I was many types of geek in high school.
I was an orchestra geek, up at 5:00 a.m. to play cello before school. I was also an archery geek, a calligraphy geek, a die-hard backpacker, and a word nerd. I loved grammar. I baked bread on Sundays. I did not go to parties.
Intimidated by the need to fit in, I flew under the radar in school to avoid being picked on. I’m certainly not the first, and I won’t be the last.
What Exactly is a “Geek?”
One look at the etymology of the word “geek” (and its younger brother, “nerd”), and you’ll notice a few things immediately:
The connotation of “geek” has been rather negative until very recently. And one thing across time has remained: to be a geek has always meant having less-than-perfect social skills.
Britannica states that in the early 1900s, a geek was an unskilled carnival worker, or “a socially undesirable person who lacked any skill or ability.”
These days, however, you’ll likely hear “geek” or “nerd” used positively. Much of the time, it simply describes a person who has a deep passion for and knowledge of one subject or another – whether or not that includes good social skills.
Geeks and nerds are good friends, confident leaders, and knowledgeable co-workers. Whether you feel as though your nerdiness makes you stand out or not, here are a few ways that being a geek became my secret superpower – and how it can become yours, too.
I Wasn’t Afraid to Take Risks
In your teen years, you’ve likely already faced many expectations from adults. You’re supposed to go straight through school, often continuing on to get a college degree after high school graduation.
The pressure to walk the straight line felt stifling to me, so by the time I was handed my high school diploma, I had already spent a semester studying abroad in France, and had ventured out on 100-plus-mile backpacking trips by myself.
To many high school students, taking similar risks is well out of the average comfort zone — and it was out of mine, too! But being geeky (read: passionate) about multiple things pushed me to chase wild dreams. I learned and saw incredible things in the process.
If being geeky about something nudges you out of your comfort zone, then follow it. It will more than likely lead to unique learning experiences.
I Made My Hobbies Into Potential Careers
It’s true that you can make almost anything into a career if you’re creative enough.
I’m a nerd for mountains, and I’m a writing geek. I love to write about my mountain adventures, and wondered if I could make money doing it. After all, it would be substantially easier to set my own work hours around college classes than it would be to fit in a part-time job.
As a result, whenever I had several hours between classes, I wrote articles as a freelance writer. Two of my hobbies merged into a fun and fulfilling job.
Not all of your geeky passions have to become a career, but beyond simply being passions, a little creativity can make a pastime into something more. Never be afraid to think outside the box (and do a little Google searching).
I Shared the Geekiness With Others
I’ve learned that life is as exciting as you make it.
“You do lots of cool, exotic things,” said a fellow student in my college outing club as we drove back from a hike one sunny afternoon. “I feel like I should be more like that.”
I shrugged, watching the sunlight filter through passing trees. “I just do what’s interesting to me,” I said. But I smiled to myself.
Just like that, what was considered geekiness in high school had become cool.
Writing about and teaching others to do the things I love has allowed me to share it with them in a way that is meaningful for both of us. The more enthusiastic you are about your geeky passion, the more contagiously excited you will make others.
We all sat in class one day, soaking in long-awaited sunlight. The snow had finally melted for the season, and the class was itching to close notebooks and go outside.
“I once heard someone say,” said our professor, “that only boring people get bored.” His smile showed through his mask. “The more interested you become in something, the more interesting it becomes.” He looked around the room at us all and raised his eyebrows.
“Now go enjoy yourselves,” he said.
We all streamed outside and flocked to the vernal pool in front of the classroom to look for frogs, salamanders, and turtles. Nature geeks crowded around a shared passion.
No matter your age, being a geek will always set you apart – but in a world where most of us try so hard to fit a certain mould, I’ve never been more grateful to be a little weird.
I can’t imagine living a life without the wonder of being fascinated by everything around me. Passion makes you cool. It keeps you sane and makes you a little crazy.
And besides – the older you get, the more those “normal” folks wish they would have been just like you. Trust me. Stay geeky.