Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Collection Of Odd

In many ways, this is a great time to be alive. The world changes on a daily basis and, more often than not, it changes for the better. There are exceptions, to be sure, and you certainly can’t generalize on an individual level, but, on a macro level, we have better health, better life expectancy, better communication, better acceptance of each other. The list goes on and on, but that last one is really special to me, and it’s one that often gets overlooked. Yes, we still have problems, and yes, we still have an abundance of people mistreating people, but, on the whole, we are more accepting than ever, and in ways that might surprise the casual observer.

I, myself, am a collection of oddities, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are some of my oddities that I wouldn’t mind getting rid of, but being odd is who I am. I’m comfortable with that. In fact, I’m not just comfortable. I enjoy it. I love being odd, and have a great deal of fun with it, but I am still grateful that some of my oddities are becoming more commonly accepted by society at large. I live as me, whether that is accepted or not, but it’s certainly easier when it is accepted.

I’m an introvert, which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I am not one hundred percent certain whether or not I would change this one if I could. I won’t deny that it can cause problems at times, but it has also played a large part in shaping who I am. Not long ago, it was common for society to assume that there was something wrong with an introverted person, and especially with an introverted man. We were expected to Be a Man, and to Get Out There and Do It, no matter what It was, and no matter how we felt about It. Worse, it wasn’t just a matter of how we felt, but also a matter of physical health. Introverts process stress and stressful situations differently than what is thought of as normal, and, as we now know, ignoring or improperly handling stress can have very real physical consequences.

Today, though, we live in an age where it is becoming truly accepted that different people process social situations in different ways. I can find informative articles almost daily on Top Ten Things Introverts Want You To Know, or Introvert Does Not Mean Antisocial, or assorted similar subjects, and they’re not just clickbait. Not all of them, anyway. There are truly useful articles with truly helpful information, and people are truly reading them. If I get invited to something that is beyond my comfort level, I can respond with, “No, thank you. I’m not really comfortable with that,” and that answer will be gracefully accepted most of the time. It may even spur an interesting dialogue that can lead to a more comfortable and rewarding situation for all involved. That has been my experience many times now. It’s liberating and even encouraging. I can do more than I may have done in the past because I am more confidant that I can stop if I need to without that causing a major issue.

I am a nerd, in the classic sense of the term: higher than average intelligence with a fondness for activities that use that intelligence, and usually a corresponding shortage of social skills or an awkwardness in social situations. That is me to a T. I don’t even need to point out how awkward I am. If you’ve met me, you know. If you haven’t, you’ve probably seen plenty of examples. I’m socially awkward. I try very hard to not be, but that usually just involves keeping my mouth shut so no one notices. I also lost count of how many times I was described as “too smart for his own good” before I was old enough to fully understand what the phrase meant. That isn’t bragging. I have nothing to brag about. I was born with my brain, and the only thing special I did was keep using it. There are also many people higher up that scale than I am. I am above average, but nowhere near the top. I do enjoy what I am, though. I enjoy it quite a bit, and doing so is much easier today than it was when I was a kid.

In the 70’s, nerds were people who spent most of their time with their heads in toilets, their pants around their ankles, or enjoying various other activities of equal or greater degradation and humiliation. There were popular movies that centered around such good times, and it was common to believe that this was perfectly normal. There were also beginning to be movies were nerds turned out to be the winners, but those were new, and they were still rare. They were a good start, though, and they led to today.

Today is a day that many of us predicted. Today, the nerds run the world. If you look at the modern world, some of the names that everyone knows, people who have had some of the largest influence on the modern world, are people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. The modern technological world can’t even function without nerds, and the average person actually knows and acknowledges that now. People like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have made science not just popular, but cool. It’s an awesome time to be a science-minded person. It’s not perfect, and I doubt it ever will be, but we’ve come a long way since swirlies and the surrendering of lunch money.

We can say most of the same things for my geek side. That is similar, but not the same thing, as a nerd. It’s not unusual for a person to be both, but it’s also perfectly normal to be one or the other. I am both, without a doubt.

Geeks tend to have obsessive attachment to particular hobbies or pursuits, or have fixations toward hobbies deemed unusual by the general public, or, fairly common, some combination of the two. We have sci-fi geeks and comic book geeks, movie geeks and music geeks, game geeks and collectables geeks, and more kinds of geeks than you can shake a mint condition first edition at. Geeks are often more social than nerds, but not always in the most positive manner. Geeks tend to want to share their hobbies, and so often socialize better with fellow geeks, but we will talk your ear off just fine, geek or no geek, if you let us. Sometimes even if you don’t let us.

This one can be a bit more tricky because the reaction you get depends largely on the type of geek you are, or, at least, the type of geek you display. For example, I am a comic book geek (among many, many other types). Most of my t-shirts are comic book themed, I have superhero and comic book symbols and decals everywhere, and my friends at work always come to me to ask about the latest superhero movies. That last part has really changed the dynamic lately. Many things that I have always been a geek about are now popular with the general public. Suddenly it’s understood that being a geek isn’t all bad. Add in the growing popularity of technology and IT fields, and some geeks are actually becoming the cool kids.

These are just a few examples of the way things change, and they usually change for the better. All we need is time and perspective. What is seen as odd today may be seen as, if not normal, at least understood tomorrow. It doesn’t just take all kinds to make the world go round, it takes all kinds to keep it worth going round. I don’t even want to imagine how boring life would be if we were all the same. We all have our own collections of oddities, flaws, and interesting little tidbits. Embrace your weird. Let your geek flag fly. No one can be a better you than you, so be you, and keep the world an interesting place.

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