As long as I can remember being normal was my only goal in life. If only I could be normal, then everything would be alright. There was not a lot wrong in my life when I was a kid, growing up in a small dutch town. I had a normal family with 2 parents (a mum and a dad) and a younger sister. My life was pretty normal. The problem was: It didn’t feel normal; I didn’t feel normal. You see, everybody was going through life living by certain rules and I lived my life not knowing those rules. Nobody told me, but apparently they told everybody else.
When I was 35 I got diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. I cannot tell you how relieved I was after receiving such a clear diagnoses. All those years working so hard to fit in there was an explanation why I didn’t. Why I couldn’t. That was a big deal. It was not that I wouldn’t that I didn’t try hard enough or was to lazy. There was something different about me why I couldn’t. Not understanding the rules of life? Being clumsy and inappropriate in social situation? Being obsessed about some things and totally not interested in others? It was all part of the package.
Getting the right diagnosis changed everything and at the same time it didn’t change anything.
The problems I had to face were still the same. The way to handle them just got more clear. And there was help. I started reading books, I started therapy and I started working with a coach to find a way to integrate this new knowledge into my life. I started looking at what I needed (what??) and finding ways to take care of myself. I really thought this was it. I found the keys, I could learn the rules and finally be a normal person.
And then I got fired.
Having a job was a big part of being normal in my head. Getting fired ruined my chances of ever getting there. I was working as an assistant manager in the local library. I liked my job, and the people I worked with and they liked me. I loved going to work. But the library had to cut their expenses and I was one of the people that got fired. It happens but I was completely shocked.
My experiences with jobs were not good (to put it mildly). There wasn’t one I kept longer than 2 years. You can do the math; I had a lot of jobs since I started working. Some were fun most were not. I got fired many of times. Getting fired was not a new thing. Liking a job and not wanting to get fired and getting fired anyway was what upset me the most. So I decided to start my own company.
Looking back it was a ridiculous plan but strangely enough, it worked out. I started helping people with their Social Media and building website with WordPress.
I learned WordPress for fun. I wasn’t interested in computers or tech stuff. I was just a little obsessed with making a website for the domain name my boyfriend gave me for my birthday a few years earlier. I had nothing to say but was totally fascinated by what you can do with a website. It was like magic to me. Some written code turned into a beautiful page, or an ugly one. I wanted to know all about that. Building things with HTML and CSS was easy. Code is logic (and poetry of course;-)). It does what you tell it to do. If it doesn’t you did something wrong. Never a discussion about it.
I shied away from people. It was too confusing for me now that I found something that was so easy and logical.
I could make money without seeing other people, it felt like heaven.
For a while. This is really what makes this whole thing so disturbing. I want to be alone, but also want to be around other people. I appear to be good with people. A lot of people like me (who knew?!). They have no idea how confusing it is not knowing what the underlying rule set is others are acting by. It’s like interacting with someone from a totally different culture speaking a different language but both of you don’t know that. I got really good at guessing things through the years, but that didn’t make it any less uncomfortable. I also got really scared. Because not all people are understanding and friendly when you try to explain.
And Then WordCamp
In 2011 I went to my first WordPress meetup. I was shocked! These people did what I did and actually knew what they were doing and talked about it. I was blown away with all this new knowledge and information. I needed to know more and learn more. So I went back into my WordPress cave and studied, practiced and learned more.
WordCamp Europe happened for the first time in 2013 in The Netherlands. I signed up as a volunteer. I visited WordCamp NL the year before. As a visitor I didn’t know how to meet new people. That was a lonely experience. I loved the knowledge that was shared but I knew I had to find a way to talk to those people. I figured being a volunteer would give me something to do and a reason to talk to people. And it did.
I met new people, I was shy, I was scared, I acted totally inappropriate and I was exhausted for a week after the event but I did it. The people were nice. Some seem to like me and I had fun. This was a totally new experience. If only this could normal.
I attended more WordCamps, always as a volunteer, that was my safe place.
My confidence grew. The number of people I knew grew. The amount of fun I had grew. And never ever did I feel not normal. As my confidence grew I got more visible and things got even better. It’s an upward spiral. This year I held my first talk, at WordCamp London. I was MC at WordCamp EU in Paris en I am on the organising team for WordCamp EU 2018 (BIG things!).
Did these experiences end my quest to becoming “normal”?
When I turned 40 I decided to quit the quest. I was done trying to be normal. Not because I became normal but I broadened my worldview. There are more sorts of normal than I could ever imagine. It took me a while ( and a lot of redirections) to find the one that fits me best.