Saturday, April 7, 2012

How I Became a Nerd

Being called a nerd used to hurt me, like nerd was on the same level as “moron” or “bad person.” In the small microcosm of high school, it meant that you participated in activities that were not socially acceptable—like fighting with someone because they got the names of the Hogwarts founders wrong or joining The Booklovers Club when all the popular girls joined The Dance Club. It meant that you were strange, different, and were not likely to receive heart-shaped cards on Valentine’s Day.

Throughout the years, I’ve come to terms with my nerdiness, and have even come to embrace it. While the popular girls in high school gyrated to the latest dance remixes, the world of the Lord of the Rings enveloped me. Now, I know that both activities can be equally fun, but, almost five years later, I think they’ve forgotten the names of the songs they danced to, while I’m looking forward to Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit like nobody’s business.

So, I’m writing this post to somehow chart my path into nerdom.

I think it all started in third grade, when someone—I forgot who—but me a bunch of Nancy Drew novels. I don’t know anything about the Nancy Drew novels of today, but the Nancy Drew of my youth was no literary giant. The books were entertaining, but they stereotyped Asians, women, practically everybody, and could sometimes be very, very offensive. Nonetheless, I devoured them like Chiclets.

The reign of Nancy Drew ended when my father took me to the bookstore on one of our rare outings together. I was supposed to buy another Nancy Drew book, but the book with the boy on a broomstick on the cover caught my eye.

The era of Harry Potter started, and it still hasn’t ended. I became obsessed with Harry Potter throughout most of my elementary and high school years. I wore oversized Harry Potter t-shirts to every important school function, had a Harry Potter notebook I wouldn’t let anyone else touch, and made myself a wand using a barbecue stick.

I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t found Harry Potter at that time in life. My parents were still in the middle of a bitter separation at the time, and I just wanted to float away into a world where squabbling parents and terms like ‘legal custody’ did not exist. But, then, here was a boy who was even more miserable than I was. Both of his parents were dead, and his aunt and uncle gave him socks for Christmas. At least, I got awesome presents like toys and books.

When I reached the ninth grade, Stephen King took over my reading diet for a while. I started with Misery which I absolutely loved, and ended with Dreamcatcher which I will always refer to as DA BOMB. I loved some others like The Green Mile and Room 308. I haven’t touched his works in years, because I got distracted by other writers. There were just so many I hadn’t discovered and read yet that I could focus on one writer, even if I wanted to.

My obsession with classics started about two years ago when I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’d read a smattering of classics before the like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Jane Austen books, but The Great Gatsby became my gateway book to the classics. I could get a lot of them at my favorite secondhand bookstore, and, if I could get my hands on a paper copy, I could easily download an e-book from Project Gutenberg for free. I was addicted.

Books have been a part of my life, for as long as I can remember. They helped my nine-year-old self escape to the magical world that was Hogwarts, and they opened my eyes to the mysteries of human nature when I got hooked on classics like The Great Gatsby. Yes, I’m a gigantic literature nerd, and I’m proud of it.

What about you? How did you become a nerd?


Cassandra said...

Absolutely beautiful post.
It's amazing how much our stories resemble each other! The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter practically were my childhood: My brothers and I spent every free minute either building our own bows and arrows or brewing potions.
Since I'm still in High School life could be really tough for a nerd like me, but I'm incredibly lucky because I'm in a tiny class with only 11 other students who are all more or less nerds themselves.
Looking at the world of literature nerdom has opened for me, I have to agree with you in being proud of it! :)

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Love this post, the world needs more nerd love!
I can't remember not loving books, and like you I was captivated with the Harry Potter books as soon as the first one came out.
I actually didn't have a tough time at school for being a nerd - I went to an academically selective school so being a nerd was actually kind of cool. I know how luck this makes me!

mooderino said...

I'm not sure what nerd means anymore. I don't think it's even an insult at this point. I suppose once teh internet became part of everyone's life people aren't so isolated in their nerdiness


Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I loved this post and very much related to it. I'm quite a bit older than you are, but for my last two years of high school, I attended a school where the actual mascot was The Nerd. You see, I'd grown up in a state where academics were valued much lower than athletic achievement, and thus had always felt like the outcast nerd. But then I "found my bats," like the Stella LUna story, when I attended a state-wide magnet school with an emphasis on mathematics & science. All of us at that school were nerds, and we were proud to embrace that about ourselves and each other. It felt like coming home for the first time.

Trisha said...

From one nerd to another: Huzzah!

Ben said...

I thought I was a nerd. But I ended up working with nerds in a video game company,thinking I had hit the jackpot and found out they were very different than I did. I think I'm just an artsy-fartsy guy. But I like nerds, so it's cool.

Teacher/Learner said...

Right on! So, why am I a nerd? I just think I was born that way :D

Caro said...

Lovely post! I love how most of us are so ashamed of being nerds when we're in high school, but once we are a bit older we realize we quite like our nerdiness. I know I do :D
Oh, Harry Potter. I started reading this series last year, when I was already 21, so I guess it doesn't have the same effect on me than it did on you and so many others, but I definitely agree about it being a magical place to lose yourself into. I'm so thrilled I decided to put my silly prejudices aside and give these books a shot.

emolina said...

world of hogwarts rescued quite a lot of childhoods


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