Normal is Nothing but a Setting on the Dryer

“The new normal” is the phrase that makes my skin crawl more than anything, which is really saying something since “…in these unprecedented times” is still in heavy rotation. Let’s face it — nothing about this moment in time is normal. Having been a freelance copywriter for a while, working remotely is something I’ve done for several years, but others have a different story. The pandemic has shaken up our lives in many ways: many people are working remotely, others have been laid off, and kids are learning remotely while dreaming of the time when their lives can finally go “back to normal.”

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of “normal.” In the 80s, I grew up in a relatively poor family while living in an affluent suburb in Columbus, Ohio. My dad was an engineer who was often either out of work or working out of town, while my mom taught children with developmental disabilities. Our house was not large and elegant like my classmates’ homes, and we simply did not have the money for vacations, expensive clothes, frequent meals out, or class trips. Despite being able to do extra things such as attending dance classes, competing in pageants, and going to school dances, as far as I was concerned, my family situation was the opposite of “normal” and I was the biggest loser who ever walked the earth.

Thankfully, my parents had a great sense of humor, which I’m sure helped them weather my more dramatic moments, especially when I whined about not getting something I was sure I’d die without. More importantly, my parents had solid values and told me that no matter how much money we had, they would always give me only some of what I wanted, but make sure I had everything I needed.

One day, after hearing this for the umpteenth time, I exploded and shouted something along the lines of, “God! Why can’t you people be NORMAL?” My dad, in his usual quiet way, calmly looked me in the eye and said, “normal is nothing but a setting on the dryer.” At the time, I thought that was quite possibly the weirdest thing you could say to a teen girl in the middle of an angsty meltdown. Now, I realize my dad was an absolute genius.

That kind of genius applies even today when it seems like the world has gone crazy. Maybe we need to look forward, rather than backwards, and create a new reality that not only serves, but also enriches us.  Before the pandemic, the last thing I wanted to do was freelance, which is necessary for many creatives who enjoy being able to pay their bills, eat, etc. I now realize that I am not limited to working only in my market and I can easily partner with people anywhere in the world. And if I choose to stop freelancing and work for just one company, it’s not written in stone that the company has to be in my hometown. Theoretically, I could work full-time for a company and never meet my coworkers in person. Crazy, right?

This is a bizarre time we’re living in, but we’ll get through it. I’m looking forward to one day being able to say that the changes brought on by the pandemic were actually a good thing. Of course, that day won’t be tomorrow, but it will happen eventually. Onward, friends.

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