There’s a picture most people have in their heads when you say ‘geek’. It depends on the person you ask. Sometimes they think of something as simple and inoffensive as a dude with glasses and a computer and sometimes it’s an obese basement dweller with no social skills.
I’m going to talk about being a geek. What it’s done for me, personally, and why I feel so strongly about it. There are a lot of other aspects of this I would like to talk about. I would like to talk about ‘types’ of geeks/geekdoms. I would like to talk about how I became a geek. And one day, I’ll get around to those.
But today it’s all about the image. I’ll set it up for you.
I am an overweight woman with glasses. I spend a lot of time in front of my computer, or a book. I have a collection of insanely nerdy shirts. My social circle is mostly composed of other geeks. And I re-vamp the word geek to fit my needs: geekout, geek-gasam, geek-rage, geek-a-thon, etc.
I am also a very active person. I have two degrees, one certification, and I am working on a third degree. This degree-in-progress is in a field that demands a great deal of social grace and a person who is relatively extroverted. My field will require me to meet a great many new people and to make weird faces and hand gestures at countless strangers. I’m training to be an American Sign Language interpreter.
And I owe my ability to perform in that field to being a geek.
When I was in the 7th and 8th grades I was really shy. Like, cripplingly shy. It was partially thanks to that, partially thanks to the horribleness of middle-school-aged children, that I was picked on relentlessly. I would sit and blush and take the abuse and eventually I would explode, screaming really unflatteringly, at the person who had been bothering me. Even so, I never really got in trouble. I was an average student.
High school changed things. Not a whole lot. I was still shy and introverted and embarrassed of speaking in front of a group or meeting new people or talking on the phone, /but/ there was some kind of asshole switch that flipped to off when the previously high and mighty 8th graders ended up at the bottom of the food chain once more. So at least I wasn’t getting harassed quite as much.
In 9th grade I met someone who pretty much changed the course of my entire life. We were in the same German class. She approached me. We became friends. For years I said she changed me, she ‘made’ me less shy. And a few years ago she contested that. I was happy she did. It made me explain what I meant more precisely. Because I met her it became necessary for me to come out of my shell a bit. While I still wasn’t confident and outgoing I at least knew how to fake it, and that got me somewhere.
But I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. Other people seemed confident and happy. I’m not saying they /were/ but they seemed to be. I felt isolated. I lacked a community and the support, comfort, and confidence that came with one. I could fake it all I wanted but I wasn’t really a theatre nerd, or a bible thumper, or any of the other things I tried to latch onto.
I liked fantasy novels, and complex board games, and writing, and musicals. And as I got older the list grew to include anime, various TV and movie fandoms, comic books, academic literature, science, miniatures, tech, videogames, and more.
I won’t go into the complex story of how I became a geek, not in this post, but I will say this: I was one before I was 20 and I am now a bigger geek than I have ever been. And I’m happier than I have ever been.
Finding people who shared these things with me, people who loved the characters I loved like they were real people and not ‘just fiction’, people who understood how a story could traumatize or elate, people who felt a unity with me, made me realize I could be as confident as I wanted. None of the things I loved were wrong or weird. I wasn’t alone. I had people who /understood/ me, more than that I had people who loved me. A big part of that love, but certainly not all, was the shared interest. The shared fandoms.
When I realized there were people out there who would accept me for all the things I was, and even for the things I wasn’t, I realized /I/ could accept me too. I could be confident in myself because I knew I had people to fall back on if I failed, and I did.
Because of this I learned to relax. I learned it was okay if I wasn’t perfect. It was okay if people judged me. Those weren’t the people who cared about me anyway.
Being a geek is a community. You meet someone with the same fandom and you’re instant and, almost, unconditional friends. The geek community rallies against bullies and cruelty even among its own. You meet a geek who has no fandom in common with you but they’re at ComicCon and they like to talk to people and go do things and learn about new fandoms? Friends. Randomly encounter someone on the internet who quotes Harry Potter at you as Severus Snape and you reply as Harry Potter? /Friends/. You see a guy on the internet speaking for all geeks ? The community rallies against him.
Knowing they have my back, knowing that among the bad-seed mouth-runners there are people willing to take a stand, knowing that I can be who I am, is extremely empowering. I feel free. I feel loved. I feel like standing up in front of a bunch of people and making funny faces and waving my hands, effectively making a fool of myself in order to provide another community with accessibility, is not only okay but encouraged.
My geek motto?
Be what you’ll be.