Ordinary

Feb 2, 2022 | Gratitude & Other Reflections, Op-Ed

The WORST Insult

I never wanted to be “ordinary.” From the first time my mom, majoring in Psychology and studying statistics, showed me a Bell curve, I was determined to be anything but “average.” I don’t know why being on the top of that particular hill struck me as the last place I wanted to be; after all, she made it clear that, statistically, it was “normal.” It was where most people fell, on the curve. So “normal,” “average,” and “ordinary” – like crowds – were things to be avoided. Maybe it was just my introverted nature to want to be in the company of “extraordinary” people. Not extraordinary in the sense that they were geniuses like Einstein, or had cured the world of polio, like Salk – just extraordinary in the sense of being uncommon. Because if I were like everybody else, what would be the point of me?

Herd Animals

Humans are herd animals. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s in our nature to divide the world into “us” and “them” – to protect “us” against “the enemy” (without having to think too terribly long and hard about whether “they” are truly enemies or merely friends we haven’t met, yet), and to shun the extraordinary, even as we profess to admire it. Is that different sort of creature one of “us” or is it “them”? You’d think we were smart enough, evolved enough, to accept and embrace the things that make us different, while recognizing our common humanity.

But we don’t do that. Reject the herd or care too much about being rejected, and the herd can be cruel. We have to care a little – because the herd doesn’t like to be rejected, either. Rejecting the herd is the fast track to being ostracized from it, as well. It’s one thing to be a bit different but being ostracized from the herd can be deadly. It withdraws its protections. It others us and turns against us.

That said, worrying too much about being ostracized gives the herd’s bullies their ammunition. Being different can be like wearing a target on your back. Ask any grade school kid. Ask any middle schooler who is clearly too smart for the grades that show up on their report card. Odds are, they’re hiding behind a fear of being rejected by the herd. Some of us manage to thrive on the periphery of the herd, frolicking out in the field and not worrying too much about the funny looks and occasional cliques that close us out. We like our own company. We have a few good friends in the herd who won’t let us starve or be bullied too badly. We make our own fun, and we share it with anyone who is silly, curious, adventurous – most of all, anyone who simply lets us be, without insisting we conform in order to get along.

The longer I live, the more I believe that there’s nothing wrong with being ordinary. Without the Bell curve telling us what’s “normal” or “average,” how would we ever recognize the extraordinary? And not all sorts of “extraordinary” are to be aspired to. Even the most accomplished scientist may be lacking in empathy. The brilliant mathematician may not know how to communicate with their musically-talented son or artistically-expressive daughter. But there’s nothing wrong with being the purple cow, standing out from the herd in some way while being entirely normal in other ways. I’d argue that those differences make the herd stronger and more adaptable by adding to its wealth of experience and knowledge.


I’m taking part in Anita Ojeda’s #Write28Days. Today’s prompt – well, yesterday’s, but I’m backdating this! – was “Ordinary.” There’s no law that says I have to stick to the prompts, which is exactly why I used them on days one and two. Otherwise, I’d have been my usual cantankerous self and said, “You’re not the boss of me, Anita!” and done something completely different. God forbid, after this post, anyone should accuse me of being “normal.”

At least one person doesn’t think of me as normal. Rasheed Hooda, aka “Mister Weirdo,” invited me to be a guest on an upcoming episode of his podcast, Embrace Your Inner Weirdo. He’s heard the story of how my parents once gave me a keyring that said, “I like you. You’re weird.” I guess he feels the same. Check it out, and watch for an upcoming episode (I don’t have a date, and that’s probably just as well, given how I feel about the sound of my own voice) where we talk about how we met, what we mean by “weird,” and how to nurture your – or your child’s – inner weirdo.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

17 Comments

  1. Rasheed Hooda

    The episode will air, or go live, on March, 1, 2022, to honor your birth month. That’s right, you deserve more than a day of recognition and celebration.
    Rasheed Hooda recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I hope it turns out good, or like the Groundhog, I’ma tuck in and declare six more weeks of winter. No pressure… LOL

      Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I can only imagine!

      You know, the author Judith Tarr? She’s deaf. I remember the first time she tried “online chat” (in the early 1990s) and how excited she was – she wasn’t just on an equal footing with other participants – as a writer, she was at ease and in her element. 😁

      Reply
  2. Marian Allen

    I feel like you and I are in in the same small herd, or at least in overlapping ones. You make my life better by being a part of it. You push and pull me out of my comfort zone. I think you and I would boost each other over any stupid wall somebody told us not to breach.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I agree, and I am happy to be in the same herd as you, Marian! Always glad to give you a boost, too. <3

      Reply
  3. Mitchell Allen

    Labels, bah! I spend too much time marveling at being alive. Of course, the ability to marvel may not be ordinary. Otherwise, more people would be agape.

    LOL

    Carry on, weirdo.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Shot on iPhoneMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      The ability to marvel is anything but ordinary, Mitchell. My grandmother once said that she thought she had no talents, but then she realized she had the greatest (and perhaps, rarest) talent of all: the ability to truly appreciate the talents of others.

      I think that marveling at life itself is a little bit like that. Most people don’t stop to marvel at much of anything. I stood on top of Haleakala at something like 3:30 in the morning, with my husband, and when I looked up, it nearly knocked me to my knees. I cried. (Damn, you do not want to cry atop Haleakala in the wee hours – you think Hawaii’s warm, till you’re standing up there freezing your ass off in December.) But seriously, it brought me to tears. The stars – oh, my God, the STARS. They were still there.

      That sounds stupid. Of course they’re still there. But until you see them on a crystal clear night from the top of a moutain peak with absolutely NOTHING to obstruct your view – when all the light pollution is far below you, and you can literally see the top of its reach, far away – you don’t realize how much we’ve LOST by having all the street lights and parking lights and security lights and… yuck. You just don’t remember that they’re all still there, and that they’ll all be there long after humans have extincted themselves.

      Carry on? How could I do otherwise. 😉 Yours in marvelous marveling,
      Holly

      Reply
  4. Mitchell Allen

    Now, there’s a marvelous comment! It gets fairly dark where I live and, on summer nights, I love to take my binoculars and my SkySafari app outdoors to see what’s up there. I was giddy the first time the space station streaked across the sky.

    We could fill pages with wondrous observations. I guess that’s what blogs are for. 🙂

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Shot on iPhoneMy Profile

    Reply
  5. Lisa notes

    Even being ordinary is quite extraordinary. 🙂 It’s funny that there are many things that we WANT to be ordinary in (like cancer rates or car accident statistics) so that we don’t have to experience those things. But in other areas we *think* we’d like to be extraordinary (although if we were, would we like it? I don’t know! lol).

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I think you just broke my brain, Lisa! To your point, though, someone once asked me to write an essay on “why I’m afraid to write a novel.” WHAT? Afraid? Hardly. Turned out, she may have been right. And in some ways, I was more afraid of success than of failure. I wasn’t ready for life to change in the ways I envisioned it changing if I wrote a bestseller. Might be, now, but I’m not sure I want to deal with all the OTHER aspects, like marketing. That said, everything’s a choice. I’ll never know unless I write it and face that choice. I can write it, and STILL choose to stuff it in a drawer, right? 🤣

      Reply
  6. Jill

    Holly, I would say you are both ordinary and extraordinary. You’ve got the best of both and there is something to be said for each. Now about that cantankerous attitude, you wear it well. It fits you and is even endearing… sometimes.

    Keep being you. You add spice to our otherwise ordinary life.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Hahaha… glad to hear I do “cantankerous” well, Jill. 😉 I’d hate to be the little old man shouting, “Get off my lawn!” More like the eccentric woman tossing treat bags off the balcony and telling the kids there’s more, if they don’t litter.

      Reply
  7. Anita Ojeda

    School is such a hard flock. As a teacher (both middle school and high school), I want my kids to feel loved no matter what. I love that the kids at our school cheer the ‘weirdos’ on and embrace their own diversity. They aren’t perfect, they are works in progress.
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…SCH 085 Seven Signs You Need to See a TherapistMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      That’s remarkable, Anita! You’re clearly doing much right, if your flock is kind. I think kindness is more important than “perfect.”
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Easy Chicken Lasagna Roll-UpsMy Profile

      Reply

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