I suspect that my 20-year-old self would be aghast at the notion that this other version of me would pine for just plain old normal. Boring, even.
Ahhh –how time does play with the perceptions of life.
Once upon a time I had no idea of the twists and turns one’s journey could take. Now, I understand all too clearly that a world view can easily be skewed by the prisms of a differing vantage point.
I love the Whoopi Goldberg quote –Normal is in the eye of the beholder.
I also love when the young people with whom I work and live try to tell me of the oh-so-out-there exploits of their friends and families.
Because I often think, OMG –you have no idea.
There are secrets in every family and fold. And there are stories that veer so far from normal that I wonder of the word’s constraints. I looked up its origin –made in accordance to a carpenter’s square- and thought to the confining nature of squares and boxes. No wonder so many of us don’t fit to normal. It’s a shame that too many of us pretend we do.
A little crazy is a good thing.
The campus on which I work and the community in which I live both squeak a little too loudly with that hollow echo of normalcy. Pretty houses, pretty people. Good kids, good grades. Standards and squares. Lots of squares.
Yikes –how did I end up here?
And what ever made me think that this idyllic setting would be such an ideal one for me and my family?
Michael could look and act just like all the other kids. If he chose to. He doesn’t.
I would love to fully support his conscious efforts at non-conformity, his unique view of the world and of himself. I want to high-five his many talents and the philosophical bent that assures me that just because he’s not going about it my way, doesn’t mean he won’t eventually get to where he’s meant to be. I want to remain his number one fan, cheerleader, the one who “gets” him more than anyone else.
But he makes it hard. Really hard.
It’s not just the disdain with which he often showers me. Or that his teen angst can explode like messy carnage.
It’s more the gravity pull of expectations. My own and those of others. And it’s because without the rose-colored glasses I may once have worn, it’s hard not to see the doors he’s closing around him. With clear-eyed vision, it’s too easy to think of wasted time and talent, of lost potential. It’s frustrating and discouraging –even sad.
Normal would be easier.
Even if I don’t believe in it.
I have seen behind the curtains of those picture-perfect windows where dysfunction functions in disguise. And I know the outward reflection can be pleasantly distorting. But not at all real. And I think real is better.
And Michael is, if not anything else, real. And honest. Beguilingly, candidly, painfully honest. He’s also bright and funny and capable.
The parent of one of his friends recently made it a point to offer a positive picture of my son.
He’s a good boy, she said.
Well, that’s something.
When parents of today are queried about what they want for their children, the go-to response is that they want them to be happy.
I do, too. Of course I do. I want him to pursue his dream, to find something fulfilling to do with his life. I want him to be happy.
But I also want him to be a good person, a man of whom he –and his family- can be proud.
We have a bit of a family joke when it comes to the young men who pursue my daughter, that they often look good on paper.
I see a lot of kids on campus and in town. Most of them look good on paper. And some of them are good kids, good people. But some of them are only the ink of their resumes and not its heart. And quite a few of them willingly tilt their “honest” answers to fit the questions and the questioner. It’s probably why I so appreciate it when one or another will quite candidly state that no, they didn’t bother to read the assignment or attend the class. My favorite assessment came from a student who when asked about a poor grade he’d been given by an oft-maligned professor, admitted –it wasn’t her fault. I deserved the grade. An honest answer –a good boy.
So when Michael declines to answer a prodding question of mine because he says he doesn’t want to lie, I back off. At the base of the man I hope for him to become I want there to be a solid foundation of honesty. With the often earthquake activity in our pretty house, at least I am -so far- still assured of his one true beginning.