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Can't Stand The Idea Of Being Normal

Question:

It has been about a year since I first wrote to you about being concerned about my constant daydreaming and boredom in school. I found your response very helpful and was hoping you could help me again.

I’m a grade 10 student and we just finished picking courses for our next year. I have chosen a tough work load but hopefully it will keep me busy. The problem is that there is a lot of pressure on us all to think about what sort of jobs/careers we want to do for the rest of our lives, but I have absolutely no clue what I want to do. All I know is that I just can’t stand the idea of being normal, going to university or college, getting a job, maybe having a family and then eventually dying.

It’s really hard for me to explain. I just don’t understand how people can be happy with living their lives as one of the 7 billion people on earth. As John Lennon puts it, “A working class hero is something to be,” but I feel like I need to be special, I need to be different, while at the same time, I honestly don’t really want too much attention. This probably makes me sound rather self-centered but I’m really not. I know the whole saying that, “everyone is special” and “you can make a difference,” but I feel like these have such a small reach in the grander scale of the world.

No matter how strong your opinion is on a subject, there is only so much you can do about anything and that usually isn’t much compared to how much that subject affects people world wide, (such as the violations of basic human rights, global warming, terrorism etc). The idea that everyone else has their own thoughts, opinions and perceptions, but I can only see things through my own eyes, makes me feel very limited in what I can know, learn and understand because I can only ever see things through my eyes.

These thoughts have been going round and round in my head for a while now and I can’t get them out. I want to understand why I feel like this all the time. Do other people think this way? I’m just getting frustrated that other people seem to be able to accept their place in the world but I can’t. How can I learn to accept being “normal?”

Thanks for your time.

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Answer:

Welcome back. I am always happy to respond to High School students (as well as everyone else) who are struggling to define themselves.

In fact, as an adolescent, what you are doing is normal and on target. Even the fact that you do not want to be normal is normal at your stage of life. One of the great psychologists of the 20th century, Erik Erikson, defined adolescence as a time when people are struggling to define their sense of self by exploring their beliefs, what it means to be independent and what they desire out of life. These are the things you are doing and that is very healthy. Emerging into adulthood does not mean you have to stop those explorations. That is partly what John Lennon was writing about.

It is interesting that you selected the Lennon song, “A Working Class Hero,” because he was discussing the very things that are on your mind. His song was controversial because the title of the song was different from the message. He was being sardonic or sarcastic because, in reality, he was saying that a working class hero is not something to be. He, too, was concerned about social class differences, global warming, war and all of the other problems that have always plagued mankind. So, your selection of song is a really good one.

Also, you  need to know that you are not the only one engaged in these thoughts, feelings and conflicts. While other people may appear calm and relaxed on the surface, many of them, including other teenagers, are asking similar questions. That is why your stage of life is characterized as being idealistic. That is a good thing because young people like you give us a fresh look at life and that is something the world needs. The idea is to not lose that when you get older.

I do not believe that being normal is the same as accepting the status quo in the world. Perhaps you cannot change the entire world but you can find a place where you can do the most good. “Most good” means as defined by yourself. For example, during the Vietnam war it was young people like yourself who worked hard to pressure the government to end that war. They also got us to look at our own values as Americans and question whether the pursuit of money is so important after all. Something similar is happening in the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations.

In all, please know that life does not have to be boring and unexciting. We do not simply go through stages of life until we die. It’s how we live between birth and death that is most important.

Continue with your studies and continue to think. Continue to listen to music and read as much as you can. Do not dismiss the contributions that you will make to the world as not being grand.

I hope this helps.

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