Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Normality, Abnormality and the Return

Today was my first proper school day since 21 February.

Six hours. Nine to three.

Here's the thing (and those of you who have been following me for a while will probably already know this): on 22 February, the city where I live was struck by a massive earthquake. Fortunately no-one I know was killed or injured, and my house was hardly damaged - but my school was wrecked.

And so for the last seven months my school has been site-sharing with an undamaged school. The host school used it between 8 and 12:30 in the morning. My school used it between 1:15 and 5:45 in the afternoon. As you can imagine, things this year have been pretty hectic.

But today was my school's first day back at the old premises, with normal hours.

I say "normal" for lack of a better term, when they really feel abnormal now. The truth is, in fact, things really haven't been too hectic - at least in terms of school. I've gotten used to sleeping in a bit longer than I should, blogging and writing and doing homework in the morning, walking to the bus stop at lunchtime, watching the sun go down in my last class, getting home in the dark. Those things have become my definition of school, they've become normal. So the fact that I'm writing this at five o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon from my dining room table is actually kind of weird.

And, to be honest, I think I'll miss those seven months.

Unsurprisingly, I got thinking about how my response to my school's return to "normality" could apply to storytelling. I say this is unsurprising because I always try to relate everything in life to storytelling. Maybe I do it a little too much. But anyway. I got thinking.

It didn't take long before I realised that the experience I've been through this year can be paralleled with an aspect of a character arc in stories: I was forced into an uncomfortable situation, from normality to abnormality; then I spent a good deal of time in that abnormal world; and upon returning, I see the old normality differently.

I'm reminded particularly of an example of this in the Lord of the Rings. When the hobbits return to the Shire after their epic adventure, either Merry or Pipin remarks that it's as if they're all waking up from a big dream, to which Frodo replies, "To me it feels more like falling asleep again." Abnormality becomes normal for him, and when he returns to his former life, he does so with an entirely new perspective and as a greater person than before.

So, tell me, what experiences have you personally gone through that have given you a new perspective on the world? What abnormalities have become normal in your life?


  1. Yeah, I understand what you're going through completely. To be back in the "normal" hours just somehow seems wrong.
    It seems to point out the adaptability of the human race don't you think? I know, I know that this comment isn't anything special because it's exactly the same sort of thing you're experiencing, but to return to that school, a sense of nostalgia and disarray, to be part of what we've always done once more, but something different. Perhaps it was the fact there was no Marian girls, perhaps it was the Pre-Fab classrooms, clearly they change the atmosphere somewhat, but how "the same" can be so different and foreign. I was somewhat shocked and confused as to why we had two breaks today. It was abnormal, bizarre, strange, and ultimately, completely foreign. You make a powerful point young Nicholas, and how we will adapt once more, I'm disappointed to lose what these seven months have brought us.


  2. this is probably one of my favorite themes in book--thrusting characters into new, unfamiliar territory, through which they emerge different people, and thus their perception of their old lives is altered.

    nerdy, much? :D

    but yeah, i totally get what you're talking about :)

  3. My father traveled for a living. While most of the people around me are 9-5ers, my dad ots up on sunday mornings, flew to a different state, then returned late friday evening.
    It was routine for about a decade until he was offered a local job within the company. Now abnormality in my life is seeing him every day.
    The Hunger Games, Graceling, Pride and Prejudice, Catch 22...the list of books with the arc you mention is endless. And look, those books are very popular, so they must be doing something right :)

  4. @Graeden: You put that excellently. It's so strange that what was once part of everyday life is all of a sudden quite foreign, as you said. I also found it unnecessary having two breaks today. And while a lot has changed in terms of pre-fabs and construction sites while we've been away, it's still the same school - and adapting back, I think, will be more difficult than adapting to Papanui (the host school, for the benefit of others) was.

    @Yea, it's a really interesting arc. Way more interesting now that I've experienced it. I guess that means I'll be able to write about it better :)

    @Wow, that must be quite a change. I'm not sure why this arc is so popular. Maybe it's because we like to see the character return to the old normal so that we can contrast it with their new perspectives, and see how much they've changed? I'm not sure. But I can understand now how "the Return" for characters is probably a lot more difficult than we give them credit for.

  5. Nick! Congratulations on the 100 followers.

    Glad to hear everyone is okay. And that you're back to school.

    I'll beginning commenting regularly on this blog.

  6. hello there, Just thought I would say "Hi" I am not in your fantasy group, I'm only just working my way around everybody slowly but surely. I just thought I would say "Hi " anyways.
    Eve :)

  7. Sweet! Thanks Jackson! (I guess I'll have to do a special post about that.) :)

    Hi, Eve, nice to meet you! Awesome to see you making the most of the campaign!

  8. You've been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award. Check out my blog for details!

  9. That's terrible about the Earth Quake. Things happen in life that impact us. They could be natural disasters or just people throwing us for a loop. The important thing is that we remain true to ourselves and persevere. My father was mugged and left for dead at one time. I was really young. I'm still leary about going to places on my own. :)

  10. It's funny how things that are so different become our new normal. I found that when I lived in Ghana for four months. It really threw me for a loop when I first arrived, but by the time I left, things felt natural and it was going home that was weird.

  11. @Laila: Wow, that's horrible. It's strange how bad things can happen to us. We know it happens, but we usually expect it to happen to others. Thanks for sharing :)

    @Shallee: Exactly, exactly. Weird feeling, right? These kind of experiences really change you as a person.


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