Sunday, April 22, 2012

Writing Down the Past: An Examination of the Geek Life

Years ago I went to my 20th high school reunion. It took a lot for me to do this since school had not been good to me and I had faced a fair amount of bullying. I was working for the paper at that time and I convinced my boss that I would be able to get an interview with Rick Reilly, then of Sports Illustrated fame and now with ESPN. My editor had serious doubts about this since Rick hadn't given him an interview. However, being armed with a professional task gave me some level of comfort. If things got uncomfortable, I would be able to retreat behind the professional mantle of reporter. It also meant that I had a photographer with me and wouldn't be standing around alone.

Despite my discomfort over facing the past, I ended up having a great time. The drama of high school had fallen away and everyone was just friendly. I had been the Queen of the sci fi geeks back then -- okay, I was president of the science fiction club senior year. I was surprised by how many people had known me and remembered me. True to what my sister had told me had happened to her at her reunion, I spent most of my time talking with the people I had also known in Junior High.

In a most surprising conversation, one of the girls told me about how much she had hated high school. I was astounded. For the sake of this post I shall call her Lisa. Lisa had had it all in high school - the popularity, the boys, the cheerleading. She had had the high school experience that could have made her a Norman Rockwell poster girl. Where she had been in the full flow of the experience, I had been marginalized to the world of freaks and geeks. My senior year of high school was one of the happiest years of my life.

When I had first started high school, I had tried to go the traditional route. I had joined the pep club and hung out around the cheerleaders, the jocks, and the popular kids. I was absolutely miserable. As time went on I gravitated away from them and towards those who were into science fiction and Star Trek. My junior year we geeks had coalesced into our own clique - the uncliquiest clique ever. Some of my sci friends were also writers in the making, so we had a lot in common. We had a great time embracing the silly, the odd, and the absurd. No doubt are parents were rather taken aback that they were raising Trekkies. On the other hand, if we were going to be addicted to something, this was pretty tame.

It has taken years of ruminating on this to begin to get a handle on it. Perhaps Lisa had been just as miserable as I had been doing the whole pep-club-cheerleader-jocks standard high school experience. Where I had taken a sudden left turn into geekiness, she had tread the straight and narrow of what was expected of a high school girl. Without trying, I had been drawn to my truth. Perhaps Lisa hadn't even known what her truth was at that time. I'm not saying that Lisa was a closet Trekkie and would have been happier with my crowd, but there may have been a happier place somewhere in the high school hierarchy for her. Peer and parental pressures may have come to bear to help keep her in an unhappy place.

Unlikely as it seems, perhaps the geeks and the nerds are happier with their lot than the popular kids. We didn't spend as much time trying to fit in with the right clothes, make up, and gear. We didn't have to be in the right relationship with the right, socially acceptable person.

Lisa and I both ended up as writers. She has been much happier post-high school. I've had some difficult times, but I am much happier post-Prozac. At least one of my old Trek posse has also become a writer. And as far as I know, not one of us is living in our parent's basement. Being a geek has probably helped me in my writing life. At the very least, my first published short story was science fiction. It played a part in other things as well. One of the characters in the novel I am putting finishing touches on was abducted by aliens. Yep. I love the writing life.

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