Normal, norm, normalize
Adjective: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
Noun: the usual, average, or typical state or condition.
Verb: bring or return to a normal condition or state.
In these post-presidential days I wonder how quickly we can become normalized to the new regime. How soon does Trump become normal? And then I ponder what it means to be normal. Jake once told Maggie that he wished she would just act normal. In high school students tend to be normal or not normal. Jake wanted to be normal. Maggie does not.
In graduate school we held norming sessions before reading writing placement essays. I always found the concept rather disturbing. We read a few essays then discussed what rating we would give them. The discussion was meant to normalize our ratings. Apparently “norming” is a stage in group development: when the group starts to bond, becomes harmonious, and develops a kind of synergy.
In some ways, norms are good: moral standards, ethical boundaries, etc. But it’s a tricky balance, finding that edge between what society expects (the normal) and maintaining your own sense of self, your own standards. Normal is a safe place. And when the normal shifts, we scramble to find the new normal–fearful, anxious, and volatile until something settles. It’s an uncomfortable place–the non-normal, post-normal, abnormal. Few people like to stay in that place very long. Four years of a presidency can seem like a long time. Three years of high school can seem like a long time. Five hours of essay reading can seem like a long time. Not to mention seventeen years of employment, twenty years of marriage, thirty-nine years of habitation.