Many teenagers find it enormously difficult to fit in with the crowd, particularly when they also feed the need to stand out. The things that differentiate us from the next person – love of comic books, thick glasses, or the giant 1mm mole on the left pinky – are frightening to the developing adolescent.
Growing up is realizing that many parts of life require us to embrace our “abnormalities” – impressing a first date (“I never thought I’d find another person who also likes ____.”), acquiring a coveted career position (“My ______ makes me the ideal candidate for your company”), telling a dinner party story (“The most ridiculous thing happened the other day…”).
It seems that being different is extraordinarily difficult. After all, only a small number of people can be at the tails of the bell curve, and it is easy to feel just so… average.
In medical blood labs, “normal” is a vague definition. The normal value range actually encompasses only 95% of numbers you would find in healthy people because there is some overlap with lab values in sick patients. This means that if we measure enough numbers (say, about 20), we would find some abnormal values in everyone, healthy or otherwise.
These laboratory values catch doctors’ eyes. They warrant extra seconds of discussion on rounds, extra discussion at the bedside for symptoms, and/or repeat laboratory evaluations. Most of the time further investigations affirms the simple fact that even the most normal person has some measurable outstanding lab values.
In medicine, we learn that the completely average person simply does not exist.
The difference between lab values and real life qualities is that running a panel of 45 blood labs is simple, but identifying our own eccentricities and innate talents takes introspection and feedback from honest friends. Then, embrace it – life may not have dealt everyone an even hand, but it is fair in that everyone is playing from some kind of a crooked deck.