This is it… The 26th and final Geek Life. I began my year-long trek down memory lane wanting to have some written record of those things I grew up loving. I’ve always felt that those things helped make me the person I am today. With the inevitable future of becoming a father on the horizon, I thought this “journal”, of sorts, would give my kids a chance to know me in a way that isn’t likely able to translate well through simple conversation. I have no idea if that’s what will happen or not, but if there’s one thing I can say, it’s that writing these articles have been a lot of fun.
It’s All Geek to Me!
When it came time to think about what my last article was going to be, I knew I had plenty of topics I could still pull from, but I wanted to go out on a semi-serious note. I know most of my articles have already had a serious tone, but I really wanted this one to be something different. After all, if I were asked when being a geek became cool, I’m not sure I would know the exact answer. What I can do is trace back through my own life and experiences to figure out exactly when I stopped worrying and learned to love myself.
Remember that movie Revenge of the Nerds? If you’re about my age, and were a kid when it came out (or at least relatively young when you first watched the movie), you honestly believed that wearing glasses or not being on the football team or were not at least halfway attractive, you were going to be labeled a nerd. You’d expect to get picked on constantly and have a bunch of really mean practical jokes played on you. What you didn’t realize was the movie was mostly an exaggeration. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t matter who you are or how good of a person you think you are, if you see a guy with plastered hair, a bow tie, pants up to their nipples held up by suspenders, and really thick glasses, the first word to float through your mind is “nerd”, but most of us wouldn’t expect that poor guy to immediately be ridiculed by the very first jock who walked by. It’s not the way the world really works. It makes for great comedy, but it isn’t the real world.
The word “nerd”, in and of itself, is a funny word. If you say it in particular ways, or precede it with a colorful metaphor, it’s pretty darn comedic. I realized, over time, there’s really no such thing as a real “nerd”. There’s a lot of guys and girls out there that are socially awkward, too smart for their own good, and dress funny. But to really say they are a nerd as we’ve seen in a movie or television show isn’t exactly the textbook definition of that person. In truth, they are just eccentric. Being eccentric is part of being human.
Everyone is eccentric in their own way. We all have our quirks and tastes. Some show it more than others, but we are all freakin’ weirdos. I’ve always said that no matter what, every single person on the planet is truthfully a “geek” about something. Some people are music geeks. Some are sports geeks. Some are scrapbooking geeks. Some are comic book geeks. If you like something a lot, that automatically makes you a geek. However, that doesn’t make you a nerd or eccentric by nature. That’s more of the perception of others. That’s the real crux of everything… Are you more sensitive how others perceive you or are you truly happy with the person you are?
There’s a period in everyone’s life they refer as their “awkward period”. This is usually a time that takes place after you’ve realized that you’re not really a kid anymore, but before you become an adult. For most, it takes place during high school. For others, like me, it happened in my middle school (junior high) years. In almost all cases, this period of time finds you struggling with who are and how you feel others think about you. The more right or left you are of “normal” the more difficult this period is.
For me, I grew up on comic books, Transformers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and 1960s music. As a kid, I was confident in myself and pretty much liked all the same things everyone else did with a few minor exceptions. As I entered into my middle school years, everyone seemed to change around me. The desire to have the right shoes, the right style of clothes, and be a part of the right “clique” of friends started to overtake those things we all grew up on for several people around me. I wasn’t as willing to give up those things I liked and, for about the only real time in my life, I felt like an outsider.
While I was never bullied for being an outsider, I did mostly spend my middle school years alone. Friends I had during elementary school were trying so hard to fit into some sort of popular group. I just wanted to hang out with my friends and not feel ashamed when I wanted to talk to them in school. Even then, I knew this was just part of people trying to work their way through their own awkward phases, but that didn’t change the fact that it was a weird time for me.
When I should have been more afraid of high school, it didn’t take long before I embraced it. This was my chance to just start over, be myself, and you know what? I graduated being well-liked by just about everyone. I wasn’t in the popular crowd, but letting myself just be who I was, no matter what my interests were, made me a very likable person. I was still shy around girls, but I had an in with every clique in school. Suddenly, my own perception of who I was changed to the point that I can proudly talk openly about the things that I love in life.
So the moral of my story was that the more I became comfortable about who I was and what makes me who I am, the more cool I felt. I don’t really care what others think of me. Obviously, there are some exceptions to that. I hope my family think of me as a good guy and not a disappointment. I hope my wife loves me and holds me in high esteem. In both cases, I want to be the best person I can be. I guess the best way I can put this is that as long as others don’t think of me as some jerkass douchebag, I’m happy. If they think I’m a bit strange or a little dorky, that’s fine by me. I am confident in myself and that’s all I really need in all the world.
So when did being a geek become cool? My only answer for that is when you can truly look at yourself (and I’m not just talking about looking at yourself in the mirror, but all the way down inside you) and feel okay about who you are. I know that’s cliche as all get out, but it’s the closest I can get. I’ve had the chance over the past few years to really assess myself as a person. I like who I am. Sure, I wish I could be better and certain aspects of life. Overall, though, I’m a good guy and that has nothing to do with my interests. I treat people with respect and have almost entirely been treated with respect in return.
However, most people would probably say that being a geek became cool the moment Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started creating little gadgets that everyone wanted. That might be true, but I digress.
Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to whitewash the world around us. There are some truly despicable people out there. There are terrorists, bullies, and people who just want to use others to further themselves in the world. I wish I could be hopeful and say one day, the world will move onto a point when no one has to feel fear that someone will hurt them and all these bad people will go away, but I also know that’s not realistic. After all, without the bad, how can the good people ever prove themselves to be good? They couldn’t because there must always be an opposite. There is no good without evil, or love without hate, or happiness without sadness. That’s a universal truth.
It’s so unfortunate how bad bullying has become over the past few years. What seemed to once be public ridicule, possibly the occasional bruise, and shakedowns for lunch money has grown so much darker and so much more dangerous in the internet era. Kids who are gay, or just a little odd, or “nerdy” are having to deal with attacks that make you wonder how could anyone ever be as mean spirited as their bullies. It’s so sad to hear the reports of kids taking their own lives because they could no longer deal with it. It’s even sadder to think school administrators are aware of the bullying but don’t do anything about it.
For as sad as these stories are, I’m so glad to see people reaching out through other media like YouTube to offer advice and words of encouragement for those who are suffering. The truth is, it does get better. Adults don’t treat each other the way kids do. With the way these bullies have evolved since I was a kid, if you can make your way through school and trust that things will be better, you’ll never have to worry about those people messing with your life again because you’ll either never see them again, they’ll be in jail, or natural selection will take care of them.
What it all boils down to, again, is being comfortable with yourself. Whether you are gay, straight, white, black, fat, thin, love comic books, Star Trek, or just a guy like me who floated through high school not belonging to any specific clique but generally well liked by as many of the groups as possible… The more you are comfortable with who you are, the more real you can be. The more truthful about what it is that makes you tick, the more honest you will be with others.
And that, above all others, makes you “cool”.
So I raise my glass to all the music geeks, the movie geeks, the people really into science or computers, comic fans, sports nuts, the people who are really into tatoos, and everyone else who loves a particular thing enough to make it a hobby… We’re all geeks and we’re all pretty cool people to boot.
This has been a blast. For the past year, I’ve shared my very favorite things in the world of comics, sci-fi, collecting, and toys. I’m glad that people, for the most part, have enjoyed my articles. I was glad to share my interests with you. So, now, it’s time for me to switch my attention to horror comics as I prepare this year’s Comic Book Monsters articles for October. So, come back and check that out – it’s everyday in October and it’s about monsters. That sounds pretty damn awesome, huh?
Is this necessarily the end of Geek Life? In a way, yes. I won’t be doing this in a serialized format anymore. However, there were still some topics I didn’t get to touch on. So, at some point, I will be returning to take care of those. It might be a while, but Geek Life isn’t dead forever. In fact, I can say when you’ll see the next Geek Life – December 5, 2011. I won’t say what I’ll talk about, but I’ll give you a hint… This day marks the 30th anniversary of a movie. Until then, geek out and thanks again for reading the series!