Nerding Out, The Uncool, And Identity

Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley

There’s a problem with nerd-hood lately, and that’s because it’s been divided from itself.

No, not the “I like to stay in and watch Netflix!” popular click-bait nerding. That’s universally understood and accepted. It’s fine, it really is, but it’s fine. The thrill is gone. Similarly, I’m not talking about the “I look good in Warby Parker glasses and like to talk about the books I know” style of nerding either. That has the same problem as the above, but shaming that is also the wrong approach. If that’s you, that’s you.

But what about the real nerdy thing, the uncool passions, the things you don’t tweet or refer to in public.

Where does that go in your life?

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I love Magic: The Gathering.

It’s true. I spend hours, divided among days, brainstorming ideas about a competitive card-game of wizards and dragon. I don’t even really play, which makes it even weirder. I just theorize, tinker, explore, and build. I enjoy coming up with ideas and fine-tuning those ideas in quiet speculation. 

I have strong opinions about potential tech and decks in eternal formats, both in Modern and in Legacy. I think Bitterblossom should get more play in control shells and think there’s a spot for a R/W prison-slash-control deck in the modern meta, with Blood Moon, Rest In Peace, Ghostly Prison, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and either some fair, tricky threats like Brimaz and Boros Reckoner or a R/W take on Splinter Twin with Wall of Omens, Restoration Angel and more or a hybrid of the two. 

If you’d like to talk more about Magic: The Gathering hit me up in the comments.

See, that was nerdy. I could go much further but I’ll spare you the nerding out specifics. But, up there, I felt something stronger than timid shame. It was the joy of being understood, of sharing some awkward corner of myself that doesn’t get enough air outside of certain sites. And it was the joy of momentum: do you know how much I had to cut from that paragraph above? Because, let me tell you: I was stoked. I had a lot more to say.` 

But I didn’t know until I started saying.

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I have a friend named…let’s say Alex. We’ve known each other since childhood, where he played sports and had girlfriends and was, in general, cooler than me. 

And we loved musicals.

Loved them. Oliver Twist was a favorite and I still rock with some key songs on my playlists, sidled up between Biggie and Tupac. Because that’s who we were, and some of that lingers because why wouldn’t it? 

When we played Halo, Adam put on his playlist. It was the first time I was introduced to Katy Perry, Rihanna, and other  swagged-out anthems that became shooting-game staples. Because that’s what worked.

To this day, “Umbrella” reminds me of sports, shooting games, and friendship. “Dark Horse,” by Katy Perry, has been a later addition added to writing lists behind Kendrick Lamar and Meek Mill. 

And that’s not because you’ll like it. 

It’s because I do.

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There’s a nefarious belief that you are defined by your passions.

In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to know what the hive-mind agrees on. You know the cool politics, the cool beer, the cool shows and attitudes and clothes until even normal clothes spiral back to cool and I’m Normcore and wait, stop. 

That’s not Hipster fatigue, or a spiral to decry millennials. But it is a reminder that you’re not just the sum of your interests, and that, similarly, you should allow yourself to like what you like, even if it’s lame.

Give yourself permission to embrace the weird, the specific, the unique and the slightly embarrassing about yourself. The universal nerd-hood is deceptive; it’s still well within the ranges of alternative cool, but what do you love that you’d hide on a date? Let it shine.  Let your interests enhance your life, and don’t merely cultivate the garden of your experience according to some rubric of cool.

Find your rebellion and make peace with it. What shows do you like that you shouldn’t, or the opposite? What movies were good that you weren’t supposed to like – I found Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties to pass expectations – or music? Because I’d rather listen to Meek Mill than Mos Def and I stand by my statement.

We contain multitudes, and there’s a trimming of our identities, virtual and otherwise. Allow yourself the freedom of your affections without doubt or anxiety.

You can like what you like, and leave what you don’t. TC mark

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