I don’t think I am a good nerd but I’ve been told I have potential.
I write poems. I don’t care if my socks match or spend much time worrying about how I look. I have a strong introverted side, though I hide it well behind the chatter of conversation. I like to read. I live on my computer.
I am not sure what other qualities I have that might qualify me for nerd-hood. I think one quality of nerds is that nerds don’t like being nerds (yet my friend prides herself on it). The other is that non-nerds look down on nerds for their lack of social grace.
I denied my nerdiness growing up. I worked hard as a teen at being cool though at the time I would not have admitted it. Being cool became my social grace. Being cool was the way I managed to sublimate my nerdy tendencies. I did all the right things to be cool: I smoked cigarettes, cut classes, smoked reefer, played with other recreational drugs, participated in the alternative learning program (which had many true nerds) and hung out with guys who went to college.
As a teen, if one of my friends bragged about being a nerd, I probably would have laughed.
As an adult, I was impressed.
I mean it’s a fact in my experience that nerds tend to stay out of trouble, study, go to good schools, avoid drugs and make money when they finish all the things one does before going to work.
My group, the cool freaks who deny nerdiness slide by, make it into school (but not a good one necessarily), thrive on being a free spirit (when actually the only freedom found is in succeeding to avoid feeling), and maybe grow out of the drugs and booze or fall deeper into them and then, who knows what happens?
My girlfriend informed me she was a nerd and proud of it. She informed me only the few are true nerds.
How beautiful was that, I thought?
I don’t think I was ever too proud of being a pothead or alcoholic. I don’t think I was ever proud of choosing to cut class or not study—at least, not in retrospect.
And to this day I think I only have nerd potential. I don’t think I am the real thing. I have some traits but don’t think I quite cut it. But what if I had nurtured my inner nerd? Maybe I would have kept reading books and left drugs and booze alone.
The coolest thing about being over 50 is caring about what really matters and letting go of what doesn’t.
Because when I was into being cool, I think I cared too much about what others thought and how they saw me. Now, not so much. I mean, I want to be liked—we all do. But honestly, I don’t worry too much about how I am perceived.
I care about doing a good job at what I do. I care about being kind and caring for others. I care about learning and growing.
So for all those who are nerdy and not proud of it, hold your head high. My dear friend does and has taught me much in how she approaches life and the world.
And for those who think being cool and hip really matter, maybe you’re learning they really don’t. What really matters is just being who you are. Some of us are nerds, some of us are social butterflies, some folk are popular and some are private. Some people succeed at anything they try and some, like me, learn everything the hard way and never give up.
Whatever your nature is, embrace it. Let that light shine. If you do, all those around you can shine a little more too.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman