A New Addition to the Team
My name is Melissa; I'm super excited to join the Geeky Girl's Guide to Life. I hope to be bringing you all kinds of cool news about all sorts of nerdy things. Movies, television, board games, books -- just like the rest of you there's a long list of the things I love. And yeah, I could list them off. But you've got a limited attention span and a simple list of all the things I love isn't going to be all that interesting, because we hardly know each other.
So instead, I'd like to tell you a story. And it starts with a confession:
I wasn't always what you'd consider geeky.
These days, my geekiness and I are... well, we're in a good place. A happy, committed relationship, you might even say. But we've been on and off in the past. It's taken me a while to get comfortable in my own skin, and there were a few moments where I almost abandoned the geek life for the mundane.
Why would I ever do such a thing?
Well, to put it simply: Life sucks sometimes. But those experiences -- those periods of 'normality' did teach me something important. And that's why I'm here, and why I'm donating my time to writing about geeky things. And that's why I hope you'll stick around.
I said I wasn't always a geek. But I was raised to be one from a very young age. Some of my earliest memories are my dad telling me stories from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. My dad took me to see the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters when the special editions were released in the '90s (I was no more than 10 at the time). I was part of the Harry Potter generation, and you bet I was obsessed with the Lord of the Rings movies when they were finally adapted -- along with any Tolkien-related book I could get my hands on.
Books were my one true love in high school, followed closely by movie adaptations of the books I loved. Somehow, I dragged my cousin and some friends into my obsessions with Harry Potter, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Jim Butcher. I dabbled in anime a little, because it was readily available (even if it wasn't cheap) but it didn't grab me. I guess you could have called me a bit snobbish or elitist about my preferred entertainment.
I was an angry, angsty teenager (I know; lots of us were). It took a lot for me to feel any kind of joy. Enter one of the two people who, for better or worse, enabled my fangirlishness. Her name is Ammy, and when we met online via AIM, she was the sunshine to my dreary darkness. She talked about bishies and she squee'd and obsessed over fanart.
If you don't know what it feels like to have an over-excitable bundle of joy as one of your closest friends, I highly recommend it. Especially if you're prone to wearing snarky black T-shirts and despising everything on principle. (Even if you are more mellow, it's still a great feeling to be surrounded by that kind of positivity.)
Even better, unlike most Internet friends, we discovered that we lived less than an hour away from each other. And so I disappointed my parents by sneaking off to the mall to meet her without their knowledge. We bought rebellious books at the bookstore, made the plushies make out at the video store, and ooh'ed and aah'ed over expensive gothy-looking things in Hot Topic.
I did eventually my parents about Ammy -- if only so that we could start having sleepovers and terrorizing innocent civilians in public on a more regular basis.
Then came college. I opted to go out of state, to a place where I knew no other students (I had a few online friends in the region but was too awkward and shy to initiate hangouts). Ammy went off to school, too, and so while we talked A LOT online, we could only get together over school breaks when we were both in town.
As you might imagine, you won't find a lot of socially awkward bookworms obsessed with sci-fi and fantasy in a journalism program. The people in my classes, the people I worked along side on the student paper and saw over and over again, were well-read. They were passionate about things and they knew lots of odd trivia. But they certainly wouldn't fit your standard definition of geek. I think most of them would have been offended if you called them one.
Apart from the feeling of isolation that comes from having almost no common interests with your peers, and not having many friends to begin with, I was also contending with the school curriculum. J-school is tough. Our instructors actively tried to break us of old habits, to prove to us that we didn't know as much as we thought we did, and then to teach us the "proper" way to go about tasks such as writing, copy editing, or fact-checking. I'm not exaggerating when I say it made you question everything about yourself.
Throw in all of the other course work and additional efforts that college demanded, and frankly, I didn't have time to be a geek. Worse, I wasn't sure I wanted to be one.
So I let my passions, the things I loved and wanted to be involved in, fall by the wayside. I didn't seek out my fellow nerds or try to find the places where they congregated. I might pick up a few books if I had a free weekend or watch some TV if I could find something good. That was it. There was no sheer, unbridled joy in my nerdiness, no excitement.
It would be overly dramatic to tell you that I was unhappy. I wasn't. I wouldn't even say I was in a bad place. But at the same time, I certainly wasn't happy. I was lonely, and the things that had once brought me joy didn't do that as much anymore.
In my junior year of college, though, I made a friend. Not just a friend -- I made a geeky friend.
This friend, whom we'll just call A, invited me over and introduced me to a wonderful, wonderful show: Torchwood. It was a Doctor Who spin-off (I'd seen season 4 of the new series, so I was vaguely familiar). And so I got sucked into the world of Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper, and then when I had seen the first two seasons, we moved onto catching me up on NuWho.
I spent two years rediscovering the joys of shipping, and of riding an emotional roller coaster that will make you laugh and cry and hate the show-runners but make you insist that your other friends also watch the show so they can suffer with you. Suddenly I had someone to talk to about the kind of books I loved, with no weird looks. We went to midnight movie releases and watched anime.
A was my salvation in a lot of ways. Like Ammy, she reminded me of how much I loved to be a geek, and introduced me to new ways of fangirling. Conventions, cosplay, and all sorts of books, television, movies, and anime that I can obsess over. Massive group outings to movie releases. More importantly, she reminded me of how good it felt to shamelessly, unabashedly indulge in the things I loved. I'm talking toe-curling squeals of happiness when your OTP have a moment on screen; the catharsis of bawling your eyes out when something terrible happens on a show you love; the joy of flailing at the person sitting next to you because OMG, you can't even.
After becoming friends with A, I finally settled down with the geekiness I'd been courting for so long. This is me now.
At 30 years old, I am absolutely committed to embracing my geekiness. I don't try to hide it anymore. And I certainly won't let life try to take it away from me. I'll be a little old lady crying "Help, I've fangirled and I can't get up!" And I know my friends will be right there with me. We play DnD, we cosplay and go to conventions together. We throw ridiculous themed parties because we can.
I did promise you a couple of important lessons about life and being a nerd. So here they are:
- Embrace what makes you happy. Now that I am not burdened with any sort of self-imposed obligation to fit a certain type, I shamelessly indulge in My Little Pony and Miraculous Ladybug as readily as I do my angst-ridden CW shows and my period dramas and shonen anime. As geeks, we come in all forms -- and I propose to you that it's not what we love that makes us geeks so much as how we love it. To be a geek means a generalized interest in sci-fi, fantasy, comic books, and similar sorts of media, sure; it also means a kind of all-consuming passion for that media. It means being willing to go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to make an experience special, and reveling in that experience.
- Don't ever be ashamed for having feelings or opinions about the geeky things you love. Don't apologize for it, either. If your friends expect you to say sorry and shut up when you get excited talking about one of your geeky passions, it's time to find better people. The kind of people who will nurture your passions and smile and be happy to see you excited about something. Good friends will support you in your geekiness -- even if they personally have no interest in what you love.
If you're not currently fortunate enough to have geeky friends, there's no reason to panic. That's why communities like Geeky Girl's Guide to Life exist. That's why I'm happy to be here. Yeah, I want to be able to share with the world the nerdiness that I love...but I also want everyone else out there who's feeling lonely and misunderstood to know you're not alone in your geekiness. Come be part of the community.