I have spent a very long time in my life feeling pretty abnormal. I know: most people have at one time or another. Growing up, I suspected my family life was unusual and I developed a hearty sense of shame regarding it. When you’re young you can’t quite put your finger on it. Or really, you can’t quite put your tongue on it. You don’t know how to articulate it. You don’t know the words or even the concrete thought. But you do know that your other friends live with their parents. And even if their parents are divorced and their home life isn’t as straightforward as some of the other kids, you know that they aren’t living at their grandparent’s house like you are. And you know that their mothers aren’t cleaning their grandparent’s house for extra cash before going home to God-knows-where. An old drug buddy’s floor. Or bed. Who knows. In any case, when you are a child you’re never sure of the details and the words always escape you. But you have your suspicions.
So much of feeling abnormal is, as seems obvious, a direct result of your surroundings. I don’t mean that you are simply born as a black sheep. I mean that you are pointed out to be different and made to feel that way again and again. I was the one in my family who loudly questioned politics. It was the first time I could find solid evidence that I truly did not fit my family’s mold. I questioned the religion my mother had lazily raised me to accept and I broke my grandmother’s heart. My mother and I fell into a years-long cycle of psychiatric medication and empty threats. I cut myself. I was certain that my mother was unreasonable and that she could even be downright cruel. Sometimes I felt that I must be crazy. But I was a child; I had no rights and I was easy to overpower. I probably am crazy to some extent. It can’t be helped; it’s in my blood. At least for me, it doesn’t manifest itself in ways that cause me to be willfully destructive. I’ve learned to focus my energy. To wield it.
My crazy shows up differently. My crazy causes me to decide to fly 6000 miles by myself to spend time in a city I’ve never before visited. My crazy is staying in a hostel with four girls I don’t know and wandering by myself in an unfamiliar place and deciphering signs I can barely begin to read. My crazy is the utter fucking elation I feel when I am an ocean and a half away from any place I’ve called home. It was crazy to consider someone a friend when I knew them almost solely online. It was crazy to meet him late one night, my legs burnt and blistered from an overzealous day at the beach, in the back of some coffee shop called Loveat. Our connection was crazy and the sun was crazy and the smells and sounds and tastes were crazy. And more than anything, my inability to let that whirlwind of a week fade from my person is goddamn crazy. But as it is, I think about it daily.
I’m so tired of vague acquaintances from the restaurant ask me why I’m going back so soon. Everyone asks me pointed questions about the existence of some Israeli future-husband. I can never convey the momentousness of my experience there. I can never convince them that there are larger reasons for me to return to a country so far away. It wasn’t just a vacation. I can’t explain why I work 55 hours a week to return as quickly as possible. Their small smiles and looks in their eyes that say they know better make me feel like I’m crazy. It infuriates me and makes me feel small.
When I was 18, I was initially rejected from all the colleges to which I’d applied. I had a coffee with my guardian’s husband and told him that since I couldn’t do the normal next step, I wanted to do something amazing. I never did, though. But I’ve gotten braver and now I’ve taken the plunge. Maybe for me, “amazing” has always been synonymous with “crazy.” Either way, I have seen pure batshit crazy, and I am not it.
I prefer the term “adventurous” anyway.