Not too long ago I wrote a post about what being a geek means to me and why I’m proud to be one. What you, the reader, didn’t get to hear was the considerable amount of discussion and argument between my editor and me about my definition. Now that I have had a bit more free time and have gone back to think about this, I realize that while I still agree with my definition, it might be a bit narrow. My original definition encompasses a fairly tight range of activities that are generally accepted as geek. And while I tried to be as accepting as I could, I intentionally left out activities such as sports. This realization got me thinking still further about who I am and I have come to one inescapable conclusion: while being a geek is awesome, it is absolutely not all that I am.
I feel that in order for someone to truly be well-rounded, they cannot just shoehorn themselves into one very small social grouping. This idea applies to the whole spectrum of social groups. Anyone twenty-five or older knows some poor guy whose entire life revolved around high school or college sports and they have just never done anything else with themselves because it’s all they’ve known. I feel sorry for these people who just never realized that there is so much more to life. Sure, they were big shots at some point, but that glory is gone and they don’t have anything to look forward to. This same thing goes for geeks as well. I’ve met more than my share of older guys living alone, surrounded by mountains of comics, sometimes actually avalanching all around them. No one should be so obsessed with geek culture, or any culture for that matter that they ignore the world around them or the people in their life.
My friends and coworkers know well that I make an annual trip to New York for NYCC and that it is usually the highlight of my year, but comic books aren’t the only thing that gets me out of the house.
I enjoy going out and doing all kinds of things, some of which have nothing to do with being a geek. Sure I go to movies and museums, but I also get out for concerts, comedy shows and theatre. I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare and I try to see productions whenever I can.
Being a geek also doesn’t mean one can’t like sports either. For instance, the owner of my normal comic book store is a huge college football fan. I myself like baseball and soccer. It’s great to have a wide variety of interests. In Phoenix, we didn’t have a major league baseball team until 1998; instead we had the Firebirds, a Triple-A farm team for the San Francisco Giants. Thanks to this, I’ve developed an enjoyment of minor league baseball. Sure I like MLB, but I really prefer to watch minor league (I’m also a Mets fan, so major league ball gives me little to be happy about). I really love sitting down with some friends-giant Coke in one hand, hotdog in the other-watching guys play their hearts out for a shot at the big leagues. These moments are as much about spending time with friends and being social as they are watching the game.
We geeks aren’t exactly known for getting out there and living life to the fullest. That’s a crying shame. There is so much to experience! I know this can be tough at first, but it’s best to take baby steps. Maybe you can try a new restaurant in your town. If that is too much, just try a new dish at your favorite place. For example, a few weeks ago I was at a restaurant that I’ve been to plenty of times before, but this time I decided to try something I had never eaten before. It blew my mind. This awesome discovery makes me want to try all kinds of other stuff.
Another way to branch out is to incorporate new things with geek stuff. Go to a convention in a city you’ve never been to and take an extra day or two in order to explore the city. I would love to go to C2E2 and since I’ve never been to Chicago, I can kill two birds with one stone. Just the food alone is worth the trip, but there are so many other awesome things to do there that I’m looking forward to making the trek.
Branching out beyond geekdom can be rewarding as well. A couple years ago a friend tried to get me into mountain biking. As it turns out I do not have the coordination required for this particular sport. What I did discover is that I really liked riding on flat trails in the woods. It is fun, relaxing, a good workout, and quite peaceful. If it weren’t for that push, I would have never known about any of this. My point is that you never know what you might enjoy doing until you get out there and try it. The more you limit yourself, the less exposed you are and the more you might miss out. If something sounds interesting to you, don’t sit around and think about it too much, get out there and give it a try.
Part of being a member of society is being aware of when things are and are not socially acceptable, and while we geeks are not the Unabomber,
we do live more towards the edge of society. I am proud to be a geek and I’m not ashamed to show it off. I carry all my stuff in a Grifball bag, I wear t-shirts with superhero logos on them, and read comic book at work. I am also keenly aware that there is a time and a place for everything. I also do these at the appropriate time. If I need to look professional for something, you’d better believe that I’m going to be in the right cloths for the situation, I may however have a Batman pin in my pocket. (After all, I am still a geek and certain things are expected of me!)
Part of the reason geeks have a bad reputation is that a select few of us don’t seem to understand that not everything is acceptable everywhere. They really love something geeky and they want to show off that love. There are few people who in the world of geeks that come close the passion of Trekkies. The problem with this is that some of them take it too far. I’ve seen documentaries that show some fans who incorporate Star Trek into every part of their lives, such as the woman that referred to herself as Commander and wore Next Generation rank pins on her shirt every day at work. This is too far. Star Trek is awesome. It has had a profound impact on me and a lot of it is just good storytelling. But it’s not real and I don’t treat it as such. I have no delusions about being a member of Starfleet and it worries me when I’m around those who do. As much as we may love our fantasies, there is a point where we need to accept the reality we live in. Take Gene Roddenberry’s inspiration and make that reality a better place, but exist there.
Don’t ever be ashamed to be who you are, but don’t let one thing, even being a geek, define all that you are. There is so much more out there to see and do and so much more life to experience. It is worth trying something new and different if only to know for certain that it’s not your thing. You might be surprised exactly what strikes your fancy.