Adventures in Normalcy


On the surface my life is pretty ordinary. At the moment, I am a 40 year old, middle class American. I have 2.25 children (another story for another time). I have a husband and 2 cats. I live in the suburbs. I drive a mini van. I'll let you in on a little secret though: every chapter of my life has been a totally unexpected, creative adventure.

Growing up I never had major expectations for my life. Sure, I had dreams... but I never really had a PLAN. (In retrospect this probably wasn't the best formula for success - but hindsight is 20/20 right?) I was always told I could do anything, so I dreamed of big, creative things. My parents believed in me and scraped by to send me to college. I waited tables, worked in coffee shops, worked as a (really bad) telemarketer and had random acting gigs to pay my rent and earn a degree in musical theater from a prestigious creative arts school.

*Creative Adventure #1

There were a lot of "ordinary" things that just weren't on my radar then. At any rate, life happened and priorities changed:

Who needs a husband? I'm a bit of a feminist so while I thought maybe someday a husband was a possibility, I was as shocked as anyone to find someone so early in my life and marry him at the age of 22 (all my artistic friends at the time thought I was out of my mind). As it turns out, I never could have foreseen that figuring out how to mold two lives together and use team work every day to build a tiny empire would be one of the most challenging and rewarding creative adventures I'd ever embark on. And it is still unfolding every day.

*Creative Adventure #2

Grit and flexibility are key. My husband and I are both from big families and after finding each other and finishing school, we started out on our own with basically nothing. When acting gigs didn't pay the rent, we didn't have a back up other than our own grit. We dug in, worked hard, changed careers when we needed to and figured it all out as we went. Between paying off students loans, feeding our faces and figuring out how to incorporate all of our creative dreams and ideas, we have somehow muddled through and built a pretty nice life. 

*Creative Adventure #3
Along the way I found out that I am a Hobbit (aka an introvert with social anxiety who would rather stay home and do just about anything than venture out into the world and actually talk to people). I discovered I didn't enjoy living in the city with knots in my stomach every day. I considered something I had never thought of before: a quiet life in the suburbs. Believe it or not, figuring out how to navigate suburban life has been one adventure after another. I still don't quite have it all figured out, but thankfully I've met some pretty nice people who have helped me with the bumpy parts.

*Creative Adventure #4

As life has progressed there have been many, many more creative adventures:

  • First Car: We could finally go places that didn't involve walking or riding the bus! Adventure anyone?
  • Upgrading aforementioned car to a minivan: WHAAAAT??? We literally call this our "Adventure-mobile". Who knew a minivan could be so exciting? The comfort! The space! The ability to pack all your crap and still have leg room!
  • Buying a house: Didn't see that coming. A box to live in! It is nothing fancy, but it's nice to have somewhere to hang out between adventures.
  • Having more than one bathroom in said house: Talk about luxury... toilet paper abounds! And there is somewhere to store it!
  • Finding a steady, creative job with values I believe in and working there for almost 17 years: I am still waiting for someone to catch on to the fact that I'm faking it and send me back to the coffee shop.
  • Having kids: Holy cow! I never, ever assumed I'd have any. What a ride that has been! Kids challenge you every day and bring out the best (and worst) of your creative self.

At the risk of sounding way too enthusiastic, all the things that make my life seem so mundane and normal on the surface are the very things that have turned it into my biggest adventure. In the mix are all of the new things I get to experience with my kids on a daily basis. Whether it's a tooth falling out or having the privilege of seeing a play together, I am thankful for it all. I've never assumed anything was owed to me or that anything would turn out a particular way (which probably helps with my outlook). I could definitely view how my life has turned out as something "less than", especially with the general worldview today of insta-celebrity everything and constant upgrades. Let's face it, I didn't ever end up auditioning for Saturday Night Live, or touring Europe with a production of Cats. I'm not a successful artist (yet) and I don't have my own reality show. My life is simple and generic.

Generally, I am one of the biggest, sarcastic cynics out there (which has gotten me into trouble from time to time). Acknowledging all of this positivity doesn't come naturally for me. So here's the real deal: Everything in my life I've earned from the ground up and every minute of it has been an unexpected, beautiful, challenging, sometimes painful, but wonderful adventure. And from the outside, everything looks completely ordinary. Throughout it all, it has always been the small, everyday moments that have been the most profound. The overlooked, ordinary, "normal" things have built my creative adventure.

It's all a matter of perspective, and that is the secret.

© 2016 Krysta Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.