My husband and I had a conversation recently in which we chatted a bit about our childhoods. I made a comment along the lines of, “Y’know, when you’re a kid and you’re used to screwed up situations, it’s normal to you. I mean, you must have some memories like that too, right?”
He just sort of gave me a look and told me my childhood was probably stranger than his was. I guess that’s true.
He grew up alongside both his brothers, where my sisters were separated from my brother and I for the majority of the year. His parents knew all of his high school buddies, where the set of parents I lived away from knew none of mine.
In school, he was with the “smart” kids and would have probably been considered gifted in other situations, where I was in the special education classroom for a chunk of every day through most of my public school years. He fell in with other kids with relatively stable family situations, where I fell in with others who had situations similar to mine.
It wasn’t until I entered the “real world” and had a chance to look back at some of those childhood memories that I realized that what was my every day reality was foreign to most others. While I’ll admit that’s a lonely realization, it also brings up the question of what exactly normal is.
Over time, I’ve come to consider normal as a personal thing that has become strangely impersonal.
While it’s normal for me to write out lists for simple tasks, like chores, people without cognitive challenges don’t need the extra reminders. I need multiple calendars to stay on top of appointments, while most others can just rely on one planner. While it’s normal for many writers to sit down and write something every day of the week, my normal involves taking breaks from language related tasks a few days out of the week.
Those things don’t make me a freak, lazy or any less of a writer. I do them to save myself time and frustration. They’re just a part of my personal “normal”. It doesn’t matter that they don’t fit in with anyone else’s idea of the concept.
The same goes for things like when an autistic person stims or someone with dyspraxia avoids certain physical activities. Those things are normal for those people, even if they’re not normal for others.
A big part of the problem with the whole medical model of disability is its concentration of the false concept of communal normal. Being able to get by without accommodation may be normal for the majority of people, but it’s not for the minority.
This goes far beyond the realm of disability, of course, but it’s not addressed as much as issues like race, gender or sexuality.
So, the original question remains, “What IS normal?”
My personal answer would be, “It’s different for everyone.”