I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what normal means to me. Is there even a sensible use of the word? My definition of normal changes with every encounter and experience, whether that experience has come from traveling or just my everyday life. One thing is true no matter what: people do not cease to amaze me.
Over the last year, especially, I’ve learned about different personalities through friendships and even other types of relationships… if you can even call them that. Acquaintances, family members, dear friends, the cashier at my local grocery store – all of these people teach me something not only about character, hope, strength, instability, depression, happiness and so much more, but also about myself.
– How do I handle situations.
– What influences me to react in certain ways?
– Am I patient or just passive?
– What characteristics can I adapt in myself to make me a better person?
– What kind of person do I absolutely not want to be?
The more I think about the world normal, the more I realize how I have been heavily influenced by my upbringing. You’re probably thinking, “Well, no duh.” The thing is that I’ve always known I was different, but it wasn’t until I was immersed into a new type of world that I realized how important traveling is to me. I grew up in a classroom full of kids of all colored faces, half of whom spoke a different language before they learned English and had more stamps on their passport by the sixth grade than most 40 year old’s. Recently the topic hit home when I was in a room full of childhood friends, and as we joked about the qualms of flying over oceans and someone’s recent trip to Algeria, or some other not-often-visited location, I realized how far from normal we really are.
Normal was what I strived for at a young age. To me this meant a white picket fence, a small neighborhood filled with familiar faces and vacations to Disney World. This idea probably sprouted because what I just described isn’t very far off from the neighborhood my grandparent’s lived in and the way my cousins were raised. I was so, so jealous that they got to go to football games on Friday nights and join the cheerleading team. To this day I dread the question, “where are you from?” because I don’t have a normal answer. I usually say Puerto Rico, even though there is not one Borinquen bone in my body. (If I say anything else it either feels like a lie or I end up uncomfortably squirming under a gaze full of questions, and it makes me feel far more pretentious than I already feel as I write this introduction). At some point, however, this perspective switched. At the age of 22 I can honestly say that I’m no longer jealous of the word normal.
What I’ve Learned
I’m thankful for my upbringing and for all the people who have helped me learn about myself along the way. I may continue to feel apprehensive about the question “where are you from,” but I hope that one day I can speak up with complete confidence about the fact that, for me, such a place does not exist and I like it that way. After all, no matter what you struggle with, what part of the world you’re from, or what influenced you to be the person you are today, is anyone really normal?