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What is normal? A performance debate piece

What is normal? A performance debate piece

Posted August 10th, 2017 by AlgebraAddict

by esther

August 10th, 2017

So I'm a policy debater and I recently discovered that performance affirmatives are a thing, and that really impressed me.  The topic for this year is education reform, and so I wrote a piece that I might perform sometime about education and mental illness.  



From the moment you are born, and when you are a tiny child, you are told "don't pick your nose", "don't touch yourself there", "no more diapers", "don't talk to yourself", and it is backed up by threats of social rejection by peers,  parental discipline, or simply "because people will think you're weird" or "normal people don't do that", as if the word 'normal' had any meaning at all for a toddling package of innocence and chubbiness before you planted it in their head.  And having successfully taken this little child and prepared it for the "real world", you take this kid and you put it in in a learning environment full of other children just as or more indoctrinated than your own, and if your kid wasn't spoiled before then, now they are.  In elementary school it's important who you hang out with, what you wear, or how smart you are in class. it's there that the concept of acting happy all the time is introduced.  Don't cry, and if you do cry, we're going to drown your sadness in shame. 


what IS normal?


We all were a mess, and we all still are, but as we grew it became more and more apparent that some of THEM were bound to flourish, driven by the constant choice they made to embrace "happiness", but we had no such choice.  the choice we made, day by day, was whether or not to show it, exactly how tired we were of living, and sometimes we chose to appear pretty happy, but that wasn't the same.  as the years rolled by, as each day dragged to an end and the darkness of night laid over our fragile bodies, we began to understand the truth, that our minds were time bombs wired to detonate only a few years later, that our bodies were just the hollow shell we carried around, growing heavier with every waking moment.  We knew this, even in elementary school, somehow and deep down, even though we couldn't quite lay a finger on it.  No one was telling us, teaching us, educating us on all the things that were about to go dreadfully wrong, because doing so would scare the poor children to death, as if our ignorance wasn't already plotting to kill us like the fools we were.


And so middle school came at us like an ever-changing obstacle course of harrassment, awkwardness, hypermasculinity, shame, lust, cliques, and whatever else comes with seven hours a day in a room with a bunch of mid-pubescent preteens.  we began to set our own boundaries as we stepped away from the nest our varying-degrees-of-dysfunctional families had provided for us. we brought them so far in, we let the ones around us sit by us at lunch, and kiss us on our mouths, and we showed our true colors for the first time and got crushed and rejected, burned to the core.  slowly, the time bomb of our childish brains continued to tick away, and we were drawn more and more to the extremes of every good thing. We became perfectionists, overachievers in our own self-loathing and destruction.  THEY all knew where the line was, but WE wanted to go farther. We were encouraged to be smart, and dilligent, and hard workers, to do our classwork and do our homework and ace the goddamn tests and by God, we did it.  We studied day and night, and if caffeine can suppress our desire to rest, then what's the harm? We were encouraged to be healthy, thin, and beautiful, to diet and exercise and by God, we did it, and if breathmints can mask the smell of vomit then what does it hurt? 

And through all of this, the fear of failure was crawling over our bodies, making them things of hatred to us.  These vessels through which our brain functioned did nothing but fail us.  These bodies wanted to rest, they wanted to sleep, to forget being the best, THEY WANTED TO EAT! 


So while our bodies cried out for care, and our brains sent them to hell, we were drawn to the things that the others wouldn't tell.  We were drawn to romance, the lust, the drama and the excitement we found in hating our own flesh; somehow, the taboos and the stigmas and the stereotypes that were silently put forth by everyone around us made it all the more exciting.  We romanticized a certain kind of body; to be fit, and to be thin, and for our clothes and our muscle and our eyes and our skin to all show the world exactly what we stood for.  At first we hated our bodies, but eventually we became symbiotic with the excitement they gave us in destroying them. It was an act of martyrdom, but more than that it was a whirlwind romance with ourselves: to strive for the gap between our legs, to see scar tissue crawling down our arms, to run the treadmill until we fell to the ground.  The routine of school was a much-needed numbing agent, keeping us from the pain we should have felt.  All of a sudden society was on our side!  You're such a ray of sunshine, it told us, when we were happy and bright and productive and brilliant and our eyes glowed with the light of mania shining through, and when the depression came like a punch in the stomach again, we played hooky and we cried and slept away the pain because no one taught us that there was another option.  We saw things and heard things and as we lost our damn minds we saw the crazy mental patients on TV, and thank God we weren't like them.  So as the madness progressed, no one had warned us, and so we didn't know that the parts of us that we didn't show were not what the people on the internet made it seem.  We are not the picture of the girl with some white lines on their wrist and a body to envy and a single tear down their cheek.  We are girls and boys alike, and this sickness does not discriminate based on race or social class, and our scars are ugly and dark and cigarette burns, and all of a sudden we saw that it wasn't really fun anymore.  it wasn't exciting and it wasn't romantic, and life wasn't a stage and it wasn't just a tragic play, it was us walking across campus in the hot noon sun and feeling like we were going to explode because no one seemed to give a damn if we were fine or not; we were taught from our youth that to be vulnerable is to play our last card and lay ourselves in the mercy of those who made us this way.  And after all, if we were strong enough to destroy our own entire life, surely we were strong enough to battle it on our own.  We were only upholding what we had been taught, that psychological sickness was a naughty secret to flirt with, that those who went too far were a danger to themselves and to others, and that we will never ever be accepted by the world who set us up to fail in the first place. 


This is over.  This lie, this disease, the secret is out.  I will not keep quiet, I will not let anyone silence the voice which is screaming out to every single one of you, "this is the day for change".  This is the day to alter the narrative which we teach to our children and students and friends from elementary school to secondary school and all the way up until we die; this is the day to arm ourselves with bibles, not blades, with friends, not with fire, and hand in hand we will take apart everything we have ever been taught and we will begin again in a new age.  We will be the new generation, dropping our kids off for their first day in preschool and saying "pick your nose all you need, the kids can say whatever, because you're all that I need." from this day forth, we will no longer suffer in the safety and quiet and familiar misery of our own homes, we will bring that suffering into the light and the earth will be shaken with the force of our words, we will preach a new gospel to those burning in hades, to our children and friends, stand with us now, this is not the end.

See more stories by esther
This is so beautifully

This is so beautifully written and gets an interesting deep message about.
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you.”
- Beatrix Potter

Posted by @lem*on on Thu, 08/10/2017 - 06:32

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