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The 10 Best Things I Have Learned in Life Because I Am a Nerd

February 6, 2012

Man, I wish I was that cute when I was little.

I have always been, and likely will always be, a nerd. The first two definitions I found for ‘nerd’ on the internet are as follows:

  • A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious: “one of those nerds who never asked a girl to dance.”
  • An intelligent, single-minded expert in a particular technical discipline or profession.

Or my favorite from Urban Dictionary: one whose IQ exceeds his weight.

While I might not be a nerd in terms of the third definition, I feel that at times I epitomize the other two denotations of nerdiness.  I still remember my shy, wallflower days of old, and certainly get very excited and research about relatively esoteric topics, ranging from infectious diseases to stream of consciousness writing to Sondheim musicals to Dar-al-Islamic history.  And I read the requisite number of fantasy, vampire and sci-fi books to qualify, even if comic books and video games aren’t really my thing- have you seen the way they dress and proportion their few female characters?   It’s insulting, and definitely male-centric.  But I digress.

In general, I am proud of my status as belonging to this subculture.

(Side note: I am NOT a geek.  This is an important distinction.  For those of you who were confused, I am not a carnival performer who performs morbid or disgusting acts.  I DO NOT bite the heads off of live chickens.  Moving right along.)

Nerds have been getting more ‘popular’ in everyday cultural America.  Partly because of the success of Bill Gates and the burgeoning emphasis on computer knowhow in the workforce, being a nerd is seen as increasing one’s earning potential.  Additionally, because the stigma of being a nerd is lessening, more ‘normal’ people- ones with social skills- are self-selecting into this subculture.  Being a nerd these days is a soi-disant decision, and not a nasty label inflicted on the intelligent yet socially inept.  Being nerdy is getting so popular that there are even ‘How to Be a Nerd’ guides on the internet- I kid you not.  (Did you know that a “proper nerd habit” is to use a quizzical voice?)

There are many benefits to being a nerd.  As I define them, nerds search for the truth in things, they are curious about minutia, they enjoy discussions and arguments and use these tools as a way to discover and crystalize their own opinions.  Most importantly nerds are willing to admit that the world exists in shades of gray, rather than black and white, good and evil, you vs. me.  And through being bullied and challenged by their peers to change, nerds have learned to articulate and defend why they hold the convictions they do.

Thus, without further ado, here is a list of some of the most important things I have learned in life thus far, resulting from my nerdy mentality and upbringing.  I would have internalized these life lessons at some point, no doubt.   But I truly think that being a nerd helped me become aware of these discoveries, and led me to appreciate their import.

  1.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  You’re aren’t nearly as cool or unique as you hope you are, and not nearly as reprehensible, awkward or hated as you fear yourself to be.  Be kind to yourself, and regard everything with a sense of humor.
  2. Be self-aware.  The only way to change aspects of oneself is to be aware of these failings, and why these happen, in the first place.  Be self-aware of your strengths and weakness, as well as the reasons events occurred in the past, and an honest appraisal of what you want from your future.
  3. Just be yourself- albeit the best version of you. Everyone has days where they betray the best in them; maybe they are tired, or grouchy, or stupid that day.  And then there are days when you like yourself, are the best of who you can be and are, almost a super-saturated version of your normal self.  Strive to be this best version of yourself, without resorting to becoming someone you are not.  It is exhausting pretending to be someone else, believe you me.
  4. Don’t waste time on plastic or fake people, people who don’t accept you or prey on your insecurities, or even people that you just don’t connect with despite honest effort.  They just aren’t worth the energy expenditure.
  5. Give others grace and empathy.  You don’t have to try to be everyone’s best friend, but be kind to the shy girl in the back row.  Everyone has thoughts, dreams, fears, souls and minds.  Life can be a tough cookie to swallow sometimes, and you should try to not add to that burden.
  6. Enjoy your passions and what interests you, no matter how bizarre that passion is.  You like collecting typewriters?  You are not alone.  It doesn’t really matter how others view your singular hobby, if you derive joy from it.  Isn’t life about deriving joy when and where one can?
  7. Enjoy the process of learning, stay inquisitive.  Life is far more interesting with complete engagement, when you try to figure out why stuff works the way it does, turning over the rocks to see the white slimy things underneath.  Case in point: I was talking to a cousin recently about flesh eating beetles that are used to clean dead meat off of bones for museum collections and the like.  Icky, yes?  But also cool, nu?
  8. Acknowledge the complexities and inherent contradictions that exist in this world despite logic saying they shouldn’t. Allow yourself to emote- feelings are valid, even if they aren’t rational. Human beings, despite what economics teaches us, are not always rational, acting bodies.  For instance, my father told me once that there is never happiness that isn’t tinged with sadness, or sadness that doesn’t have a spark of joy.  It took me a while to believe him, but I think that it is true.
  9. Be articulate about your beliefs, and methodical in evidence gathering.  You have values and convictions that others will, inevitably, try to throw into doubt.  As Rudyard Kipling famously wrote: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too…”  Essentially, it is important to be open to reevaluating your beliefs, but it is equally important to understand that you have the right to have those opinions, and be able to explain how you came to believe in those values.
  10. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut instinct.  Intellectually thinking about decisions is well and good most of the time, and often feels ‘safer’ than trusting in instinct.  We live in a society that prizes mind over emotion, intellect over spirituality.  But, if you can’t come to a rational, logical decision that feels right, don’t be afraid to make a quick gut choice.  If you don’t like the result of your decision, make another one, and another one, until the results are more to your liking.  It is better to act than become paralyzed by choice.

So that is a quick list of some important lessons I learned by being a nerd.  But if these failed to move you into believing in the awesome that is nerd power, let me leave you with one more thing I learned by being a nerd:  Pub trivia becomes a heck of a lot easier. Do you know how many beer steins* and free alcohol I’ve won off of bars by knowing random facts about practically everything~?  Being a nerd gets you free alcohol, people.  Nuff said.

* Disclaimer 1: In the spirit of honesty, I have to confess that I have only won one, and it was for being the on the lowest scoring team that night.  It was made of plastic too, so that sucked.

~ Disclaimer 2: I know nothing about television. Or pop culture. Or movies that are in color but not animated.  Or sports.  But these are nugatory; on important topics like board games, the name of all the dwarves from The Hobbit, and life and death of Louis Pasteur, I got you covered.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2013 5:58 AM

    Don’t mess up with a nerd or else u would end up working for him


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