Normal is a Myth
Normal is a myth. Normal is the fictional common denominator that comes from averaging a collective of individuals. If someone says they’re “normal,” they just want to fit in. It is a completely normal condition for humans to want to fit in to society. To not be perceived as outcasts is the ultimate goal of life. Those who relish being outcasts, do so with other outcasts, thereby negating the title absolutely. From the day we’re born, we are taught that being “different” is not acceptable. The moment we’re born, we’re weighed, measured and stuck in a percentile. From that instant, we are judged. We are qualified with a numeric label. Too low, a parent feels their child will not live up to the standard. Too high, a parent worries their child will not fit in. All this happens within the first minutes of life.
As we grow, we learn what is acceptable and what is not. You need to make friends with the “right” kids doing the correct activities. If someone is different, as much as our society preaches acceptance, the usual course of action is isolation. If you don’t like something, you ignore it. Or, you point out why something is different to make yourself appear more normal. Apply this to a classroom and the best laid plans always run awry. Smart kids make everyone else look stupid, athletes get all the attention and what were you thinking when you put that on this morning? Now, roll all three of those into one, and you get me.
I was a really smart, really tall, really nice kid thrown to the wolves of social acceptance. I did not pass. Middle school was hell. High school was awful. College was a joke. Even veterinary school, with kids in their mid to late twenties, where maturity is assumed, wasn’t exempt. To this day, I still struggle to like myself on a daily basis. I am never going to fit into any normal label, and I still cannot fully accept that. I am still really smart, really tall and really nice, and I wish I could say I love who I am, but I’m not there yet. Thankfully, along my path, I have found people who truly appreciate who I am at my very core. I have one friend from college, a few from veterinary school, but most of my good friends I found after the dust had settled. Growing up, there was not one person I could truly count on to share my feelings with without judgement. It is a very lonely and depressing way to exist. I made so many attempts to fit in over the years, I completely lost my identity. By the time I was in college, I was emotionally inert and decided to dedicate myself to my schooling and forget the rest.
Forcing someone to be socially accepted is draining and futile. Those wanting to continue ostracizing you will make any attempt you make to join in excruciatingly painful. Trying to be nice, then nicer and the nicest, blows up in your face. I was tortured from middle school on for my smart brain, terrible fashion choices and exceptional height. Well, I could only fix one of those things, and I did try dressing differently, but the height thing kind of got in the way of that. If you are not normally sized, it is hell finding clothes that fit properly. My entire extended family kept sending me XL and XXL gifts because they heard I was tall and figured tall equaled large. It wasn’t until veterinary school that I realized I actually fit a medium top. To this day, I wear jeans and t-shirts religiously because they are consistent and I know how they fit. Back in the day, when you can’t fit the right jeans and your t-shirt choices are just wrong, there’s nowhere else to go. Specialty sizes may go in petite and tall directions, but most assume that if you’re tall, you resemble a pencil. I am more highlighter shaped. My extra tall build came with the extra wide setting. I cannot make my bones shrink. Sure, I may gain and lose a few pounds like everyone else, but I will never be “skinny.” Another reality I have trouble accepting. In a society where skinny is always better, I am constantly hounded by a perfection I cannot attain.
Thankfully, the one aspect of myself that I have embraced and nurtured is my giant, amazing brain. I may have wrecked grade curves for almost everyone in my path, but I have chosen a specialty where I get to shine. I have the credentials to back up my large capacity for information retention and made it a kick ass career. College was not hard for me. True, I could have attended one where I was more challenged, but I specifically picked a college where I did not know anyone. That, and a marine biology program, was the deciding factor when I made my college choice. When I got there, I worked over the system like it was my job. I overloaded every semester, took summer courses and graduated with honors and two minors. Ultimately, my college experience significantly underprepared me for my veterinary student career. I struggled to study materials and ended up graduating at the bottom of my class. And by bottom, I mean out of 63 students, I was #63. By then, I knew what I wanted and went to go find it, a career working in aquatic veterinary medicine. I finally knew what I was meant to do, thanks to my smarts. I knew that anything less wouldn’t make me happy, and even if it took decades, I would one day be a fish veterinarian. Once I had the goal cemented, everything else fell into place. I started my own company that has been steadily growing for the past 2 years. I am a business owner and veterinarian, and I am happy. Working with my patients every day makes me very happy.
Overall, I am a very happy person. I have a place in my world and friends to support me. I have structured my family as a supportive, loving anchor. My immediate family (mom, dad and sister) is sprinkled about the east coast, and I get to see each member, usually separately, about once or twice a year. Growing up, we functioned as a family of individuals rather than one unit, and the same is still true today. My family at home consists of three fuzzy cat babies and one man. My kids snuggle with me at night, pretend to listen to me and understand, look so f-ing adorable all curled up and don’t require a college education. They are my fuzz babies and I love them more than most people. In addition, I got extremely lucky with the man. As previously detailed, I was really tall and really smart growing up. That shrinks the possible dating pool to approximately 0.01%. In a class of 30 people, that’s barely a few toes. College dropped the percentage even smaller, but I did end up dating a little. One particular mistake took reckless advantage of my generosity and may he burn in hell for all eternity. My other half showed up at a Halloween party during my veterinary student career. I kinda blew him off that night, but stalked him later on Facebook and we’re doing great 5 years later. We are perfect in our imperfection and try to make each other happy. After giving up on the dating pool about a decade previously, it’s amazing how easily the right guy fell right into my path. So one fish veterinarian, plus one surfing/outdoorsman/salesman, plus three silly kittens is my definition of family. Normal? Hell no! Perfect? Nope. Just what I want? You bet.
So, after a multitude of rants, where does this leave me? Have I come to some epiphany by putting thoughts to paper? Not really. Did I expect to find enlightenment in my writing? Nope. I must have written this same theme a hundred times by now. The more I look at my own issues, however, the more I see how insignificant my self-criticism and insecurities really are. I know it’s silly to think less of myself, and eventually, one day I won’t see myself the way I do now. So, why do I share this with you? Well, if you are a young woman or man yourself and feel like no one understands or can see you, know that you are not alone. Anyone who calls themselves “normal” is delusional. No one is normal. If you know and care about someone who feels isolated and alone, share this with them. Reach out to them and tell them you are there for them and support them in everything they do. Have them write you their own story and share yours with them. Just having the support and understanding of one person can make an infinite difference in someone’s life. I fought the battle to where I am today mostly by myself. Those people who matter most have helped me be the person who I am today. Those who don’t matter did not make me any different. I am not perfect and I wouldn’t want to be. I want to be happy and some days, it doesn’t come easily. Thankfully, I have a job I love, a supportive family and an awesome bunch of friends who want me to be happy, just like I want to see them happy. My main goal in writing this is to make one person feel just a tiny bit better. So, whoever you are, wherever you are: you matter to me. Keep fighting to be yourself, and I promise you will get there. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Never, ever try to be normal.
Jess…..we are never surprised at your insight to yourself and others…we are so happy to have you as a very important part of our life…I love your sense of humor…your boundless energy…your thoughtfulness..your joy in life and love….your ability to listen when someone you love is in your presence…I love your height…and Your joy in everything around you..I love that you try new things without hesitation , or, fear of failing..I love that you support your man and are clear about where you stand…I love you for who you are and continue to be impressed with the young woman you have become!! Love ….Joan