the new normal

I shared with you earlier this month my colorful history of hair.  Alas, hair was not my only colorful history.  Still, I don’t want to take  the walk all the way from one end of Memory Lane to the other (it’s a long walk).  Instead, I want to briefly mention just one of the many fashion changes I’ve undergone, in hopes of drawing from it a valuable point.

Those who know me in daily life know that I do not wear hats.  I love the idea of a hat — a newsboy, homburg or fedora – but I just don’t see myself as someone who can physically pull it off as intended.  I fear that fashionable hats will only wind up looking ironic on my stocky and somewhat disproportionate frame.

Secretly, I’m jealous of the guys who can pull these looks off.  But the truth of the matter is, I probably could, as well.  I just don’t believe that I can, and so I don’t.

Back in the early ’90s, I did wear hats.  Ball caps.  I wore them backwards.  I don’t quite remember what got me started.  I was gaining good weight from hitting the gym regularly, and I think I saw the backward cap as kind of an “All-American” look.  (I was talking this week with some of the now-college-aged guys I mentored in high school, and according to them, I believe that my ’90s look would have qualified me as a “bro,” though I’m still not entirely certain that I understand the term.)

At any rate, having never worn hats of any kind, this new trend made quite a splash among people who knew me and saw me on a day-to-day basis.  Whatever their exact words may have been on the matter, the general consensus was the same: “It’s just not – you.”  Nevertheless a stalwart fellow, I soldiered on and continued to wear my backward caps despite the hullabaloo, enjoying the reprieve they offered from having to think about my hair much at all.

Funny thing was, for all of the shock and dismay with which my new look had been greeted, after about a year, people no longer commented on the oddity of it.  In fact, if I didn’t have my hat (or at least hat head, indicating that the hat was nearby), this was now when people commented – “Hey, where’s your hat?” – as if I didn’t look quite right without it.

A voice student of mine was recently feeling awkward about trying some new vocal approaches that felt stilted and awkward to her.    I told her about my years with a hat — how what at first seemed very much not “me,” became so much “me” after a while, that people had forgotten what I looked like without one.  In other words, wearing a hat was the new normal.  Likewise, with consistent practice and not being afraid to be heard by others, my student’s emerging voice would soon become her new normal.

It seems to me that many people never try new things because they feel it will come off as too different.  Too much of a surprise to the people who know them.  Too hypocritical.  Too “not normal.”  Whether it’s deciding to start writing thank-you notes, changing how you talk with family members, using names more often, or consciously being more positive — remember that whatever you choose to do becomes your new normal, if you’ll stick with it past that initial awkward phase.

Don’t hold yourself back from change because of what others may expect of you based on your past.  Strive to be the you that you want to be.   Soon enough, the “wannabe you” will be your new normal.

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