The paradox of “Normal”

Last week I got a haircut because I wanted to look normal again.

I had been growing out my hair for nearly 6-months, as I had largely been confined in my home since the world decided to roll over and disturb the peace of what many of us considered “normal.”

And, that same week, I decided to pick up a book and start reading again. A book about humanity now sits by my nightstand, and a book about Love sits next to my laptop desktop.

I then had a much-needed reunion with some of my best friends from high school – our bi-annual reunion, as I “normally” spend 10 months of the year outside of Canada. Yet, during high school, I would spend 8-hours a day with these people.

Because, last year this time, what was considered normal to me was reading one book a week, getting my hair cut every 3-weeks, traveling the world, performing magic, and writing daily.

I want my life to go back to “Normal.”

But for the past 6-months, while I grew out my hair, I had to adjust to a new type of normal as I battled my health concerns and not to mention all things considered with how the rest of 2020 has been going.

And so, while I progress towards my past “normal” life, what I’ve begun to realize is that the true paradox is assuming that “normal” exists in the first place.

When I was 14, “normal” meant waking up at 4:30 AM to train basketball for 2 hours with at the time my best friend, before going to class, followed by 2 hours of musical theatre rehearsal, followed by basketball team practice, and getting home at 9 PM to self-study four AP courses. In university, “normal” meant waking up 5-minutes before classes started and stumbling over to the business building while somehow managing to grab an ice-coffee so I could stay awake before my afternoon nap.

I have gone through phases where “normal” meant I felt fat. To phases where I was used to having 6-pack abs. To phases where physical fitness wasn’t even on my agenda.

For the past 6-months, “normal” meant being quarantined at home like a couch potato and suffering as I thought about how much life I was missing out on. I wanted to see the world. Two years ago, around this time, I had traveled to four different countries in the summer.

My hair was so long that it could cover the entire length of my face down to my chin. So yes. I cut my hair – finally – because I wanted it to go back to normal.

But normal doesn’t exist.

As much as I want to go back to the way things are, it is better that I soon realize that there is nothing I can do to escape reality.

Whether it be the way my physical health adapts, or my mental health, or my relationships with family, friends, with society, it is all a misunderstanding that normal is something we can actually achieve.

My life will never be able to go back to normal because I’ve experienced new things; I’ve seen society change. I evolve – for better or worse – and I’ve made new relationships, forged new contracts with the universe. Each of us has a unique version of what “normal” is.

I miss the days of being 12 and having no worries.

I miss spending time with my best friends.

I miss the “normal” of my childhood friends who I’ve mostly lost contact with.

But I can’t dwell on something that doesn’t exist.

So here’s to forging a life worth living, writing about, thinking about, remembering, missing, and let’s forget the normal life.

I want an extraordinary life.

I want to close with one of my favorite poems, which might shed some light on these paradoxes I am battling.

Paradox – Sarah Kay
When I am inside writing,
all I can think about is how I should be outside living.
When I am outside living,
all I can do is notice all there is to write about.
When I read about love, I think I should be out loving.
When I love, I think I need to read more.
I am stumbling in pursuit of grace,
I hunt patience with a vengeance.
On the mornings when my brother’s tired muscles
held to the pillow, my father used to tell him,
For every moment you aren’t playing basketball,
someone else is on the court practicing.
I spend most of my time wondering
if I should be somewhere else.
So instead, I have learned to shape the words thank you
with my first breath each morning, my last breath every night.
When the last breath comes, at least I will know I was grateful
for all the places I was so sure I was not supposed to be.
All those places I made it to,
all the loves I held, all the words I wrote.
And even if it is just for one moment,
I know I will be exactly where I am supposed to be.

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