried to play the way the characters did, but I couldn't, it didn't interest me. I refused to do school work in the room for a time because it was too hard to imagine the setting of a classroom there. I re-arranged everything I could in my room over and over and over again, trying to get it to look like something I had seen, something that was normal, ordinary. The thing is, it never worked. I learned very quickly that when I felt, thought, wanted something that was different from everyone else my age or around me, to just shut my mouth. I kept a lot of ideas to myself. A few things I still did, though they were not "normal." I still read books that were years in advance of what should have interested me. I started reading classics in 3rd and 4th grade. I learned to sew starting at age 4 with a yarn size embroidery needle that can't poke you. I used a child's sewing machine at age 5 and an adult sewing machine that I still use at age 7. I loved, and still do but don't have time, designing and making doll clothes. At 16 I consigned some at a store for about a year, until it closed. In my pursuit or the illusive "normal", I learned quite a bit. It isn't fun. It's not so bad to just not comment because you know your answer doesn't make sense coming from a child. It's a pain to try to imitate all those other room arrangements to try to make yours look like other peoples. Invisibility is much easier than normalcy. The latter I figured out by about 9. Around the same time I decided to be done with the miserable thing called "childhood." I adopted formal adult manners. Knees together always, sit up straight, never slouch, never get dirty, always be well pressed and never wear clothes that have a single spot on them. I started trying to avoid wearing pants as well, because I didn't like how I looked in them, it felt unladylike. Of course I knew that this wasn't what normal girls my age were doing. In fact my father told me to act my age, stop trying to be grown up, go play in the yard or you'll regret this in the future. This time I didn't do it. I couldn't because I was absolutely sure I didn't like the things I had quit. I would have continued to try to be normal if I had known the one consequence of my actions that was not directed at me. Some relatives began telling my mother that she was not parenting me correctly, that my personality was not developing properly, and to let me be a child like I was supposed to be. I had no idea what they were doing to her, and for this alone, I am sorry for what I did. At the same time as this, there were still some areas I wanted to be normal. I wanted desperately to know what it was like to go to school. Although I later found out that I was one of the most educated people for my age, I felt like I really wasn't learning anything at home because of how little time I felt like I was studying and even less I was receiving instruction. In HS I realized that my addiction to historical fiction novels had actually made be highly educated when I thought I was just engaging in pleasure reading. Around the age of 12, I started realizing that I could never attain this normalcy no matter how hard I tried. I was sick and tired of copying, copying TV character, people I knew, novel character mostly at this point. It wasn't working, I did not feel normal and was at my wits end to know what next to try. I was very quiet and quite isolated, though I didn't realize that I was all that isolated. This perhaps was one reason I felt I was so different. I never did anything with friends, never had anyone over. The others my age I knew, I knew mostly casually from various activities. Then I went to HS. I started seeing all different kinds of people my own age. Most were wearing makeup, pants, and many wore other types of clothes I would never have let anyone see me wear. I watched people very closely for a while and finally found the resolution to the issue. Normalcy is an illusion, it does not exist, therefore it can not be attained. Normal is merely a perception. No two people perceive it the same. No matter what I could have tried to do, I could never achieve this illusion because it always shifts with everything new I ever learned. Not only that, my personality will never be compatible with my perception of normal. The whole reason I never felt normal is really because normal became like a mold I had to fit into. The preconceived idea that I was not normal made this impossible because normal was then defined by what I was not that someone else was. That means that I do not have to do anything different, I can embrace abnormality and be who I want to be. It's much easier that way. No one else is really normal either. No two people are the same, no two days are the same. How can normal exist without at even one match. Normal means being alike. No people are alike. The pursuit of normalcy is futile, it can't be attained because it is merely an illusion, but I can be satisfied with me when I stop trying to be fit into a mold I can not even grab onto.