What is Normal?

Wired up like Neo in the Matrix
I'm wired up like Neo in the Matrix....
As I sit here, hooked up with 12 electrodes to my head, 2 on my chest, 2 on my legs, 2 belts wrapped around my chest, a tube in in my nose and a monitor on my finger I begin to wonder how I got here... Not how I drove myself to a sleep center to run tests to determine if I do or more likely, don't have narcolepsy. But I wonder how I got to the point of needing this test to begin with.

All of my life I just thought I was more tired than other people. At first I blamed it on typical things like being in high school and college, where it was normal to stay up too late on a regular basis cramming for tests that I should have prepared for earlier. Or just staying out late with friends and regretting signing up for that 11am class because it was waaaay to early to need to be presentable to the world. Many times I would just go to class unshowered and wearing what I fell asleep in. (side note: PJ's are acceptable to wear to class in college. Bathing suits on a rainy day are probably not.)

Once college ended the partying still went on. I didn't give up the late nights and the foggy days until my second real job. But why did I wait until my second real job to start taking life seriously?

Oh, that's right, I hated my first real job out of college. I went into the "graveyard" of a building* that was owned by Sun Microsystems at the time. It was a place where peoples ambition went to die. Granted, at the time I didn't have much ambition so it sort of suited me well I guess. I basically logged hours then went home and figured out where I was going out that night with friends and the next day I would return to work barely functioning like a zombie.

Before Sun Microsystems was bought out I was let go. I was just a contractor for them at the time and honestly to this day I'm still not sure what all I really did for them, so I would have cut me loose too. Kudos to them for giving me the boot. But that led to my second real job, which was the first one that I actually took seriously. I worked hard at it, was good at it, and made a lot of great friends there. Since I was happier with my job I didn't have to go out and have late nights every night to make up for the soul crushing feeling of going into work each day.

I started getting proper amounts of sleep but I was still tired all the time. I think that's when I just started to think that my body required more sleep than other peoples. It was just a physiological thing, not something I had any real control over. Like my allergies, it was just something my body did. I had no real control over it. That's how it was with sleep, I just needed more of it than other people. If I didn't get enough of it I just went on autopilot all day and struggled to stay awake.

It wasn't until one day I was talking on the phone with one of my friends about how my allergies were going crazy that day and he mentioned that his doctor prescribed him Flonase and it completely took care of it. I was skeptic of it at first, I had worse allergies than almost anyone I knew and every type of medicine I tried only worked marginally at best. But eventually I talked to my doctor and low and behold, Flonase worked miracles on me too. Suddenly, what I thought was just a normal part of life was fixed in a way that made life better.

It was then that I realized that perhaps I didn't have to live with crappy aspects of life that I just thought were "normal". I knew they weren't normal for everyone but I thought it was normal for me so I just accepted it as part of life.

Since then I've been challenging what I thought was "normal" that I thought could be better. Like getting paid more at work, not putting up with a boss that mistreats you, or questioning why it's normal to work until you're 67.

So I sit here with wires hooked all over my body, preparing for what will most likely be a very difficult nights sleep, I remember why I started questioning what was normal.

Just because something is normal to other people or even to yourself doesn't mean it's right. Question the world around you. You might be surprised at how you can change it.

What have you questioned that everyone else thinks is normal? Has it made things better for you?

*Ironically that building is now the Facebook headquarters which is definitely not a graveyard.

20 comments:

  1. Great post...I think it's important to question what is normal and to think outside the box. Retiring at 65 and go through the motions of life seemed to be normal but once I started reading more pf blogs, I thought that there could be more to life and that financial freedom is possible earlier than 65. Hope the sleep center tests went well. I went as well and they said I had a mild form of sleep apnea...gave me a machine I could use to help me get better sleep. I should use it more often. Let me know how it goes.

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    1. Hi Andrew,

      It's amazing how reading the right post at the right time on a PF blog will change someone's life. That's really all it took for me to open my eyes. I always knew I wanted to retire early, but when I thought about it I was probably thinking somewhere near the early or mid 50's, not my early 40's like I am now. The sleep tests seemed to go alright I guess, after a night of being woken up because electrodes were getting knocked off and needing to be re-attached, then a day of naps every 2 hours and being woken up right after I fell asleep.... It was strange when all I wanted to do was go home and sleep!

      I'm pretty sure for me that sleep apnea has been ruled out already. I think for the most part this test is to "officially" rule other things out too. I won't know for another week and a half the results of everything but I'm sure I will be fine, I've dealt with this my whole life so I'm already used to it. I just hope that perhaps it can be made better.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Zee

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  2. Wired up like Neo in the Matrix? Should have taken the other pill! ;)
    Hope your tests went well and they figure out a way to fix your sleeping issue. Must really suck to be tired all the time.

    I recently questioned home ownership! Literally everyone in Belgium buys a house as soon as possible "because it is the best investment you'll ever make" and "renting an apartment is only wasted money". When I did the math, I was kind of amazed that there are a lot situations in which that is not true at all. Sadly, hardly anyone gets my point of view.

    Take care and I hope to read a follow-up post soon,
    NMW

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    1. NMW,

      Yep, I felt like Neo in that battery pod being woken up. Plugs and wires everywhere, I even had goop on my head to keep a some of the plugs in place.

      I think home ownership is a good thing to question too. I think I bought my house at the worst possible time because I was told the same thing, "owning is better than renting". Looking back I should have waited until the housing market wasn't at all time highs. Overall I think home ownership can be a good thing, but it can't be blindly followed. For now, 7 years after I bought it's paying back my initial investment, but for a long time I was spending way more than renting.

      Thanks for the well wishes,
      Zee

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    2. Actually a funny side note I recently learned was the origin of the word mortgage means "pledge to the death" so perhaps people should really reconsider their mortgage.

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    3. Didn't know that about mortgage! I definitely don't want to pay off a mortgage until I die! :)

      Home ownership can definitely be a good thing, but because of the way mortgage subsidies in Belgium work it's mostly beneficial for couples. And the market prices are at an all time high at the moment, so I'll just wait.

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  3. Zee,

    I think normal, for the most part, sucks. Just because most of society does something one way doesn't make it right or even good.

    I'm not sure how much sleep you're getting, or if you actually have a medical condition. But I like to get about nine hours of sleep per night to feel 100%. I can get by on seven hours, barely. But any less than that and I'm pretty much worthless. I may need more sleep than other people, but I make the time I am awake count! :)

    I hope they figure out what's going on!

    Best wishes.

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    1. Dividend Mantra,

      I agree with you that the 9-5 to 65 is not the way that I want to live. If that's normal, then I want to be far from normal. I want an extrodinary life where I live by my rules, not by my employers.

      I've tried changing my diet, sleep patterns, amount of exercise. So far nothing has made any real difference. I can get by on various amounts of sleep but I don't always function at 100% for very long without needing a nap to be refreshed and firing on all cylinders again.

      Thanks for the well wishes and including me in your weekly reading roundup, it's much appreciated!

      -Zee

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  4. Sounds more like sleep apnea than narcolepsy. Hopefully they get some good results. I suspect my husband has sleep apnea. He's always been a terrible sleeper, on top of that. It seems to run in his family - mother, brothers. Me, I'm out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow, but I do snore. Good luck!

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    1. Hey Debs,

      I think that sleep apnea was ruled out in an earlier test, but I guess you never know what might show up in the test. Hopefully you can convince your husband to get checked out for his sleep issues, you never know how that may be affecting him, perhaps he too could be feeling better with a better nights sleep!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      -Zee

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  5. That is crazy, I hope they are able to find a way to make your life easier as a result of this test. I think the frugal and personal finance perspective it to "question everything" relates you your question of what is normal? Whether it be normal or abnormal, we should question it and see the reason why we do whatever it is we do. Like you said why should I wait until "normal retirement age" to keep on working? That is a long time!

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    1. Hey Kipp,

      I'm not exactly sure if I hope they find something with tihs test or not. On one hand it could explain things and hopefully be accounted for in the future, on the other.... Well, actually there's no downside now that I think about it more. Since I've delt with this my whole life it's not something I'm not already used to, putting a name on it doesn't change anything really. Perhaps it's because I was physically tired it made me realize early that I was tired of work and didn't want to do it until I was 65. Thanks for stopping by!

      -Zee

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  6. Hope the tests went well. 'Normal' is different for everyone and you just need to get to what should be normal for 'you'.

    Taking sleep as an example, my usual hours during the week are 6 - 6.5 hours, 7 hours at the weekend. When I've tried to have more sleep, eg 7 - 8 hours during the week, it's made me feel lethargic and feeling like I have jet-lag! With my 'normal' hours, I have energy to function, do my job, work out a couple of times in the week etc. I sometimes feel tired when I wake up but then, I've never been a morning person.

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    1. Hi Weenie,

      On weekdays I typically get around 8 hours give or take an hour in each direction. I can get by on that, but it's not ideal. On weekends I might get 9 or 10 hours and still feel the need to take a nap after 3 or 4 hours of being awake still.

      I'm hoping to constantly strive for something that is better than normal. Just because I am used to it and it feels normal, it doesn't mean I shouldn't constantly want something better. I don't really want to become complacent with anything.

      -Zee

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  7. Tough to see people live so long being untreated. Good you got a handle on it and brave enough to get something done about it. My buddy has a severe sleep apnea problem that he will not get treated and it drives me crazy. Its affecting his day to day breathing and its just getting worse. Imma send him this post to hope kickstart him.!

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    1. Asset Grinder,

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope that your friend does get things checked out. For me not dealing with allergies anymore literally changed my life. There was a period before where I just was used to once every few weeks not being able to function because of them, then after I didn't lose that day anymore. I hope that fixing my sleep will help me even more. Hopefully your friend will consider getting checked out because I'm sure a better nights sleep helps everyone!

      -Zee

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  8. Is there a way to contact you directly rather than clog up the public forum? I have very similar issues/experiences that I would like to share

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    1. Of course Bruce, I can be reached at WorkToNotWork(at)gmail.com

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  9. I grew up in a conservative family, with conservative values that I never questioned about until I got to college. I met different people from very different walks of life and it made me wonder if what I thought what's the 'best' was not actually the best. I don't know if it makes my life better, but it just struck me that there' more to life than what I had known all along.

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    1. College is an eye opening experience for many people. You're thrown into a mixing pot of different people. I think it's great for people to step outside their comfort zones just to see things from other peoples perspectives, I'm not saying you have to agree with them all but I think it's healthy to try to see things through other peoples eyes. I think that's why I love travel so much, you're putting yourself into the middle of a different culture. It's actually being somewhere else where those beliefs and values are the "norm" for that area.

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