7 Important Life Lessons from Normal People

The Novel turned TV Series that had the Nation Talking

You can learn a lot of life lessons from Normal People. Sally Rooney first wowed readers with her novel Normal People in 2018. It was nominated for the Booker Prize, and not long after, it was announced that there was going to be a TV adaptation of the book. It was produced for BBC Three and Hulu, as well as RTÉ for Irish viewers, as Normal People is predominantly set in Sligo and Dublin. The series starring Daisy Edgar Jones as Marianne Sheridan and Paul Mescal as Connell Waldron peaked during the lockdown months.

If you want to watch it, or rewatch it, Normal People is still available for free viewing on RTÉ Player

What Made The Show Such a Hit

life lessons from Normal PeopleNormal People not only impressed its Irish viewers; it reached international audiences. Celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, James Corden, and Katy Perry were all tuning in to the quintessentially Irish portrayal of the young adult experience. While there was controversy over the fact that RTÉ was streaming such a sexual show, the majority of viewers thought it was refreshing to see such an honest depiction of young adults on the national TV channel. It struck a chord with people in their early twenties, reflecting their experience in life and love so accurately. There are so many life lessons from Normal People, and the following list is just a few of the most important ones. 

Probably needless to say, but MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!!!

Life Lessons from Normal People #1

Get out of your own way
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Marianne and Connell in school

Something that Connell struggles with throughout the series is being his own worst enemy. When asked what he’s going to study in college, he thinks he may go to college in Galway and study law, but shows no passion for the subject. When Marianne says he should study English in Trinity, Connell replies “are you joking” thinking this is far out of his reach. However, when he actually sticks with what he wants, he not only gets in but later achieves a scholarship for it. The show proved time and time again that the only person in Connell’s way was Connell himself.

Life Lessons from Normal People #2

School isn’t the be all and end all
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Connell before the Debs

Connell and Marianne keep their relationship a secret in order to keep it unsullied by prying eyes. The price of keeping this secret is Connell taking another girl to the Debs, which effectively ends his relationship with Marianne. However, in a conversation Connell has with a friend of his, it becomes apparent that not only did everyone know about him and Marianne, but actually, no one cared. Connell’s concern over being normal cost him Marianne for no good reason, proving that what we think matters in school really doesn’t.

Life Lessons from Normal People #3

Always be yourself
Marianne in college

Marianne never felt like she fit in at school, but she never tried to be anything other than 100% herself. Even though she was ridiculed in the school hallways, she went on to become extremely popular in college, while always sticking to the person she was. While Connell consistently struggled with his identity, always intent on being more “normal” Marianne stayed true to herself, which only served her when she left her hometown and moved to Dublin. Although Marianne’s character is intrinsically flawed in other ways, being who you are is one of the most important life lessons from Normal People.

Life Lessons from Normal People #4

Don’t take people for granted 
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Connell and Marianne at a party

Even when the pair reunite in college and are, for all intents and purposes, dating, Connell still can’t quite commit to Marianne. He finds it difficult to show her affection around other people, and unintentionally takes Marianne for granted. It is clear Marianne would do anything for Connell, but when it comes to Connell having to leave Dublin for the summer, instead of asking if he can stay with her, he implies he wants to see other people. Marianne takes this as a break up, and the two part ways unnecessarily. Connell assumed Marianne would always save him without him having to ask, and this mistake separates them once more.

Life Lessons from Normal People #5

If you’re struggling, seek professional help 
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Connell seeking help for his depression

Something that was refreshing to see was when Connell’s mental health began to deteriorate, a friend stepped in and suggested he go see someone to talk about it. In a country where the leading cause of death in males between 15-24 is suicide, it was important to witness a situation where a young man was in trouble and he took difficult but necessary steps to seek help. It doesn’t make asking for help look easy, in most cases it’s not, but it emphasises its importance. Slowly Connell begins to come out of his depression with the help of counselling. This may be the most important life lesson from Normal People

Life Lessons from Normal People #6

Let go of negative people 
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Marianne and her friend Peggy

Normal People shows that sometimes the most negative people in our lives are the people closest to us. Marianne’s family is toxic – she is provided for financially but receives nothing in the form of love or affection from her mother and brother. Most of her college friends use her for her social class and abandon her when she needs them most. Some of the closest people in Marianne’s life negatively impact her self worth, and it is only when she lets them go at the end of the series that she begins to feel happier. In this way the show teaches us to be more aware of how those around us make us feel.

Life Lessons from Normal People #7

Sometimes you need to put your own needs first
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Connell and Marianne saying goodbye

It makes for a bittersweet ending, but the final episode of Normal People teaches us all a worthy lesson. When Connell is accepted into a writing course in New York, it threatens to separate him and Marianne once more. However, the pair have reached a stage where they know they can’t hold each other back anymore, and Marianne insists he go, even if it is without her. While Connell has been codependent on Marianne for years, and states he couldn’t go without her, it almost seems more important that he does this on his own. The pair choose to take the path that will benefit them both in the long run, with the hinting they will reunite once more in the future.


Katy Thornton
Katy Thornton

Katy is a Creative Writing graduate from UCD who freelance writes and is currently working on her debut novel.

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