Normal is Something We Need to Define for Ourselves

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.

  • Amanda

    so beautiful and so so spot on. love you

    • rissy26

      thanks A. love youu xoxo

  • Sherri Troy

    This is so right on Ris. I have been trying for a long time to help you realize that “normal’ doesn’t exist in a global/big picture sort of way. Just as you said, we each have our own normal and that is normal for us. I hope you really feel all you wrote…you are wonderful and for whatever it’s worth you are more “normal” than most…:) Love you so much…for all you are and all you have yet to be…<3

    • rissy26

      Love you mom

  • val0525

    I always was looking for a “Hallmark Holiday” for large family gatherings and was always disappointed. I had to change my vision of what to expect and accept that what it is is what it is.

    Great blog!!!

    Keep Writing!!!


    Normal is Something We Need to Define for Ourselves
    As usual, your reflections upon how you and others who share your circumstances are right on. The only problem I have is the manner in which you started to describe the word NORMAL as something that is defined as that which is universally agreed as acceptable. Later in your essay, you come through a series of conditions and circumstances to what you believe should be expressed as normal; You concluded, “There is no such thing as having a normal life.” On that point, I do agree. But, for those who have felt left out of the norm (short for normal), I offer a look at what you successfully concluded as your norm.
    The English language is the most descriptive language in the world. We take words from other languages as our own, finesse them to reflect what we want them to represent and then, move along.
    We add hundreds of words to our vocabulary each year as new words must be invented to describe “things” that evolve in our new age of electronics, science, medicine, and new-age phraseology.
    However, English also has its self-imposed limitations of words. There are words that we call synonyms (words that mean the same, or almost the same, as another word in the same language, either in all of its uses or in a specific context). Add to this the homonym (a word that is spelled, or pronounced in the same way as one or more other words but has a different meaning.
    I offer up this little lesson in order to bring the word, “normal” as an example of a synonym that means the same, or almost the same as words such as average, mean, normal, standard, (right, and wrong). The latter definition is what some people think emotionally is the definition of the word “normal.” They are wrong. Right or wrong is a sociological conditional statement, and normal is only hypothetical in that sense.
    The most common use of the word “normal” is translated as: average, standard, or mean. In the statistical world they all have a meaning of where individuals belong in a particular even-distribution. In graph form, such even-distribution is shown as a bell-curve.
    A bell curve is an even distribution of something that relates to a group of equally circumstanced projects or individuals. Therefore, it can measure or describe anything that is evenly distributed, for example test scores, car prices, or people’s heights or weights. It’s shaped like a bell, that is, tallest in the middle and lower at the extremes, because most of the values (whatever you’re measuring) are closest to the middle (the mean or average).
    Therefore, we must first start with a specific group of equally circumstanced individuals. It could be a class of six graders who are being measured by their test scores. Some do very well; others do poorly; and others do very well. Graphically they fall on the bell curve graph so that the average is in the middle, or average for that class, and some that are above the mean or standard and may be represented by the top of the curve. This does not mean that the top is 100%. That number is the average. Below that normal level may be 80%, or the top of the curve may score 120% or higher.
    In order for this Standard (normal, mean, average) distribution to be considered of value, the normal must come from an equal circumstance of individuals. A measurement of standard life style for healthy people between the ages of 12-26 can fall into the bell curve only under the title(healthy).
    In conclusion, if I haven’t lost you, There can be a charting of what is considered normal under the heading of: Even Distribution Curve of People age 12-26 suffering from Crohns Disease. Under that heading there is no question that you would exceed the NORMAL and probably fall close (on either side) of the 120% mark.
    You did not create your life, but you are living it beyond the norm. CUZALAN

  • Jodi

    Once again, your words so true. You are not normal (or average), you excel!!!

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