Normal vs. Not-Normal and What Is vs. What Isn’t

whybenormal

I will readily admit that I would, by no stretch of any neurotypical person’s imagination, be considered ‘normal.’  I don’t, thanks in large part to my mental illness as well as my own individual preferences and tastes, find things that most people would find enjoyable to be to my liking.  I don’t like crowds, I really have a hard time trusting people I’ve just met, I don’t enjoy much of what consists of acceptable socialization (i.e. going to bars, going on dates, small pointless ‘chit-chat’, attending large social gatherings in enclosed spaces, etc.), I certainly don’t like arguments or debates (as I’ve already expounded on in a previous blog entry), and I don’t see why it’s socially acceptable to appear like I’m dumb or lacking knowledge.  I’ve read so many books on ‘socially acceptable behavior’ that flat out states things like ‘the smartest man/woman in the room/group/organization/etc. is putting a bulls eye on their backs and is inviting ridicule and ostracizing themselves to the group.’  

I never understood the tendency of people to treat poorly those who are smarter or stand out from the norm (or average) in anyway.  I use smarter as an example because I’ve always held my smarts/intelligence/wisdom to be not only a source of pride and identity, but even as a child I knew my intelligence would be my way to carve out survival in the world.  Yet most of my classmates, many of my teachers, and even some of my family members didn’t see things this way.  Instead of the kid who read at a  12th grade level as an 11 year old, they saw the kid who was always picked last in softball, didn’t really like socializing with kids (and adults) with whom he had little in common.  Instead of seeing a teenager who did extremely well in classes like history, english, biology, and chemistry, they saw the kid who struggled to pass algebra and didn’t do well in shop class.  Instead of seeing a seeing a kid who absolutely loved speech and drama productions, they saw the kid who played football but didn’t like it and ‘had an attitude problem’ or ‘had problems with authority’ because he was always asking questions and held odd ideas (many of which in later years  proved to be true).  

Even now people don’t always see me as a mentally ill individual who can live on his own, manages what little he receives from Disability with little to no outside help, writes a quite unknown blog about mental illness, manages his friends (most of whom are loyal friends for life) and social life well, and has never been trouble with the law.  Sadly many people see a man who has no ‘permanent job’ (as if there is such a thing in the 21st century), relies on Welfare (and thus is perceived as a drain on society and taxpayers), is somewhat odd because he speaks out on what he believes (especially if it flies in the face of conventional wisdom), is someone to be pitied because he doesn’t have legions of friends and supporters ( I would much rather have a small, but loyal, base of friends and family who overlook my differences and the fact I’m not normal as opposed to have an army of superficial friends who’ll abandon me with any minor shakeup to their normal lives), and someone who is quite overweight (never mind I’ve been making steps to remedy this sad fact and have lost 40 pounds in 4 1/2 months).

 

tridebeingnormaldintwork

 

In short, I am not normal.  I am not ‘average.’  I am not neurotypical.  I am not popular (nor do I seek to be).  I will not tell anyone just exactly what itching ears wish to hear.  I tell the truth about what it’s like to be mentally ill in a chronically sane world.  Believe me, it isn’t always pretty and I have no doubt lost ‘friends’ and ‘supporters’ over it.  The truth isn’t always pretty.  The truth can be threatening.  I have, since I was 8 years old and discovered I had some unusual intelligence and wasn’t what my classmates and some teachers considered normal, refused to knuckle under and be what I knew I wasn’t.  What I was and what I am is good enough for me.  It is what I was made to be.  It is alright with me that I am what I am.  I don’t understand why it isn’t good enough for most neurotypicals I have met.

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Things I Didn’t Know As A Kid, Part 2

For this entry, I’m taking a break from my regular mental illness writings and writing on something more light hearted.  Growing up, we’ve all had mistaken impressions about what things were really like in the adult world or in popular culture.  I was no exception.

Here is another installment of the depth of my youthful ignorance.  It’s amazing, though.  I’ve been out on my own for ten years and I’m now less intelligent than I thought I was when I was eighteen.  Either the older I get the dumber I was or I just forget what I actually did know.

As a kid growing up in rural Nebraska, I not only had no idea that Minnesotans and Canadians spoke with accents BUT I was ignorant enough to believe that we in Nebraska did not as well.  Way wrong on that one.  Just ask anyone who has ever heard me talk.

Growing up as a hopeless college football junkie, I knew that the Wishbone formation was a football offense long before I knew it was a chicken bone.  Sad but true.  Yet I did know who The President was before I knew who Tom Osborne was.  

As a kid who was an avid reader, the old library in my hometown was a second home to me.  I read so much as a kid that I was well into college before I even imagine why other people just couldn’t get into reading.  Just a matter of practice makes perfect.

When I was in grade school, I found it laughable that kids from the big cities on the coasts thought that kids from the midwest rode horses to school or lived two miles from their nearest neighbors or didn’t have indoor plumbing or such other nonsense as if we were still in the late 1800s.  Yet it didn’t occur to me that the idea of there being drug dealers and pimps on every street corner, mobsters buying off entire state governments, and the ‘valley girl types’ were just as ridiculous.  But that’s stereotypes for you.

Even as a kid I didn’t like Mickey Mouse at all.  I was more partial to Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck.  And I used to have endless debates with my friends about who was the better cartoon character.  Think a grade school version of the deeper debates (i.e. Capitalism vs. Communism, Evolution vs. Creationism, Ford vs. Chevy) if you will.  Of course when I’d be losing my argument I’d bring out the heavy artillery and yell “Yeah, well Donald Duck is such a man that he doesn’t even wear pants!” or “Yeah, well how much money does Mickey Mouse have?  Scrooge McDuck can swim in his cash!” 

 The first time I saw ‘Braveheart’ as a teenager, I unintentionally spent the next 24 hours speaking a Scottish accent.  I’m just glad that I didn’t own a kilt or a massive sword.

 My biggest aspiration as an 8 year old child was to “Be rich enough that me and my friends can play Monopoly with real money.”  Of course I’m well short of this goal right now but I could probably start building houses on Baltic Avenue right now.  

 When I was 13 and first heard about the book ‘Anthem’ by Ayn Rand, I immediately thought it was about the writing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’  I was a bit off on that one.

When I was in college, I read an email forward titled ‘Jocks vs. Nerds.’  It described how much money Michael Jordan had and how fast he was earning his money and “at that rate it would take over 400 years to have the money Bill Gates has right now.  Nerds win.”  I was telling one of my friends this and he retorted, “Yeah, well how many women would want Bill Gates if it weren’t for his money?”  To which I responded, “Well, at least any paternity suits against him would be automatically false.  So there’s one advantage.”  And I say that typing with a computer program he made famous.

Things I Didn’t Know As A Kid

Things I Didn’t Know As A Kid 

 

When I was a young kid I, like most kids, thought I knew all that was worth knowing. Of course some of the things I believed to be true, especially about popular culture and such, were often half-truths or out right false. Some of these entries will sound absolutely funny to some people, especially those of my parents generation. Here goes. 

1) I was fourteen years old before I found out that the book ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ wasn’t about baseball. I always thought it was a minor league baseball player from the midwest in the Great Depression Era (like ‘Bull Durham’ meets ‘The Natural’). 

2) I was in college before I figured out that Prince Albert in A Can was a brand of tobacco, not just some screwball adolesent prank phone call joke. 

3) I was twenty seven years old before I figured out that 1960s Political Radical “Abbie” Hoffman wasn’t a woman. His name was really Abbot. But a high school classmate of mine made the same mistake about Pauly Shore back in the late 1990s. 

4) When the movie ‘The Prince of Tides’ came out, I immediately thought it was about surfing. 

5) As a grade school student I was shocked to learn that ancient peoples knew how to make alcohol before they knew how to make soap. Priorities I suppose. 

6) As a teenager I thought it was common knowledge that cholorox bleach (or anything with chlorine), when mixed with ammonia makes a very noxious gas that can quickly burn your lungs and even kill you. I’m surprised even as a grown man how few people know that I encounter in my day job as a maintenance man. 

7) Growing up I never realized just how few places could see the stars in the night sky, let alone as clearly as we can in Nebraska. Heck I could watch the mid Augsut meteor showers in my backyard right in towm and we considered it a bad night if we didn’t see at least 50 meteorites in one night. 

8) When I was in 4th grade and we were discussing eathquakes and the San Andreas lines in California, Mrs. Gruszczynski (probably the best teacher a boy like me could have ever had) mentioned that it was possible with continential drifting that California could break off from the rest of North America. And I just quipped “Then we ought to be buying desert property just outside of Las Vegas. Once California breaks off, and Vegas still there: instant beach and major resorts.” To which Mrs. G responded, “But Zach, that could take thousands of years.” And I said, “Well, I guess start saving my money and will all that land out to many generations ahead.” To which she just smiled and just kind of chuckled like ‘Keep thinking, that’s what your good at, Zach Foster.’ 

I think I’ll rap it up for now. Obviously this is nowhere near the depth of my youthful ignorance. 

“I never met a man so ignorant I could learn nothing from him” Galileo