To be a nerd or geek is quickly becoming mainstream thanks to Hulu and Netflix making binge watching a socially acceptable pastime. The social structure is changing to honor those with detailed knowledge of the minutiae of shows and movies from the '70s, '80s, and beyond. No longer are geeks just those who are odd or non-mainstream. They have moved from the enthusiast and hobbyists to the Warlock level, Jedi Masters of knowledge when it comes to the minutiae of their chosen universes. No longer are they just the people who got picked on in high school who the bullies end up working for. The geeks have grown up and taken over not just the computer world but also the movie industry, with folks like Peter Jackson, J .J . Abrams, and Joss Whedon creating homages to the multiverse of geekdom. Technology has facilitated the mainstreaming of geek and nerd culture to the point that hipsters now wear suspenders and "nerd" glasses proudly as a fashion statement.
It's a great time to be alive. The "age of the geek" is here. Let the autodidacts and the enthusiastic followers assemble. As a nerd my intellectual interests include Shakespeare, teaching writing, and neuroscience. As a geek I am passionate about Star Wars, Doctor Who, the Marvelverse, the DCverse, steampunk, the Muppets, and fairy-tales. How did I get this way? Well, it is kind of a long story. It is awkward.
Confession: When I was ten I got really sick. A virus attacked my liver. I was unable to attend school, and for some time I was unable to leave my bed. I had horrible insomnia. Days were filled with never ending exhaustion: tiredness that pooled in the contour of my jawline, then into my neck to be cradled in the hollowed space above my clavicle. There was no demarcation between day and night; I was always in my bed. One month turned into two. Two months turned into eight. A year. Two years. Then three.
One of the ways to deal with the loneliness and isolation was to lose myself in a book, a movie, a TV show. For small moments I was no longer sick and could live an avatar life in a story of my choosing. I consumed books at an alarming rate. I read things that most eleven year olds had never heard of: Walden, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, To Kill a Mockingbird, Dandelion Wine, Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wizard's First Rule, The Dragonriders of Pern, The Star Wars extended Universe books, the poems of TS Eliot and Walt Whitman. Just to name a few. Then there was Batman, The X-Men, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I read all of my parents' old college textbooks. I read Hamlet for the first time and then moved on to what my brother was reading two years ahead of me in school.
I began to write myself into movie plots and book plots, peopling the night with friends and teachers. Especially Star Wars. Luke Skywalker and Jo March became my constant companions. The sheer power of their written characters inhabited my room and kept me company. I also watched a lot of movies, documentaries, TV shows, and read magazines.
Malcom Gladwell, in his amazing book Outliers, says that be a genius at something you have to spend at least 10,000 hours at it. My brother and I figured it out—I racked up about 20,000 hours of media immersion. I’m not saying I’m a genius—but I am definitely a geek. I began listening to books on tape and that was a whole new ball game. I listened to everything: all of the extended Star Wars universe, Star Trek fanfic, Twilight Zone collections, nonfiction books, poetry, and histories. God bless late night PBS. Months of insomnia introduced me to Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes.
By the time I got better and made it to high school I was a rather peculiar kid. Awkward and disconnected, yellowed from liver infection, and puffy from water weight, I didn’t really fit in. I still kept up my habit of bingeing on books. I realized I knew a lot more about pop-culture than a lot of the adults I was around. I knew more about music from the '60s, '70s, and '80s than my parents and aunts and uncles. I would talk to friends at lunch and they would stare at me as if I were speaking another language. That was the first time I was called a geek, a nerd, a weirdo. While most of my classmates were caught up in Dawson’s Creek, I was interested in The Beatles, classic sci-fi, and crazy '80s fantasy movies like Labyrinth and The Last Star Fighter.
Sure, I didn't go to junior high at all. Most people would agree that junior high is worth missing. And so I affirm that though the path is long and winding, and less traveled by—“all who wander are not lost,” and "it has made all the difference." I have come to know that there are others out there like me. A band of misfits, rebels even, who know a lot of stuff about almost everything. Just as Kermit the Frog sang about his Rainbow Connection with the lovers and the dreamers—I too have found my people—the nerds, the geeks, and the dweebs. We are a proud and resilient race--wearing names of scorn as proud badges of the creative children who have survived into adulthood.