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Monday, June 7, 2010

To Be, or Not, Normal

The following personal essay was written August 21, 2002 as part of a series called "From the Kore" that was published in my church's bulletin/newsletter-thing. I was 17, and not yet diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, so I attributed a lot to my diagnosis of ADD and to personal preference.

At this time, I speak of peer pressure in context of doing drugs, smoking, and other public-service-announcement type of illegal activities that I considered Very Bad Things.

Also, I was not as experienced and knowledgeable as I am today, and so worded things differently than I would today. However, this is my past, and I have decided to repost the piece intact, without editing.

From the Kore no Nine: To be, or not, Normal

I’ve always noticed the differences in people. It’s like something of a past time for me to observe the ways that a person operates and acts to certain situations, especially to other people. I really don’t appreciate the remarks people make about each other, especially when they can’t understand that people are all different and seem to blame others for the way that they are. It’s rather a personally experience.

I don’t expect everyone to understand me, or relate to me, because I know that I’m different from typical girls my age. I find myself the social alien in my high school simply for the way I act, and apart from being lonely sometimes, I don’t mind. I’d never go shopping to buy a wardrobe that’s in style, because it’s a waste of time and money. I usually buy what’s available in my size. It’s just not me to go crazy about guys. I just believe that using all my time just so that I can fit in to a certain crowd is just not worth it. I refuse to be what society defines as ‘normal’, and that makes a lot of people unhappy.

I don’t like the way society defines normal. It makes people act a certain way, stunting their personal growth. To a teen, so much depends on who you are, that I think most teens see society’s normal as something to work for, and in doing so, taking the easy way out. They make themselves act this way and buy that, all so they can have the feeling that they belong, that this is who they are without having to really look at their selves. I think that if all teens looked at who they really are, they will find that there is no real definition for normal; it doesn’t exist. A Fruitopia ad asks ‘What if there is no normal?’ and I say, it doesn’t. At least, not in the way we think about it. I looked up normal in the dictionary, and it told me that normal is to conforming to an accepted standard, model or pattern. The Media, which influences society more than we admit, defines normal as going along with the crowd, being popular, pretty and fashionable. And media says that’s where self-esteem and self worth comes from. Well, it might be true for some people, but there’s an exception everywhere.

I take normal to be seen as two things, with regards to the dictionary definition. What’s first thought of is being a part of the pattern of society, to be average of society. Sometimes I see this getting distorted by corruption. A person that is different is rejected as normal because they don’t follow what everyone else is doing, or acting, or whatever. Society seems to reject them because they don’t need what everyone else needs to be him or herself, they don’t follow the standards, if you will. Standards that allow companies who control the media get rich because that’s what they’ve been taught to do, and that’s how they feel they will be successful in life. It’s a cycle that keeps going because it feeds on confused teenagers looking for their identity. What isn’t understood is that if people were all unique, then the definition of normal is completely obsolete if you follow society’s way. And I’ve noticed that society is hypocritical in itself. Lately I’ve seen ads that encourage people to be different, to be unique. But it’s an ad for a certain brand of clothing, for a certain store. So the message I’m getting is that it’s great to be different, but only if you’re wearing this kind of clothing from this store only and heaven help you if you don’t accessorize. And so on and so on.
To follow the crowd isn’t unique, it’s doing what everyone else is doing. Quoting a well-known question, I ask you this: if everyone considered normal were to all jump off a cliff to his or her deaths, would you follow?
Thought so. No, we would haul them off to the mental hospital. At least, I would.

I have a different definition of normal. To be normal is to follow a set pattern, regularly and faithfully. But here’s the difference. The pattern is different for everyone. What is normal for one person may be alien to another; what is good for one is not necessarily good for everyone. Take, for example, myself. I’m definitely not like most students in my high school. This is partly because I’m part of the population labelled Attention Deficit Disorder. Although it really sounds like something bad, it’s not. It’s just that A.D.D. people are good at making other’s lives interesting, to say the least, in both good and bad ways. But back to my point, one of the reasons I’m just an outsider is that I can’t take part in some activities that they can. I simply cannot take the time or effort to do what is considered normal. I look at what some people do, shake my head and walk away. I don’t follow that way of life. However, I do have my own ‘normal’ behaviour, which includes all the wacky weird things I do. If there’s food, I eat. If there’s a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on, I will jump into my car and drive across town to give that friend my shoulder. It’s sometimes taxing on my resources (and at times, grades), but its part of my behaviour. I know that my peers at high school look at my values and think them strange, but then, I think wasting money to see certain films really stupid.

I get in contact with a large variety of people, each one with their own values and patterns for normal. We may not see eye to eye on some issues, but we can get along. One of the problems, however, is labelling. Is it really right to make all these unique people try to become a certain way? Do we consider suppression of personal freedom right? To become an outside-defined type of normal? Isn’t there a word for that, like, peer pressure? Do we consider peer pressure right? I rest my case.