When I was a senior in high school we had these “Senior Books,” which were basically glorified scrapbooks that somebody conned us into buying. We put pictures and notes and pieces of memorabilia in them – to help us remember the year, I guess. One of the very last pages had a place for “goals” and I wrote “Be Happy.” I think what I really meant was “Be Normal.”
I feel like my whole life my loftiest goal was to just be normal.
At least from about third grade on. We moved a lot, so I was the new kid a few different times, and everybody else already knew each other. Being a self conscious kid, I didn’t really have the social prowess to just “make friends.” Not that I never had any, it was just not an easy process for me.
Then when I was 15, I had cancer. I went from being the new girl (it was my second year at that school) to being the girl with cancer. And then the girl who had cancer. And that was high school.
When I started college, no one knew me or my history (save for four other people I knew from “back home”). But I felt like everyone else knew what they were doing there and I was clueless. They had all (presumably) spent the previous few years preparing for college and figuring out what they might want the rest of their lives to look like, while I had been recovering from my cancer treatment and surgeries, as well as trying to keep up with my classes despite numerous health related absences from school.
During college, I did find some sense of normalcy. I went to a small school, and because this was before the age of the internet, it’s like we were in our own little world in Clarksville, Arkansas. My health was good enough to not be much of an issue, but I didn’t have much of a social life outside of the theatre, so I was always the “weird” one with my non-theatre friends. But with my theatre people, I was so inexperienced compared to all of them I felt like I was always playing catch up.
It was as if I always had an asterisk next to my name for one reason or another.
After college, I existed in this odd place where I had day jobs that I hated but that I really needed the paycheck from, and – thanks to more moves – where I was a stranger in different theatre communities where everybody knew each other already. I began to find my place a little when I took a job teaching preschool, but because that was not what I had studied, there was a big learning and training curve.
I really started to feel like I was working on normal when I was (finally!) pregnant with my first daughter, but surgery at 23 weeks put that asterisk in my life again… And a couple years later I was very nearly at normal, but then: I became pregnant with my second daughter surprisingly sooner than expected, and then we moved. Again.
Our move back to Houston the day before my 35th birthday was the beginning of the path back to normal. Living in a place we are familiar with, where we know people – this move was proactive, not reactive like so many of the other events in my life.
Today is my 37th birthday.
Today, I feel normal. Finally.