Justin is a creative person struggling with the evidence that his life is not working. He has no regular source of income, no girlfriend, and nothing to show for his years in LA. He has so many talents he can’t figure out his direction so he keeps starting over, creating plenty of drama. When I suggest that he may need to get a regular job to stabilize his life, his response is, “But I don’t want to be normal!”
Believe me, I understand. Back when I was a hippie/beatnik/punk alcohol-abusing waitress in the ‘70s, dreaming that some day I would be a writer, I despised the word “normal” and all I thought it stood for. “Normal” connoted people who had sold out, people who were not living on the edge, people walking around half asleep, and worst of all, people who had given up on their dreams.
After being lost for longer than I care to mention, one day in a meeting I heard someone say, “I finally believed I was good enough to lead a normal life.” I realized that was true about me, too. My desire to not get stuck in a bourgeois life had been motivated partly by my artistic drive, partly by not having high enough regard for myself, and partly by a misunderstanding of how life works.
I was lucky enough to find a mentor who taught me that it’s a required step to become “normal” in order to get anywhere in life. Unless you are willing to do what it takes to stabilize your finances, living situation, and emotional life, you can’t get on to solving more interesting problems. Without this stability, you don’t progress and you keep wondering why your life never amounts to anything. They don’t need to be magazine quality, but you’ll need a stable home, stable finances, and a stable emotional life to move to the next level.
Bill also taught me that you have to become willing to be bored; otherwise, you’ll spend your life chasing drama. You’ll make poor decisions like going back to school instead of buckling down to work, or you’ll throw out your perfectly good spouse to buy a more exciting model. You won’t mature, because there is always a new drama to solve. As soon as life starts finally coming together and boredom sets in, you’ll make a decision to ruin it, chasing what seems more intriguing and less “normal.”
To progress beyond sub-normal, Justin will need to pass through “normal” if he ever wants to spend his life in the way he aspires. Normal is a required stage on the way to excellence. What he’s seeking is there waiting for him; he just needs to do the work. He hasn’t yet understood that we all have to work for our success, one difficult step at a time.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth