Today I accompanied a friend to a bankruptcy hearing. It turned out well and got the best possible outcome.
Bankrupt. Divorce. Affair. Lawsuit. Orphan. Shotgun. Addiction. Mental illness. Broken family. Parental abandonment. Autism. Gay. Death of a child.
These are things that don’t happen to you, you think. No one you know goes through this, you think.
But we’re all connected.
Someone close to you is going through this now. They don’t tell you because of how you react to it. They’ve seen you react, pass judgement on others, laugh at or dismiss others. You have shaken your head at other people’s poor life decisions.
So they don’t tell you about it. Because no one likes to be judged.
They pretend that all is fine. You go through life not realising that the people close to you go through these things that you think happen only to other people.
Then it happens to you.
Then you realise you’ve become one of those people you’ve judged for making poor life decisions.
Who do you tell?
No one, because you don’t like to be judged. You can’t even acknowledge it has happened to you.
You bear it silently, alone. The feelings build up. You need to tell someone but you have no one to say it to.
Then one day, you let slip your situation to a friend because the burden is too much to bear. And your friend says to you, “Actually, we’re not so different. Actually, I have this problem too.”
Or maybe they will say, “Actually, my so-and-so also has the problem, so I know how you feel.”
You find this pattern being repeated as you share your struggles with more people.
And then comes the sigh of relief. Because for the longest time, you’ve been pretending that everything is normal, that you’re just like everyone else. But now you’ve come to realise that normal doesn’t exist and everyone else is also pretending to be normal.
Normalcy is a wool that we pull over our eyes, because no one wants to be different.
Yet we all are.
There is a story to this.
Once, there were two villages. In the first were people with big feet. In the other were people with small feet.
One day, a shoe company decided to equip the villagers with shoes. It would be good publicity for their company. They first went to the Big Feet village and found that size 10 shoes would fit them. Then they went to the other village and found that size 6 shoes would fit them.
They analysed this data and decided to make shoes for the average. They brought size 8 shoes to the villages and told them that this was the average size.
The Big Feet villagers squeezed their feet into the size 8s. And the Small Feet villagers felt the size 8s were too big. But no one wanted to feel left out.
When they met and saw that everyone else wore the same shoes as they, they all thought it was normal.
Generations later, the Big Feet people still think it is normal to get blisters from wearing shoes too small for them, and the Small Feet people still think it’s normal for their shoes to slip off every now and then.
No one talks about the misfit. It’s taboo.
Yet no one is average. Normal doesn’t exist.
We just pretend it does.