Have you ever walked along a busy road and thought: If just one person had made one different decision, if the climate had been just one degree colder thousands of years ago – everything could be different. So easily we get caught in our world. All the rules of life, and the norms we burden ourselves with, we take for granted. As if it couldn’t be any other way.
But walking along roads in different places can make you question the sacredness of ‘your’ normal. And how we can judge somebody for not being compliant with this self-made cage we put ourselves in?
As somebody with social anxiety, I ask myself the question of ‘what is normal?’ every single day. Perfectionism and social anxiety are closely related. ‘Passing’ as a perfectly normal person can be the ultimate goal of social anxiety.
But that is not my goal. My goal is to invent a new normal. A normal for myself. I do not like the norm. I do not like the fact that it is not considered normal to talk to homeless people. I do not like the fact that it is not considered normal to start singing, or dancing, or skipping, whenever you feel like it. Sometimes it feels like adulthood kills joy precisely by defining what normal is so pedantically.
I do not know what Camus meant when he said this sentence, and I’m not going to pretend like I do. Camus was his own person with his own way of understanding things. I can, however, tell you, what this sentence means to me: First of all, I know it to be true. I have lived through it. Attempting a normal routine. Pretending to be fine because IT IS NOT NORMAL to be terrified of ordering food at a restaurant, or having a panic attack when you attempt to enter a gym. Answering ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ when asked how I am, because this is normal, and answering ‘Actually, right now I feel worthless and trapped and terrified of doing something wrong in conversing with you” is not.
We are all terrified of people looking at us funny. That look, that judgemental, excluding look is what we use to control people. As social beings, we are terrified of being left out. Of being judged, disliked and alone. A lot of us would rather give up on creating their own personality than be left out. Hiding our free childhood selves away, letting them die in favour of someone else’s creation.
Some people naturally fit in. They align sweetly with the norm, and if they don’t, they adjust themselves without a second thought.
Other people love to break out of the norm, just for its sake. Some are fine to stay outside, they don’t mind being left out, they don’t even feel it.
Others are desperate to fit in, but find that the norm goes against the essence of their very being. This is me. I used to think that I was wrong because I thought the norm was wrong. But oftentimes, my ‘funny feeling’ is right and the norm IS wrong. It’s wrong to ignore homelessness. Casual racism is wrong. Casual sexism is wrong. Bullying is wrong. And yet it is usually considered normal not to speak up. Speaking up makes you either a weirdo or a hero, depending on perspective, but it does not make you normal.
I find that very strange.
Why have we made speaking up so terrifying? Why have we made it seem wrong? Why is ignoring the problem and going along with it the norm? Is it laziness? Ignorance? A human condition?
In this current world climate, it has become more important than ever not to be normal. We need to question everything. We cannot accept what politicians present to us as normal. They don’t get to define normal. We do. Each and every one of us gets to define their own normal.