Thursday, March 23, 2006

Skip over to the Bonny Glen

because Lissa has a wonderful post about homeschooling.

In the comments, I saw this, from someone identifying himself as a homeschooled kid:

I always wondered "am I normal?" how do you reassure your children? Because no matter what my parents said I still felt different then the world, and that question always ate away at me ...

This saddens me, mostly because of the underlying assumption that there is such a thing as "normal."

What is "normal" anyway? I didn't think I was normal when I was growing up, either. I went to public school, though doing so didn't make me normal. I went to college. That didn't make me normal either. I got a job, struggled to pay the bills and for awhile, I drank to excess, dangerous excess. Did that make me normal? I found God and He changed my life. Did that, finally, make me normal?

Because the funny thing is, no matter where I've been in my life, or what choices I've made, I didn't feel normal. When I was in public school, and started feeling abnormal because I knew I didn't sound like my friends, I made a conscious decision to dumb down my language. I remember the exact moment: I was walking down the hall of my elementary school, a fifth-grader with two of my friends, and I thought to myself, "I just don't sound like they do. But I know how to sound like they do. And I will."

When, as a young adult, I was an atheist, I felt far from the norm of American society. Most people, it seemed to me, went to church, therefore I wasn't normal. Conversely, now that I'm a Christian trying to live my faith in every way, I don't find that I'm in the mainstream. It's not exactly normal to be a homeschooling, NFP-knowing, preschooler-nursing, Magisterium-loving Catholic.

So, what is "normal" anyway? I know the etymology of the word -- it derives from "square" or "right angle", as in a "carpenter's square" -- but that doesn't transfer well to a complex being, such as a human one. Because I don't think I've ever met a single person cut from a perfect square or one who lives a "normal" life. Even the perfect, normal families have crosses, problems, secrets and heartaches that no one outside the family could guess. Of the people I know, on a level deeper than acquaintance, no one thinks of himself or herself as "normal" and yet how many of us persist in holding on to the idea of that elusive standard that we'll never reach?

As Lissa so aptly noted in her post, "weird" (or "not-normal") usually just means "different" ... and it's the weird people who have often gone on to do great things in the world. And a lot of weird people, while they may never do outwardly great things, will find other wonderful weird people, marry them, and lead fulfilling lives, raising weird kids and having a great time through it all.

It's also worth noting that television plays a huge part in depicting a world that is supposedly "normal" but in reality, is nothing like most people's lives. Take, for example, something as basic as housing. Have you ever noticed the standard of living on TV? The "normal" American family -- on TV -- lives in a house situated on a piece of real estate that would be far out of grasp for their real-life counterparts. How many "normal" singles on TV live in great-looking apartments that, in reality, they could never afford? TV sets us up for a feeling of failure just about every time we turn the channel. So, I hope, dear Homeschooled Kid, that you're not looking to popular media for your examples and standards. There are other places for you to look -- places of value -- that will give you so much more by which to judge yourself and your life.

Being normal isn't all it's cracked up to be. I love my abnormal life, and my abnormal choices, and I often find that it's exactly the things that make me "abnormal" that also make me this: Happy.

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