What is normal?

The dictionary says normal is “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.”

My drama teacher in high school once told me to stop chewing gum because it makes people look common. “Common” was a slap in the face as far as I was concerned. For a teenager who wanted to fit in desperately, I still found the idea of being common or normal repulsive.

Growing up in the zoo made me feel like an odd ball in all situations. I would try not to mention it much, but I always felt like it was tattooed on my forehead. There was always that pull to appear normal while still wanting to feel special.

I guess maybe we want to fit in, but still be unique. We want the qualities that make us different to be on our terms, not forcedĀ  on us. If we feel different because of something our family has pushed on us, or something we were not in control of, we resent it. If it is a trait we like or see as acceptable, then we tend to be OK with it.

Sometimes people try to be weird just to get attention. Being weird or trying to appear average when it isn’t really “you” are equally sad in my book. If you are different, then be different. If another part of you is pretty normal, so be it.

But is there really such a thing as normal when it comes to people?

I started thinking about this after listening to a podcast that my son and his co host recorded on Monday. They talk about being normal and eventually talk about how people try to appear normal on social media.

The things they mention that people hide to appear normal are the very things that I feel make us normal. We all have bills and illnesses and rough patches. The people on my social media feed who share the truth seem the most normal to me. I guess I am old enough to know that if anyone actually had a “perfect’ life they would NOT be normal!!

My husband Tim says that I use the backspace button more than anyone he knows. I type things and then delete them over and over. I write whole blog posts and then put them in the trash bin or delete them. I share something and then when I reread it I realize I just can’t share that- people will think I am insane!

Every time I do go ahead and post something that I worry is too much information, that is when I get the most feedback. Not feedback telling me I am nuts, but feedback telling me how much others relate to what I have said. Feedback telling me that they feel the same way or have experienced the same thing.

Feeling different, abnormal, and alone is the worst. It is when we open up and share, that we realize we are all more alike than we think. The very thing that might make you feel like a weirdo is what might be your connection to someone else.

Staying alone and isolated, holding on to something as if you are the only one to every feel that way is not healthy. I would have to imagine that no matter what you feel makes you odd, there is someone out there who can relate. As much we want to be unique, there is probably someone out there with the same issue, feeling alone and afraid.

I have things I will probably never share. Let me rephrase- there are definitely things I will never share. Not all of our business needs to be made public. But if we realize that we are not alone, that our quirks make us human, maybe we can feel more free to be who we were created to be.

Maybe if we embrace our differences, share our differences and realize that maybe those differences aren’t quite so strange after all, then we can learn to not only accept each other, but learn to accept ourselves.

Normal? Not something I strive for, but like it or not, our true self is normal. For us.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.