I used to ride home from college with my friend Becca. She had a red Chevy Cavalier named Joan. Or Judy. One of those. The drive from Charleston to Greenville is just over three hours. On Friday afternoons we were in great moods. We would sing and smoke cigarettes. Have a grand ole time. The Sunday ride home, however, was not quite as exciting. There was always a moment, somewhere around Orangeburg, when Becca would hit the steering wheel and scream, “I’m so sick of driving!” We were like 60 miles out and it felt like we would never get there. We had come so far and still had almost an hour to go. We were out of songs to sing. Sick of smoking cigarettes. We weren't hungry, we weren’t tired, we just wanted to be done with the drive.
I’ve been relating to that feeing Becca had more and more this past week, staring down my tenth episode of chemotherapy. Like I’ve got 60 miles left and I’ve been driving all afternoon. Like I’m in Joan. Or Judy. One of those. No songs left to sing. Not really into smoking cigarettes anymore considering I have cancer and all…
I feel like I’ve written the word “normal” 10,000 times over the past six months. “Looking forward to getting back to normal,” I’ve said, to myself and others, time and time again. Like normal is some sort of goal one can achieve. Like normal is a a destination, a place I vacation once or twice a year.
Normal is only a desired state when we are not in it. And when we are, we complain. “Ugh it’s Monday.” “Ugh I’m so bored.” “Ugh I don’t want to be normal.”
What even is my normal now? I live in a brand new city in a brand new apartment, starting new jobs and working on new shows. My life has no normal. There is no normal schedule or normal day or normal routine. What am I longing to get back to? Back before I got sick I felt like I was just going through the motions. Auditioning for things I didn’t care about, writing things that didn’t move me.
I’m beginning to think normal doesn’t even exist. That it’s simply a compilation of different bits of time when things were fine and no one was bothering you. Our brains then weave those moments together like a quilt so that when things are crazy you’ll have something to long for.
And if normal does exist, it’s only something you can appreciate when it’s gone. In that car, 60 miles from Charleston, if we had broken down or something bad had happened, we would be longing for that normal car ride.
So I don’t really know what I’m looking forward to. Except not to have to sit in that chair for six straight hours every other week. And to not have that metallic taste in my mouth. To have fingers that don’t feel numb.
Once that’s done, I’ll sit around and wait for the next curve ball. Wait for the next thing that will take me off my center and make me want to hit the steering wheel and wish I was home.