Updated: Jun 13, 2022
I will never fit in. I will never be the most popular, the captain of the football team, the guy voted most likely to succeed or the kid who sits at the cool table at lunch. But, Normalcy is for Neurotypicals.
I wrote that phrase yesterday, and it got me thinking. I am not normal. I don't think I will ever be normal. After all, I have lived 40 plus years not feeling normal, being excluded from normalcy and otherwise feeling like I was always a day late and dollar short. So how could, I ever feel normal?
My wife once asked me, "Do you think you will ever feel like you fit in?" I quickly said no, but I don't know why other than the fact that I have never fit in and that's all I know.
As a kid, I tried to fit in and be normal. I tried to wear the right clothes, and I tried to socialize with the cool kids. I wore thick coke bottle glasses and was relegated to left field in baseball, so in a lot of ways I naturally didn't fit in.
Thankfully, I had a compassionate best friend who was bigger than most and addicted to the center spotlight. He welcomed me to climb on his coat tails, and that is how I made my way through the social pitfalls of high school. It wasn't that I felt right hanging with the smart kids and the popular crowd, but I had the right friends, so it worked itself out. I quietly played the dutiful sidekick, and no one was ever the wiser.
But when I graduated, the structures of high school evaporated and the social norms of college gravitated towards alcohol. Having an alcoholic family and propensity for playing along, I naturally made friends who drank morning, noon and night. It was hell on my liver and made me gain 50 pounds, but the fog of booze made my socially divergent behavior acceptable- but I never felt normal.
The booze kept me going through my 20's and my life as a sailor lent well to the bacchanalian arts. It wasn't until I was halfway through my 30's that I realized my friends were all gone and the clubs and house parties of my 20's were over.
I remember distinctly when I decided to change. I was 37 and decided I wanted to go back into the military to get more sea time and improve my license. I remember sitting in a classroom at 4AM in Springfield, Mass. with 50 other men, at least 15 years younger than me on average, and thinking to myself, "Jesus, will I fail the breathalyzer if they test me?"
It was then I realized I had become a shell of my former self and vowed to lose the fifty pounds and curb my drinking. I started the next day and spent that winter running five miles a day through snow, ice and dark.
I was so committed to running, I burned out a doberman pincer and trashed both my knees. God bless ADHD, I lost the fifty pounds, but now I need knee surgery. Why can't I just do things like a normal person??
My best shot at achieving normalcy was my marriage, or so I thought. While I think we did it right, and it led me to my diagnosis, normalcy was still just out of reach.
My wife isn't normal either, and in many ways she complements my non-normalcy. She zigs when I zag. She's into peanut butter and I like jelly. But we both rise with the sun and start yawning as soon as the sun sets behind the canyon walls, so in most ways we are perfect for each other, being non-normal.
But my non-normal is rooted in my neurodivergency. I don't see the world the way the normals do and I can't do the things that normals can do. I can weave a story from thin air and string words together in a uniquely beautiful way, but I can't create a son. My superpowers help me fly with Superman, fight crime with Batman and swim the oceans with Aquaman, but I'll never get back those years I don't remember.
I imagine normals have moms who made photo albums of their kid's college graduation and first day of work at their 9-5 job they got when they were 23 or 24. I had to turn 46 to get my first 9-5 job and my college graduation was more like an asterisk on an otherwise tainted career.
I will never be a 9-5 world's greatest dad with white legs and black socks in sandals pushing a baby stroller around the local art fair down the street. It's just not in my DNA, and I am just not that normal.
And while I may never be the grandfather to my newest granddaughter that I wanted to be, I can be the cool grandfather who teaches her to sail, and watches her grow up on a movie set and leaves her with a pile of interview request when I am gone as the granddaughter of That Sailing Guy. If we're lucky, she won't be normal, either.