I started saying “I wish I could just be normal” about a year after I was diagnosed and still make comments like that in passing today, 12 years later. But, then I started thinking and asking myself what constitutes normal? There is no answer to that question I’ve learned because everyone has their own version of what is normal for them. Normal, in many ways, is something we define for ourselves as we go through life. You don’t live the same kind of lifestyle year after year. We all change. We evolve. Situations change. Challenges come along. We are given curve balls that force us to alter the way we do certain things. I guess the point I am trying to make is that there is no real normal. When I was younger, my vision of a “normal” family would be a white house with black shutters, two cars, a mom and dad, two kids, and a golden retriever. While that may be what society has always led us to believe -that is not always the case for many people. And there is nothing wrong with that. My vision of a “normal” family has changed tremendously from when I was younger. Now, when I envision what an ordinary family looks like the images are completely different. Sometimes it is both parents and two kids, while others it is a one parent and three kids, there are a lot of blended families, kids shuffling back and forth between their parents. Just like there is no such thing as a “normal” family, there is no such thing as having a normal life.
This topic has been difficult for me to realize and accept over the years since I’ve spent so much time thinking about where I “should” be in life, and how I am not even close to where I want to be, doing what other people my age are doing. But, the truth is that this is my normal. The life I have now is my normal. It may not be exactly, or even remotely close, to how I envisioned it years ago, but that doesn’t change the reality or mean that there is anything wrong with it. Living with my parents at the age of 26 is my normal. Taking 5 years to graduate high school and 5 ½ to get through college is my normal. Having an ileostomy is my new normal. Trying to be open about my life and struggles is my new normal. Working on getting rid of my one sided friendships/relationships and focusing my energy on the people that have been there for me and the many other inspiring friends I have made this past year is my new normal. Most of these things weren’t my normal a few years ago, or even months ago. In an effort to try and accept my life and all that has happened to me, I have been trying to really realize that in this day and age, there is no such thing as normal. There are things and situations that are more likely to occur which makes them more typical than others. But, we are all different. We have unique experiences in life that make us who we are. We grow up in different types of households which also shape the person we become. Some of us have parents who are together, while many are the product of a divorce household. Some people struggle with money issues. Some have difficulty controlling their weight. Eating well and exercising are a huge part of some families, and of course there are families who aren’t into that as much. I could go on and on (as I am sure you have seen since my posts are generally pretty long ).
While I think we have reached a point in society where we are able to appreciate that there are so many different kinds of people in this world, I still think we hold on to the word “normal” too much. Maybe it is something to strive for. Maybe some of us use it as a benchmark for where we hope to be in our lives. I’ve been realizing more than ever now how important it is to accept you completely. And part of my path towards acceptance has been to try and stop “shoulding” all over myself. I have been trying harder and harder to focus on how it doesn’t matter what other people my age are doing because the experiences we have all been through are vastly different. And, it doesn’t matter. As long as you are OK with you, and your situation, and recognize that even if you aren’t where you predicted or always dreamed about, that it is still alright and that there is nothing wrong with you, than the rest is just unnecessary stress and pressure we put on ourselves. Normal is something that changes all the time as we evolve. Once we all realize that each and every one of us is just doing what they feel is best for them and there is no right or wrong way to live, and what other people are doing is irrelevant, the sooner we can live our own lives to the best of our capability and create the best “normal” we are able to.