Cool is an illusion.
And normal is a setting on my dryer.
After growing up in a military family, with every transfer to another air base bringing an end to friendships I’d recently made, there was always the hope it would be easier making friends the next time.
I dreamed of marrying and finding a home in the suburbs on a tree-lined street, and living there for the rest of my life. I wanted my children to have a “normal” childhood. You know – forging friendships while young that would last forever and spending holidays surrounded by grandparents, uncles, aunts and lots of cousins.
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Well, years later I learned that “normal” doesn’t exist.
But I’m not the only one who found herself a little lost in the search for normal and in pursuit of cool.
Foster kids and adopted kids wish they could be normal like their friends who get to live with their biological families.
I’ve met home-schooled kids who wish they could go to public school, like “normal” kids do. And ministers’ kids who become adults and sleep in on Sundays and go to church only once a week, like “normal” people. I’ve met kids of moms working outside the home who wished for more time together – for impromptu trips to the river and playdates at the park or science museum.
I’ve found young adults who grew up in a stable family with both parents and healthy guidelines, supervision, accountability and well-rounded meals (as opposed to junk food whenever they wanted), and don’t see the value or appreciate being sheltered. Like sheltered is a bad thing? They blame parents for not giving them freedom to experience more, and bemoan not having a normal childhood.
I know of singles who tried the bar scene, thinking it was where the cool people hang out, only to be disappointed – and disgusted. And other singles who relocated to glamorous cities, but grew tired of the materialistic, self-absorbed attitudes they encountered.
And I’ve read of actresses and businesswomen who started their families and then realized they couldn’t really have it all. They decided to leave their cool careers. Some pursued new vocations that allowed them to work from home, to be closer to their children. They wanted to live a normal life, with less money, but more time for family.
Drew Barrymore told in her book “Little Girl Lost” about teen years filled with drug and alcohol addictions. Her dad wasn’t a part of her life, and her mom had struggles of her own. Drew lived on the streets at times. And during the holidays she’d see happy families gathered together in warm homes, and wondered why she couldn’t have a normal family, too.
Cool people discover sometimes too late that being cool doesn’t fulfill in ways they expected. Especially when it costs them the people and things that are most valuable.
And so many “un-cool” people waste potential and opportunities, because they’re too busy pursuing cool. They never enjoy being themselves and developing all that amazing potential.
As a chaplain with our local sheriff’s department, I hold church services for female inmates two or three Sundays a month. I provide a journal where they can write prayer requests they’d like me to pray with them about.
Most requests are for their families and children to be safe and healthy and happy while they’re away. Some want prayer for court dates, and sometimes for spiritual growth. But recently a woman wrote:
“I would like you to pray for me. I genuinely desire to put drugs behind me. I have tried and tried to leave this life, to keep it in the past, only to have it lure me back. I don’t like what it has made of my life. I just want the chance to be normal and have a normal life …”
In reality, cool and normal are only a matter of perspective.
No matter where you live or what your age, no matter what happened in your childhood or who your family is or what kind of education you have, being responsible and thankful, hard-working, courteous, patient, humble, selfless, content and kind – I could list more, but you get the idea – are qualities worth pursuing.
If you don’t believe me, watch the movie “I Am Sam.”