• Rob Butterfield


But then again, what is normal?

Just a perfectly normal Pug picture. Origination unknown.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I had what could only be considered as a very happy and ‘normal’ childhood. Dad had a good job, Mum stayed at home to look after us three kids (I was the youngest of three with two years between each of us). We had the annual holiday to the seaside, Christmas was a time of joy and celebration with family and friends, we played out in the streets with our mates and would be home when it got dark. We all did ok at school and went on to get good jobs, pass our driving tests, buy a house, get married, have kids etc, etc, etc. All in all, pretty normal – so what changed?

One of the biggest compliments ever paid to me was during a recent conversation with our son who was visiting us over the last Easter weekend. We were discussing our various careers and he commented “but we’re not what you’d call a normal family are we?” It wasn’t a derogatory comment in any way, more an observation of how we’ve all got to be doing what we’re all doing today. And it made me very proud.

You see, we all have jobs, of sorts. I’m a musician and still do the odd bit of marketing/creative consultancy, my wife has crafted herself a very significant career in the wedding industry, my daughter lectures at University and my son is a freelance writer, creative and internationally published ‘meme lord’. We haven’t taken the ‘traditional’ route to doing what we’re all doing now and we all, by and large, enjoy what we do – and how many people can honestly say that?

I’ve had a mantra for my kids growing up and I hope it’s rubbed off. “Do what you love and love what you do.” It’s idealistic I know but there’s nothing wrong with striving for something that gives you more than a wage at the end of the week or the month. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all joy and jolly japes. Life still has it’s struggles, many struggles at times but on balance, doing something you love makes up for those other ‘sacrifices’ you have to make. We all work hard, extremely hard at times, we help others and care deeply about our family and friends and every now and then we take a big reality check on how, on balance, life isn’t all that bad.

And maybe, on reflection, we’ve only been able to end up doing what we’re doing now because we had that ‘normal’ start in life. It gave us all the grounding and responsibilities that you need in life to be, above all, decent people. Life has, and continues to, throw us curved balls bringing us varying degrees of sadness, stress and worry as well as fortune, joy and happiness. I try my best to learn something from every eventuality.

So, back to that original question; what changed? Well, nothing happened overnight. There wasn’t a single moment in my life when everything changed, when my life became less normal. There have been many significant moments in my life where life lessons have been learnt and as a result I’ve changed; I’ve changed the way I think, the way I react, the way I go about doing things. I’ve stopped worrying about some things and started to worry more about others… I think that is perfectly ‘normal’. And it’s not for me to prescribe to others what they should and shouldn’t worry about. We’re all different and that therefore begs the question ‘what is normal?’ Normal means different things to different people and most certainly ‘normal’ when I was growing up as a kid is very different to what may be considered ‘the norm’ these days and as such we all have to react and adapt. So maybe that’s the secret – maybe I’ve just reacted to life circumstances and adapted accordingly – but the way I react and adapt will have been different to others.

British people (and I’m sure many others around the world) have an uncanny knack of judging themselves against others as if in some strange way ‘others’ are the benchmark for normality. Social media plays a significant part in that judgement process – many of us are constantly exposed to it and therefore privy to what’s going on in other people’s lives. But who, or what, is the benchmark against which we judge ourselves? In essence, I'll ask it again, what is normal? describe normal as: conforming to the standard or the common type. If normal is what I see others doing and it doesn’t appeal to me then I’m happy to be abnormal. Furthermore, I’ll continue to strive to be that way, because for me, that’s perfectly normal!

In all honesty I’m not entirely sure what the point of this blog post has been. I wrote it because, well… because I can. I wrote it because I’ve set up my life to enable me to spend the odd hour or two indulging myself in creating and developing Upstarts and Oligarchs – in the same way that hopefully you’ve allowed yourself time to read this post (and others) and hopefully you’ve found it enjoyable, maybe even thought-provoking. And if you have, then I suggest that’s perfectly normal also.

Oh, and the picture? Everyone loves a pug with a glove on its head, right? That’s perfectly normal too!

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