Am I Normal? Little differences diversify our human family

For as long as I can remember, I have eaten cereal without milk. No matter whether it’s Cheerios or Froot Loops, Captain Crunch or Raisin Bran, I eat it dry.

And I love to smell books—I don’t just like the smell of books, but stick- ing my nose in one and audibly taking a huge whiff of that papery, inky scent as soon as I crack it open.

When I study for tests, I pace around the room with pop music blaring through my headphones, muttering the main points under my breath and waving my hands around in elaborate gestures that make sense only in my mind.

Often, as fate would have it, my sister comes downstairs while I’m studying, and bluntly asks me if I’m talking to myself—again. The expression on her face tells me that my study habits are clearly not normal.

At one point or another, all of us have stopped to ask ourselves if our be- havior is “normal.” We wonder: would some of our daily patterns, quirks and hang-ups seem bizarre if everyone else could peek into our lives? Since Americans have the wherewithal to put a man on the moon and invent the corn dog, by now we should have made some sort of comprehensive guide for how to live a normal life. But alas, there’s not even a YouTube series on the subject. And, though Pretty Little Liars seems sufficiently life-like, I’ll have to disqualify it because nobody can run in heels that high.

I really could have used that hypothetical guide the other day, when my friend mentioned that she had never eaten raw cookie dough—not once in her entire childhood. She says it always seemed unnatural. “Insanity!” I thought to myself. “That’s the stuff of fiction!” What kid could go through their young years and not partake in that sweet, gooey goodness, the thrill intensified by the ever-present risk of raw-egg-borne illnesses? Was my friend even human?

My epiphany came hours later. I realized that I had been judging my friend’s food choices—and, by exten- sion, lifestyle—as I would never want to be judged. In all honesty, I just want to be left alone to wave my arms and smell my books and eat my milkless Frosted Flakes. If my friend never wants to try raw cookie dough in her entire life, that’s her prerogative.

It seems safe to say that American society in general has issues with people who behave a little bit differently. If our culture can’t handle inconsis- tencies within people’s daily routines, what about those of different races? Genders? Ethnicities?

The crux of the matter is that nobody is normal. So let’s get over our differences and get on with our lives: there’s a lot of collaboration waiting to happen, a lot of learning to be done. And for our communities—large and small—the collective benefits will be multiplied by each strange habit, weird taste and even funky study routine. In this global new world, we are all more connected than before. And we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.

– By Adrianne Cleven