Today’s idea started with an anguished Facebook post from a friend. Her son was getting teased by kids at school for being a nerd and she was really mad. A kid he had been friends with the prior year had turned on him and the betrayal was very hard on her son. I could sympathize.
I was a brainiac, nerd, teacher’s pet, geek, smart girl in school. I wasn’t one of the popular pretty girls, and at the time it really bugged me. I had friends who suddenly turned on me, excluded me from their circle and were mean for no reason that I could tell. It took a toll on my self esteem. For a while I would have much rather been popular and pretty than smart and creative. I’m really glad that teenage traumas can’t suppress the spirit of imagination. I’m also glad that the popular girls wouldn’t accept me and that my friends were geeks who loved Tolkien, Arthurian legend, fantasy and roleplay.
I think this situation is harder on my friend because she has always been much more interested in conforming to a societal norm. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a talented woman with a strong artistic side, but she’s never been willing to push outside the box as much as I have. Things like SCA, roleplaying games, and other geek pastimes have been too weird for her. She wants her son to be accepted, but I think she’s looking for acceptance for him from the wrong crowd.
Who do you want your kid admiring, someone who wasn’t a popular kid in school but channeled his energies into life-changing technologies like the personal computer, or someone whose goal in life is to take handouts from lobbyists? Is it healthier for someone to have a passion about a non-existent future world where people explore the galaxy or to focus on fitting in with what other people decide is normal? Sure, balance in all things and reality can’t be ignored, but our current world and its norms are pretty grim these days. I’m all for people who fantasize about something different and better so their minds are more open and outward facing. I’d far rather see a kid at home reading a book or playing computer games than walking around with a gun trying to take things from others by force.
I’m excited to see geeks becoming the new cool kids lately. I’d far rather see our upcoming generation emulating people known for imagination, innovation, and interest in the possibilities for our future rather than golf, what they should wear, and how to win friends and influence people. To me, geek is almost synonymous with innovator. It defines someone who takes chances, is willing to be eccentric, has interests in realms of the possible, not just the here and now. We have Star Trek geeks to thank for our cell phones.
I just hope we continue to have kids who make it through the torments of being made fun of for being smart and different, so they can invent some of the other technologies that our favorite Sci Fi books and shows feature. I want geeks and nerds to make a better future for us, not give in to peer pressure and only worry about having perfect hair and saying the right things. Kids, Geek is just another word for Awesome. Don’t let anyone bring you down or make you believe otherwise.