The movies lie. You know the ones where someone spends their adolescence being a dork, only to return to their ten- year high school reunion as an accomplished, pulled-together and poised success, without a trace of their former, nerdy self? Total crap.
I know from whence I speak. I spent my teenage years eyeball-deep in geekdoom. That’s right, I played in the band (several, actually), read Shakespeare for fun, never missed an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and had a wardrobe that consisted mainly of t-shirts from musicals. I liked my teachers and studied without having to be asked. I could recite just about every Monty Python skit. Rolling my eyes at jocks was my cardio. This, my friends, was during the dark ages of geekery, with “”Revenge of the Nerds” still in rotation, before “Hip To Be Square” stopped being just an amusing catch phrase, and long before Bill Gates was cool.
So here’s the bad news, boys and girls: You don’t, generally speaking, outgrow being a geek. I’d like to say geekiness grows out like a bad spiral perm, but it doesn’t. High school is a distant memory for me, but I’ve never been able to shake my geekiness. All these years later, there are still occasions when I’m in a room with people who were and still are popular kids, and I feel like I might as well be sporting Spock ears and a copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” When I take off my glasses, I’m still much more Clark Kent than Superman, and although makeover montages on the big screen would have us believe it, geek does not wash off or cover up.
Here’s the good news: Even in my prime, geeky years, I liked who and what I was. I felt awkward and a little too conspicuous at spirit assemblies, maybe a little sheepish doing bonus assignments in the cafeteria at lunch, but at least I was interesting. Interesting carried me through those dorky years, kept me from being picked on too much. As I got older, it endeared me to people. Being sophisticated or cool was never going to happen for me, but I knew about fun stuff, was enthusiastic and chatty. I still feel like it’s part of my charm, and knowing fun stuff still makes me feel brave, brave enough, in fact, that I now actively cultivate new and geekier aspects of myself. Call it a my “Geek Renaissance.”
True, geek doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to (thank you, Mr. Gates). Everyone and their dog is now into tech, and one can find t-shirts with Edgar Allen Poe puns at the mall. However, I like to think that there’s a point in your life at which you settle into yourself, when all the aspects of your personality that used to be embarrassing just become par for the course. At this point, you not only get comfortable with who you are, but you make it work for you, in all parts of your life. My geek self has been integral to the career I’ve built for myself. It’s been the magic ingredient in my relationships. It’s made me a better partner, a better parent, probably a better member of society.
My friends, you don’t grow out of geek. In fact, it gets much, much worse…and much, much, much better.