An Ode to the Different: A Nerd’s High School Survival Guide

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a nerd now or you were one before. Maybe you like Marvel movies more than your average Joe. Maybe you have curly hair. Maybe you’re a little too into Harry Potter. Maybe you prefer staying in and catching up on Doctor Who on Friday night instead of going to that party everyone else is going to. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay. But when you’re in high school… yeah, not so much.

The bottom line is that in high school, you’re weird if you’re different in any way. Anything different is bad. Your curly hair? You should just straighten it, kid. You have an obsession with comic books or TV shows? Weirdo. You don’t like going to parties? You need to get a social life. You’ve never had a boyfriend? Wow, you must be ugly. And so forth and so forth. Ad nauseam.

Some people thrive in an environment like this, but for the rest of us, it really, really sucks. And the thing is that no matter where you are or what school you go to, this will still probably happen. It’s nothing personal—at this age, everyone is expected to conform to society’s ideal of pretty—but it still stings a lot, and it’s enough to push a lot of kids into dark places.

High school in general is bad, because you lose friends and change and have to worry about grades and getting into good colleges/universities even before all that we must all be perfect carbon copies crap. It’s stressful and highly unnecessary and practically impossible, too, because no two people are born exactly the same.

Maybe if this conformity thing didn’t exist, I wouldn’t dislike high school so much. Maybe if I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb from the time I was wearing gauchos in third grade to now, when my all I care about is Harry Potter… and maybe 3 people… and food t-shirt gets smirks as I walk down the halls, I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious. Maybe if I didn’t have people tell me that they preferred my hair when it was straightened, or maybe if I wasn’t the only one in my elementary school from grades 3 to 7 who had non-straightened curly hair, I would have learned to love my hair a lot sooner. Maybe, maybe, maybe. This is all speculation. I can’t say any of this for sure, of course. I can’t say that x equals y and a is because of b, but I can speculate, and speculating about these things is something I’ve gotten really good at over the last few years.

I know that I’m whining, and I know I’m not the only one who goes through this stuff and that it’s all superficial anyways. But I still hate it. I really, really hate it, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it—there’s nothing any one person can do to stop it. But here’s the thing: even though people in high school will be shallow and bitchy and mean, it’s up to you whether or not you let them get to you.

I know, right? That both sounds like the easiest and hardest thing ever. But it’s true. High school may be the most superficial time in your life, but you can choose to obsess over what so-and-so said to you or just say, “yeah, whatever.” It’s your choice whether to let those high school plastics hurt you, because unless you let them get to you, they can’t hurt you. Sure, they can be hurtful, and sure, they can be mean, but their words only mean something if you believe them. I still have to learn this lesson, too. It’s been many years in the making, but I’m slowly getting there. (Slowly.)

And please, please don’t be ashamed of your nerdiness. It’s a part of you, and you’ve got to accept it. As John Green once said,

“Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it.”

And jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love things we do. We’re misfits, sure, but we’re the ones who actually have fun together. Honestly, would you rather be laughing your butt off with a group of people who you actually care about and who actually care about you back, or would you rather be getting wasted with a group of people who don’t give a damn about you? Accept your nerdy-ness. Accept that you’re different. Us nerds may not be thriving now, but later, when people get their heads out of their butts, it’ll be our time to shine. And shine we will.

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