When am I going to feel normal again?
Driving through the vast country we call Texas on a sales trip, I remember pounding my steering wheel to the music, my heart brimming over with angst.
When am I going to feel like myself again?
I couldn’t shake this unshakeable feeling that I was going through something I couldn’t shake.
First, I was listening to the band Postal Service. On a CD. Every song perfectly encapsulating twentysomething angst–the scratches and skips on the CD included.
When are things going to make sense?
The Texas landscape mirrored what was going on inside me. I could see in every direction all the way to the horizon, yet I couldn’t really see anything. It was all flat and faceless. There was no definition. Just complete open space that felt terrifying.
I wanted to go back, but to what?
Have you ever felt like you were sitting in a bunch of questions that you don’t even know how to ask?
I was searching for a feeling of normalcy again.
Yet, maybe normal was the wrong thing to be searching for?
The Wrong Way Quest for Normal
It took me years to realize that my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t feel normal again, it was that I was searching for something that didn’t exist.
I wasn’t supposed to find normal again because normal was something I couldn’t go back to. Nor should I, even if I could.
Like desperately hoping for that Friends reunion — even if it happens, it’s not going to be the same. When you trot out a gray-haired Joey Tribbiani, things are just going to be different.
It took me many years of reading and interviews to realize that truly successful people don’t have the answers to all the questions. No, they’re able to humbly and confidently live in the questions that are yet to be determined.
They’re able to find certainty in the uncertainty and keep moving forward.
The search for feeling normal is like searching for the fountain of youth — you waste most of your youth trying to capture what is already yours.
Yes, maybe nothing in your twenties or thirties is going quite as planned, but maybe that’s the point.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou
The point of life is not going back, recapturing some perception of yourself, some season where you had no problems. Because guess what, you had problems then too. Nostalgia is a liar. Just because you keep watching the same re-runs over and over again doesn’t mean you get to live in them.
Searching For Something New
As I slowly stopped trying to feel “normal” again, it allowed me to move into the next season. Old Paul couldn’t make the trip as is. I needed an upgrade. And I needed to stop listening to the same old Postal Service CD.
As I wrote in 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, “know when your sad season is over and you just need to stand up and dance.”
When we keep searching for normal, when we keep the same routines, songs, and habits on repeat, we stop our new season from happening.
Change and growth never feel normal. It’s not going to feel comfortable because it’s not supposed to.
Don’t kill awkward. Embrace it. Cherish it. See it for the gift of clarity it is.
As I wrote in 7 Cures for a Quarter Life Crisis:
It is stuck smack dab in this void of “what now?” where you make the most progress. Maybe uncertainty and questions are not just a stage to quickly pass over, it’s a transition process to marinate in. Let the overwhelming questions of “I have no idea where I’m going” guide you to where you want to be.
So right now, where you sit, if it feels like you’re going through an identity crisis it’s probably because you are. You’re breaking up with a part of yourself because you don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end relationship.
The old you is a memory, while the new you is yet to be determined.
The point of life is not to feel normal again.
The moment you lose who you were is the moment you can dig deep and find who you really are. (click to tweet that)