On being a geek

When I was a kid, I hated being called a geek. I was small, scrawny and wore horrible NHS specs with thick lenses. It was made fairly obvious to me by other kids that I wasn’t the fashionable or popular type of kid and, sadly, there were very few fellow geeks at my school to hang with. I hated the entire geek thing but given the choice I would still choose a good book over a kick-around every time and nothing could stop me loving Doctor Who and Star Trek.

I grew into my teens and still hated the geek label. None of my friends were into the same stuff so I made various unsuccessful attempts to fit in with them. The problem was that I still preferred a good book over anything and when the titles of the books you’re hiding in at lunchtime are things like “Demon Lord of Karanda” and “Dragonsdawn” that whole geek thing becomes impossible to argue with. I was a teenaged geek and I hated it.

The thing about being an adult is that labels like ‘geek’ and ‘popular’ become less significant. No longer under parental supervision, you can go out there and find other people like you rather than relying on the people who happen to be in the same class as you at school or go to the same (parent approved) youth club.

As a kid and a teenager, I was shy and awkward and geeky. Not socially awkward in the sense of greasy hair, pimples and an unfamiliarity with washing and basic civility, just not very good at holding conversations with people. That whole ‘smalltalk’ thing never really worked for me and I still struggle with it at times. I’ve learnt, though, and now I can at least hold conversations with new people and work colleagues that I have nothing in common with. I feel shy inside but everyone expresses surprise when I confess that so I must be doing OK.

I’m still a geek but now I love it. The label means something good to me: it means that I am part of a group that are intelligent, funny, caring and know how to have more fun than any other people that I’ve met. I get to go to conventions surrounded by fellow geeks and spend all my times talking, laughing and doing tons of things that I find fun. If I’m not into something that other people are into, they talk with so much enthusiasm that I often give it a go (and find that I enjoy it) but nobody minds or makes fun if it’s really not my thing. I can go from serious discussions about physics or biology to completely silly discussions about the great love of Captain Jack Harkness for the Doctor’s severed hand (no, really, there was a panel on this at a con) and spend an hour laughing so hard my sides hurt.

It’s not just about the conventions. I’ve met various friends through the convention scene and more generally the fan scene who are just as close as the people that I went to school with. Except with them, I get to have the silly conversations and serious conversations and play games and act like a loon without anyone caring. I’ve even bonded with colleagues over shared the love of Princess Bride, Terry Pratchett and Stargate Atlantis.

Quite frankly, geeks have more fun in every situation. I think it’s because, instead of growing more dignified and old inside, we’ve just applied more complex, adult minds to things that we’ve loved since children without losing sight of why we loved those things in the first place.

Rather than hating the geek label, I embrace it because of everything that I have received through it. Rather than wanting to be more like my non-geek friends (who don’t seem to have much fun a lot of the time) I’m quite happy to be exactly who I always have been.

Oddly, accepting my geek status and embracing the fun associated with it seems to have made me a more confident person. Before I joined the convention scene, I was still very shy and quiet. I didn’t socialise with work colleagues at lunch or outside work unless forced, and even then I was usually very quiet, and I didn’t make friends easily. Standing up on stage to talk about something, even something I know about? Definitely wouldn’t ever happen.

This weekend I will be talking on two panels at a convention in front of a number of people. I will probably talk to lots of people that I’ve never met before and return home with email addresses and blogs to check as well as catching up with all the friends that I’ve made at previous cons. I go to lunch every day with a bunch of people at work, a good mixture of people, and it doesn’t occur to me to panic about not knowing what to say.

I am still a geek through and through, but I love it.

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