“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”
—Vincent van Gogh
What is ‘normal’ anyway?
When I was young, one of my biggest fears was being stuck in a ‘normal’ life, being a ‘normal’ person. I’ve often been – and mostly seen myself as – an outcast and something of a loner. Despite this didn’t use to see my life as especially different or abnormal. Sure, I’ve been viewed as a bit weird and eccentric – but that was just me, not the life I lived. It was basically dull, normal, doing mostly what everyone else did. I went through school with fairly average grades, spent some time unemployed and jumping between different jobs before sticking with one in commuter traffic. My spare time was divided between nerdier activities – games, comics, literature, culture – and social activities like going to clubs and parties. I made friends, went through a series of failed relationships, went on trips. Nothing major.
The first time I really started reflecting on my life was when a colleague and I was out drinking, talking about our past. He was multilingual and had lived in several corners of the world as a child, and I thought it must’ve been exciting and different. We traded experiences, and about half-way through the evening he was sitting slack-jawed, shaking his head and told me “you should write a book about this!”. I kind of laughed it off, saying it was the life that was normal to me and it wasn’t all that. We kept talking and when we parted ways he put his hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes and said:
“I’m serious Thomas, you should write that book.”
For a long time after that I thought about my life and my experiences, trying to see what he saw. Other people came into my life, making similar comments, and I started thinking that maybe there was actually something to their comments. Often I shook, my head, thinking that it was just because it was different from their lives, not because it was special at all. I trudged on through the ups and downs of my life, finding comfort and recognition in books and movies and television. Further encouragement from friends had me making notes about my life, making me realize that I have been living several fairly different lives simultaneously, and that not even my closest friends had the full story.’
Recently – for the past three years or so – I’ve done a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out where I want my life to go. In the midst of all this I’ve come to realize that the view I’ve had of myself might not be what other people see. Dear Reader, I’ve had three moments of epiphany during this time. One was in dating a woman, quite a colorful character at that, who told me that I was ‘so different and exciting’; one was describing a scene from Californication to a friend, where I saw characters and events I could relate to and he saw unreal and weird. The third was doing a stupid internet test where I had to say what role I filled in the circle of my closest friends, and finding that the only role I could realistically choose was ‘the party animal’. Me! That is pretty much the opposite of what I’ve seen myself as. I thought I was a loner and book-worm. I’m not.
Normal is only that which we are used to.
My life seems dull and normal compared the more extreme characters I’ve known throughout my life (and there’s been a few…), but comparing to how most people live their lives mine has been anything but. So, you may ask, will I ever write the book my friend told me to? Maybe. I’m just not sure how to do it without stepping on toes, embarrassing people, and raising all kinds of questions from those who know me.
I’m not sure I’m ready to expose myself and those I care about like that – yet…
- Read – The Kindly Ones; Jonathan Littell
- Watch – CARGO; Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke
- Listen – Time Has Told Me; Nick Drake