Normal People: Lessons I’ve Learnt

by Catherine Nicholls

Ah, Normal People. Potentially my favourite book in the entire universe. Definitely the book that’s made me cry the most in my twenty years on this planet. Written by the multitalented Sally Rooney, Normal People is set in Ireland, and follows protagonists Connell and Marianne through high school, university, and adult life. It’s incredible. I’ve read it six times since it was published in August 2018. Here are some of the lessons it’s taught me since then.

Lesson #1: People can affect each other so significantly

The line “all these years they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same pot of soil, growing,” really stopped my in my tracks. Marianne and Connell aren’t always in one another’s lives, but both their presence and absence in the other’s life made an impact. Normal People made me stop to think about who’s made the same impact on me. What if I’d stayed friends with someone a little longer? What if that relationship hadn’t ended in that way? I’d likely be someone a whole lot different.

Lesson #2: One decision can change it all

Now yes, this one is cliché and predictable. We all know about the butterfly effect. But if you stop to think about things, so much of our lives rely on decisions that we don’t know the outcome of. What if you’d have chosen to study in a different city? A different country? What if you hadn’t moved in to that apartment, or even stopped in that café that one morning? So much hinges on small decisions, and big decisions, and medium-sized decisions. And that could be scary. But just think of the possibility that this brings – so much can change if you decide you want it to.

Lesson #3: Space, and time, are so important

Connell and Marianne aren’t always in each other’s lives. If they were, they wouldn’t have had the opportunities to grow in the ways they did. In the moments that they weren’t together, they became stronger and more self-aware. They learnt more about themselves and about the world. And despite it all, they still ended up back together. Sometimes it feels like if something isn’t instantaneous, it won’t happen at all. Normal People taught me that it’s okay to grow, and okay to take time in doing so. The best things in life come to people who wait, after all.

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