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Offbeat – 09 December 2011

I think the first rule of being normal, aside from watching rugby, is to learn to suck it up and keep my mouth shut. Don’t talk religious metaphysics where anyone can hear you.

This year, I really wanted to be normal, a common working stiff with no major excitement. I even followed the rugby for a bit and predicted the winner of the Super Rugby, correctly, but only in the quarters. It didn’t happen, being normal.
Most of the time I was just plain bizarre. Thinking in straight lines is an effort, so I left a lot of glazed eyes in my wake as my thoughts jack-rabbitted all over the place or went off in tangents in the way that I couldn’t get the hang of during those endless high school trigonometry classes.
I think the first rule of being normal, aside from watching rugby, is to learn to suck it up and keep my mouth shut. Don’t talk religious metaphysics where anyone can hear you.
There was also way too much ambition. Every time I turned around, there seemed to be another opportunity to take over the world. None of them worked out, but they were all hard work. This leads me to what is probably the second rule of being normal: don’t get so ambitious that you want to take over the world.
There is probably a third rule out there which goes something like get a job and have weekends. If you have a job, you will have a salary, sick leave, annual leave and you will be able to keep normal hours and if you don’t, you will get paid extra. That probably means that you will fill up your spare time with television, because overtime is expensive for employers. Reformulated, the third rule probably reads along the lines of get a job and watch TV till you drool.
The fourth rule is probably something about being sociable, but I am introverted, so I am going to skip that. And the one about watching television.
We all start out in adolescence on some kind of a path of dreams. Sooner or later though, after much sneering from adults and obstacles along the way, ‘normal’ sets in. You realise you aren’t going to be a soul diva, rap star, obscenely overpaid football star or actor. Your achievements will be minor, something for your family and friends.
There is a certain economy to it though. Following the strand of football, if everyone were Rooney, Beckham, Tevez or Adebayor, great football would be devalued. Common working stiffs are the bedrock of the economy, and its baseline. Even if you aren’t an incredible striker, you can still be grist to the mill on the football pitch of life.
The problem lies in wanting more: to change the way the world sees or does things, to earn more or to have groupies. There aren’t all that many stellar success stories out there. It seems that to achieve that kind of status, you either need to arrive at incredibly fortuitous circumstances or have very unique characteristics. In other words you have to get lucky or be lucky.
The idea of making your own luck holds a lot of water, The problem is that making your own luck is a massive amount of work. If it doesn’t come with a skills set, you are going to have double or triple the amount of work and take five or ten times as long. In a nutshell, you might have a brilliant idea, but do you have the smarts to recognise it as such, the skills to make it into something and the time to get it to the point where it really is great? And it seems useful to note that dictators, diplomats and evil geniuses don’t seem to have anything resembling a normal life.
Normal Joes have it easy. Disabused of ambition, they can go through life without too much fuss, sacrifice or stress. They don’t become the sorry example of Steve Jobs who took a month off before he died so that his kids could get to know him. They get their salaries and their time off. That’s why, in some ways, I tried to be a bit more normal this year.
I am going to work towards being even more normal next year, though I will read instead of watching television and I won’t hang out with a six pack. I will try and predict some winners in the EPL (Manchester United) and the Super Rugby (prediction still to come). Sooner or later I will outgrow my adolescence and settle for less. I can hardly wait.

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