The common is holding you back


The common is holding you back, embrace normal instead. Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it is normal. In fact, our societies are deeply confused about what is normal and what is common in a few, very important aspects of life. 

For example, I write this from the United States. Here, it is the common that health insurance is connected to a specific job. No job? No health insurance. I grew up with this, as well as the reality that my family went on and off health insurance as my mom struggled towards financial stability. 

However, what is normal is the right to health and universal health care for a country’s inhabitants. In fact, the United States is the only country in the ‘developed world’ without a system of universal healthcare, and only one of 10-some countries that have any tie between health and employment. The health care insurance system is an outlier, and not in a good way. 

As a Maverick, when I am faced with a tension between common and normal, it is up to me to first identify the gap, sit in the discomfort of exploration and understanding, and then make a powerful choice. 

In the case of health care, I first felt the tension when I moved to Germany right after college. At first, I was uncomfortable with being enrolled into the universal health care system. My initial response was based on the US common, “why do I have to pay for this?” and “I don’t need this.” 

Time and one life-threatening emergency showed me that I was stuck in an outdated common, rather than a global (and moral) normal. I learned, listened, and experienced. Now I am an advocate and activist for health insurance for all, sharing my own stories of both how a common lack in my US childhood impacted my health and how the normal availability and accessibility in Germany saved my own life, and my child’s. 

Most of the time the gap between normal and common is trivial: what time we eat lunch, what we call our parents, our religious feasts and secular holidays. What is normal for me and my community is common. What is common for us, is our normal. 

Yet, there are gaps between common and normal that are harmful, even dangerous. As mavericks, it is up to us to use our willful independence and our pathological curiosity to address those gaps.

For example, we exist in a global society of deep, embedded anti-blackness. This is common, not normal. We must do the internal work to identify and uproot anti-black beliefs, as well as the external work to shift the racist systems of power.  

A second example, we live in a world that has the realities of climate change on paper and in our everyday lives. Yet, we collectively shrug. That is currently common but it is horrifically abnormal. We must demand and push that, for example, the 20 biggest polluters are forced to reprioritise, placing human life and our earth above their shareholders and dividends.

More personal to many of us, we exist in a global society in which our professional lives come first and leave us exhausted, overworked, under-valued. We accept the common idea that we live to work, rather the normal reality that our lives are rich, woven tapestries and work is one lower-level element of our legacies.  We must, instead, choose one moment at a time what is normal for a human – and it isn’t putting work always first. 

The societal consequences of accepting the abnormal common over the actual normal is devastating to our health, our environment, and our humanity. 

In other words, we feel like shit. We blame ourselves, or someone else. Sometimes we even blame the people we love the most. We skip over acknowledge and embracing big feelings as an opportunity to choose normal over common and erode our own self-trust. 

We go back into overworking, under-living, disconnected from ourselves, others and our environment, accepting the abnormal common. 

And pretend the entire time it is normal, only occasionally permitting ourselves to remember that it’s not. All this is just common. 

The good news is that we can choose differently. We can shift the common until it reaches the normal, and then keep going

We can choose to learn more about anti-blackness and have the crucial conversations with our communities, no matter how we identify. Then we can choose to amplify black excellence, joy, and leadership. 

We can choose to regularly reach out to our politicians with our support to the necessary and immediate mitigation efforts required to limit the continued damage to our planet, and do our small parts in our daily lives. Then we can embrace our natural world with purpose and generosity.

We can choose to schedule first our families and our hobbies, and then our career demands. We can put our values into action and role model for others how they can too. We can become the leaders others need because we are who we need ourselves to be.

This choice is available to each of us, right now, in this moment. 

What do you, dear maverick, chose?