An old adage says, “Ten years down the road, N-E-R-D translates to another four letter word; B-O-S-S.”
As this generation of high school grads approach ten years down the road, it’s pretty clear that this saying doesn’t ring true at all. Thanks to things like the economy, parents at dinner parties, and feature articles in magazines from 2011, the smart people of the class of 2004 aren’t all finding great financial success. Instead, many have found massive student debt, budding relationships with their couches, and tremendous synergy with the word bleak.
Because of this new reality, it might be easy to regret being a nerd in high school — joining things like the debate team, or taking AP Chemistry with the intention of benefitting from a long-game that might not exist anymore. But just because Advanced Placement hasn’t necessarily translated into Actual Profit, doesn’t mean that being on the nerd track was a complete waste.
So, to justify why I studied really hard for the SATs, here are six reasons why it paid to be a nerd in high school — even you’re now broke:
1. You understand the important of delayed gratification.
In my high school, the advanced placement track was dominated by the “work now, play later” mantra. Instead of organizing our schedules around the next weekend someone’s parents were out of town, a number of us devoted our high school experience to taking the most challenging courseloads, organizing hangout sessions based around studying, and cheating off each other’s scantrons — all of which, we only really did to put ourselves in the best position for the future.
Yet, while this “future” may not necessarily be what we envisioned, mental discipline and the ability to wait for things may come in handy later. Or so I tell myself.
2. You know how to survive (and thrive) as a social outcast of sorts.
I never experienced nor witnessed the classic nerd getting stuffed into his locker scenario. The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve come to realize that this was simply something a producer of a mediocre PG-13 movie invented to exaggerate stereotypes to underscore the protagonist’s struggle in lieu of profanity. (Luckily for this made-up producer, this was done before the age of Politically Correct Priscilla got offended by people who eat bagels for dinner.)
Anyway, high school nerds have long remained where Drake was when he first embarked on his rap career. That said, the nerd community’s focus on the long game and willingness to embrace the fact that their interests aren’t necessarily “cool” creates this exceptional “alright, we’re in this together” sort of mood. For a real-world example of this, see people in Med School.
3. You care a lot less about (and see right through) superficial social hierarchies.
Needing to validate yourself to the dominant social hierarchy generally means bragging about your $2,000 espresso machine, or telling people that you went to a club with hot girls and paid for bottle service.
In the adult world, not caring about justifying yourself to ideals that are kinda dumb in the first place is a great quality to have — especially when an $8 lunch special doesn’t sound like a special at all.
4. You probably have a ton of obscure knowledge tidbits.
In a society filled with subreddits and thick-rimmed glasses, knowing that Garry Kasparov had the highest Elo rating of all-time is actually, believe it or not, something that enhances social credibility.
5. You were probably very good at unorthodox high school activities.
Debate, Robotics, Chess, Badminton. The sorts of activities filled with people from The Big Bang Theory are certainly atypical from the solo cup-filled high school social experience depicted by the movies.
But, as any proud member of Academic QuizBowl is well aware of, the very notion of being good at something can go a long way. By participating in this obscure activities, you quickly learn that being talented, no matter the activity, is a very attractive quality.
6. You could talk about how much you love reading now, and it actually won’t be forced.
In an age filled with numbered lists on the internet (cough), 43 new videos you HAVE to watch otherwise you’ll die, and tweets about what Hogwarts House 2 Chainz would be in, it’s very “in” to dismiss the never-ending content factory in favor of things that are intellectually superior. For example, books in print
Perhaps you’ve started telling people how you’re reading that tell-all book by Robert Gates, or Annie Leonard’s harrowing tale of human overconsumption, The Story of Stuff — great reads, made even greater by juxtaposing them to the current state of content. Made even GREATER, by using the word juxtaposition when talking about them.
Reading books — and of course, talking about reading books — is a very cool thing to do once out of college, whilst attempting to better oneself and your view of the world. Meaning, if you were one of those kids who actually read more than just the Sparknotes in high school english, you’re one of the very few people who can now do this authentically.
And while it’s not entirely clear, authenticity is a thing that might matter.