Indelible Blue Pen

Jason C. McDonald (CodeMouse92)

October 17, 2012

The Paradox of Normalcy

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~Psalm 139:14 NIV

As comedian and inspirational speaker Ken Davis often says, “I’m not right.” Well, shoot, I’ve known that about myself for almost half of my life. I’ve never fit the standard we all know as “normal,” and I’ve learned, especially over the past few years, to take joy in that fact.

Then I got to thinking: what IS normal? How would you define it?

I’ve been a programmer for over three years now, and if you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I poke fun at the industry (and myself in it) on a regular basis. The funny thing is, I’m only exaggerating things a teeny bit. Programmers, and computer geeks in general, are not “normal.” Does that mean there’s something wrong with them? Honestly, I’d have to say no.

In fact, programmers are specifically qualified for what they do! I know this first hand. The majority of professional computer geeks are introverts. Being an extreme extrovert, I can tell you that it plays to my disadvantage at times. The introvert is happier focusing on their favorite craft then they are interacting with everyone who comes along. On the other hand, I suffer from O.S.O. (Ooh, Shiny Object!) If a friend calls, you can basically forget the next hour and a half of coding. My best work days are when I’m in an antisocial mood.

Programmers and computer techs also love talking shop. They thrive on dismantling logical conundrums and debating the advantages of this and that technology. This is one area I definitely relate to my industry peers in, and I’m glad I do! In the process of this kind of social interaction, I’ve discovered many a creative solution to a problem. This is why programmer’s forums produce so many awesome “code recipes.”

Yet the rest of the world looks at us and calls us weird. Where do you think the terms “nerd” and “geek” came from? So what if I draw pie charts to figure out my schedule, and consider long division a pastime? I can whip up a lean, mean computer program in under a month. A coder’s quirks are what make him qualified!

The same dynamic goes for authors, artists, firefighters [see I’m Not Crazy, I’m Gainfully Employed!]

This brings me back to the question I started out with. What IS normal?

Do “normal” people prefer talking to the person next to them, instead of burying their nose in a book? I know I do (and we’ve already established that I’m not normal). I can’t say there’s a majority either way, to be honest. It’s a question of introvert vs. extrovert. My buddy Rigel is more comfortable playing guitar than talking. My mother likes giving a hello and a smile, but not usually talking to a complete stranger in depth. I like getting to know people and making them smile, but I also like my space. And then, there’s my sister Jordyn, who aptly compares herself to Pinkie Pie (My Little Pony). The rest of the world agrees.

Are “normal” people creative? I know I enjoy writing, composing music, and writing unique code. But I’m not normal. I can be visually artistic enough to get by, but I can’t even come close to rivaling Mal in that. As I always tell her, I trust her with “matters of the art.” My father, on the other hand, was not designed to be creative in that way. His gift is in coming up with ideas, and passing them off to others to bring into existence.

Do “normal” people manage time well? I don’t (but I’m not normal.) My mother doesn’t plan out her days, but has a knack for making spontaneous decisions feel like they were planned months in advance. My friend Trace, on the other hand, is mother to a huge family, and yet still usually manages to know where she’ll be at almost any hour of any day in the next two weeks.

As my Aunt Ami says, you can’t really put people into categories. Though I do have the uncanny ability to analyze someone’s personality, and figure out where they fall on any of hundreds of thousands mental graphs, I see what she means. I have never met two people with the exact same personality. Each person is a combination of billions of traits, none of which can be categorized as a simple “yes” or “no”. There’s always a “but” involved.

To answer the question, the only normal in the world is to be weird! Which, incidentally, means that someone who is “normal” is weird. Making them not normal. Which means they’re normal. (Did I mention that I love paradoxes?)

Our quirks and oddities are something to be proud of. I’ve never realized that more than I did three weeks ago, when I visited a young adult’s group at our church. I was concerned (okay, scared) that I would be rejected because, when it comes to social situations, I can be a bit strange.

I walk in, and without five minutes, the six guys around me make that exact conclusion. “Hey, you’re kinda weird. You’re one of us! Come on in!” They drew me in, not despite my strange qualities, but BECAUSE of them! They recognized me as a unique person that they genuinely wanted to get to know.

Years ago, my Dad taught me a weird, random phrase that he and his friends had invented at camp: hecta-ma-rec-check-penny-winkle-flammy-doodle-haro-charo-body-biddy-combo-lydo-nido-whole-potato-half-past-alligator-yellow-biddy-rum-dum-chickasaw-raw-dun dun da dun dun-fried-fish.

It never came in handy until this group, when the topic of “the world’s fastest random word speaker” came up during the quiz game we were playing. Someone asked if anyone could do that sort of thing, and I mentioned to the guys next to me that I could. Next thing I knew, I was escorted to the front to do it. I got a standing ovation, and my team got a bonus point. Never before has hecta-ma-rec-check come in handy before. And it probably never will again.

What is normal? There’s no such thing. We’re all created for a specific purpose – something no one else can do. Sure, we all have things we can improve, but remember that for every unique advantage, we have a related disadvantage. It is what makes us who we are. Not to sound contrived, but YOU ARE SPECIAL. Never forget that.

All this begs one more question: why do we even use the labels of “normal” and “weird” in connection with personality at all?

That’s one question you’ll have to answer for yourself.



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