I’ve been thinking about normalcy a lot lately.
Six months ago I took a plane halfway across the world, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do, and it seemed like a decent adventure. It has been a good adventure, ripe with leeches and camping in football fields and being caught up in the bow of tall ships. But I’m just as clueless now, when it comes to ‘what to do with my life,’ as I was when I booked that ticket in the first place. I think a lot of it has to do with normalcy.
For the majority of people, normalcy means: going to university, having your required wild years, settling into a promotion-focused job, climbing the ladder, meeting your match at a classy bar (or, who knows these days, maybe Tinder), having a Pinterest-perfect wedding, popping out a gremlin or two – and then I guess divorce, vacations, and all those extra side dishes that come along with the main course special.
The thing is, the more I travel and the longer I live, the more I discover alternatives to the standard life course. We had a Canadian couple stay with us that had the whole shebang – high school sweethearts that had stable jobs, a nice house, two cars, a cat. But they weren’t happy, so they sold it all and packed their bags, and last week they were couchsurfing with us here in Melbourne. They plan to travel indefinitely. They don’t want a home or kids or a regular job. I’ve met people in Canada that were hitchhiking along, just them and their backpacks and dreads, fruit-picking here, crashing there, and while it’s not a life I’d like to live, they loved it. They thrived living their nomadic, down-to-earth lifestyles, and it was written in the way they smiled, how they talked, their enthusiasm for simply being.
And the further I go along, the more I realize that there really is no normal – there’s only what makes you happy, and discovering that is what constitutes a life, really. Our current house (and the house I lived in before this) is a sharehouse that a friend recently described as ‘filled with the Lost Boys from Hook.’ Some people love it. Some people can’t imagine living the way we do. I go back and forth between both opinions. And I’ll probably leave eventually and go on to new adventures, but I’ll know that I love living in a sharehouse full of friends that have become family. And who’s to say people can’t live like that for the rest of their lives? Why is there a set point at which people have to go off and live by themselves, when they obviously thrive with communal living?
I’ve also learned I hate working in hospitality. It rejuvenates some people, those that like small talk and getting to know people on the block. I’m not one of those people. I also don’t like being cemented to a desk 9-5 with a beige plastic phone and a list of facts to check off a list. I’m still trying to find my niche of rewarding work, like a dog trying to get peanut butter from the inside of a Kong toy.
There’s no definition of ‘normal,’ in the end – the lifestyles lived by Buddhist monks certainly differs from those of international celebrities and sailors that choose to travel solo for months at a time. Introverts and extroverts will each find their happiness in different ways. Some people find their comfort in the same house everyday, while others are happiest with ever-changing sceneries. Neither is wrong or right, and each is living by their own definition of ‘normal.’
And that’s all we can really ask for – to come to our own definitions and live by them.