Daily Post prompt: Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?
Whatever the definition of normal is, I’ve never felt it. There are many reasons for this. Even before I was sexually abused as a child, thereby ruining any chance of normality I may have had, I never felt normal.
All I really wanted to do was blend in, to have no one notice me, to fade into the background, but I was unable to do that. I was a shy child. When I say shy, I don’t mean coy. I mean that I was so introverted that I didn’t talk to anyone, even my schoolmates, unless they talked to me first. I pretended to like things I didn’t really like just so that the few people who did talk to me would continue to do so. Even from an early age, what I liked, what I enjoyed was not the same as everyone else. I was a pretender, a big fake.
I grew up in Detroit, a city which is 80% black. I am not black at all. I am almost the opposite of black with my fair skin and white blonde hair. I did not blend well. Even today, I feel awkward around a bunch of white people. I live in a mixed race neighborhood and I like it that way.
Other than my physical appearance, I had a few more traits that made me stick out. I am left-handed and hearing impaired, so I was unable to just sit in the back of the class with my head down, which is really all I wanted to do. To be able to hear the teacher, I had to sit at the front of the class in a special desk, or arrangement of desks, so that I could write my backwards southpaw scrawl. I was the blonde beacon of abnormality at the front of every classroom.
I was a tomboy. While my little princess cohorts were dreaming of their fairytale weddings, I was climbing trees. My mom knew that if she couldn’t find me, I was in a tree. Oh, how I loved trees. I loved their cradling branches and rustling leaves. Everything felt better up high. I never liked the things all the little girls around me liked, and it wasn’t entirely acceptable for a little girl to have only male friends. Even the male friends I did have still thought of me as a girl in the back of their minds. I didn’t belong in either the girl or boy camp.
I also have music -> visual synesthesia. I see music as colors and patterns. When I realized no one else saw music like I do, it made me feel even more separated from the herd. Try telling someone that you see Beethoven as a rainbow forest and see what looks you get.
Synesthesia is still something that most kids struggle with. While 1 in 10 of us is left-handed, roughly 1 in 20 have synesthesia, and it’s usually grapheme -> color where you see letters and numbers in different colors. Only 1 in 3.5 million people in the world sees music and most of them only see music as color, not three-dimensional colorful movement and pattern like me. I have never met anyone in person who sees music. I was, and still am, an anomaly.
Kids are cruel creatures and they will attack any perceived difference. I had my share of bullies, but I wasn’t strong enough to do a thing about it. I never tattled. Rather than standing up for myself, I withdrew. I didn’t have the strength of character to be able to celebrate my differences; I saw them as flaws. I just wanted to be like everyone else in the worst way, but I couldn’t.
I didn’t come out of my shell until high school. It was only then that I realized that people are all just people. We are all Homo sapiens descended from primordial ooze. When you get to thinking of your peers as primordial ooze with thumbs, well, it makes caring what they think of you a little silly. I did not, and still don’t, care what people think of me. That made life a little easier, but it was just another way to distance myself. Instead of thinking of them as scary, I thought of them as ooze. I thought of myself as ooze, too, so it wasn’t that I was better than them. It’s just that I had accepted and embraced my meager oozy beginnings; they had not.
I don’t think many people really do, but I still don’t think of myself as normal. I still don’t blend. It’s just that now, with age and perspective and no one to taunt me on a daily basis, I have accepted my differences. I revel in them. I fly my freak flag high. While I wanted to be normal in the worst way when I was a kid, now, I’m glad that I’m not. I sometimes wish I had the strength to celebrate my freakishness when I was a kid, but if I had, I wouldn’t have the perspective I have now.
From my view on the outside looking in, being normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s all of our myriad differences that make us unique. If humans were all the same, it would be a pretty boring planet.