Our culture tells us that putting across an image of being organised, poised and polished will enable us to convince others that we are what they perceive as ‘normal’. Living in the UK we have to show a stiff upper lip and not let on what’s really happening. Our culture also encourages us to become impatient and angry with ourselves when we don’t live up to the expectations of other people. We need to buck up, get it together and stop being so weak or so weird. We need to be normal.
Is this really the best way to live our lives? And what is ‘normal’ anyway? Here’s one take on it, from someone who will probably never be normal!
The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘normal’ is ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected’.
Many of us are brought up, from a young age, being told to be brave, not cry and not bother other people with our problems. We have to be ‘normal’ and fit in with the norm of other people.
But instead of expecting ourselves to be normal by being calm, coherent and rational, and being ashamed when we’re not, I believe that it’s far better to recognise that the traits considered abnormal by some, are actually normal. Within us we all have waywardness, a degree of awkwardness and a desire to stand out. This is actually very normal! If we were all a little more honest, with ourselves and others, about how we really feel, we would actually all be a bit calmer, happier and more fulfilled. Trying to fit in can be harder work and more stressful than just being the way you want to be. As the actress Tori Spelling said “Everybody knows there is no such thing as normal. There is no black-and-white definition of normal. Normal is subjective. There’s only a messy, inconsistent, silly, hopeful version of how we feel most at home in our lives.”
After I was diagnosed as HIV positive in September 2006, I went through some very low times when I really didn’t know what the future would hold. I would go into work on a Monday, to be asked “How was your weekend, Roland?”
“Well, I tried to commit suicide, how was yours?”
I didn’t say that, of course. I pretended that nothing had happened. I was pretending about my health and situation anyway, so another white lie wouldn’t hurt. I spent a lot of time trying to be as ‘normal’ as possible under the circumstances, perhaps not quite grasping at this stage that ‘normal’ was a thing of the past for me.
When I was first diagnosed with Dyspraxia, the disability consultant at work wrote to my HIV specialist asking whether it was caused by encephalopathy (my AIDS-defining illness). The specialist replied in the affirmative, adding that “Roland will never be normal again.” My first reaction was, “Great! Another label.” And then I thought, “Actually who wants to be normal? Normal is a setting on a washing machine! Normal is boring!” Now my mission in life is to never, ever be normal again.
How Can You Stand Out?
Be proud of what makes you different. Celebrate whatever it is that makes you look different to the people who want to be seen as ‘normal’. If you want to wear a bow tie and a stunning moustache that make you stand out at networking meetings and that give you a recognisable brand, then go for it! Wear purple and dance in the rain if it makes you happy. As the fabulous Maya Angelou said ‘“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Find your own ‘normal’ and be amazing.
Join Me at the Launch of my New Book!
On 2 May 2018 I will be celebrating the launch of my new book! Writing a book is no easy task, so I want to celebrate that fact that it is now done and available, by inviting you to the party in London.
“Ripples From the Edge of Life” is the story of my life so far – the obstacles that I’ve overcome, the way I’ve done it and the people who have supported me. It is contains stories from other inspiring people who have dealt with and overcome huge obstacles. I hope it will inspire you to achieve more and live your life to the fullest. It might even help you to find your own normal.
If you would like to attend the launch party, click here to let me know.