When we reached a certain scene in Hamlet, I decided to switch things up and have students delve a bit deeper into the psychological aspects of the characters. I gave them a modern translation to use side-by-side with Shakespeare’s words and asked them to explain and respond to two different speeches in the scene. One of them was my favorite speech in all of Hamlet (and possibly all of Shakespeare), spoken by Claudius on the topic of prayer. I’ve always been fascinated by this speech, so much so that I memorized it for a competition in high school. I admitted this to my students. They looked at me like I was crazy, and said as much to my face. “You memorized this? By choice?!” they said, shaking their heads in disbelief.
“Hey,” I replied with a shrug, “Everyone is nerdy about something. This just happened to be mine.”
We used to say that in college about our group of friends. We had the band nerd, the Shakespeare nerd (that was me), the theater nerd… We all had our niches and we were proud of them. I hadn’t thought of that for a long time, but as my students reacted to my admission of nerd-dom, the words popped out of my mouth almost instinctively. Everyone is a nerd in some way. It’s just the focus that changes from person to person.
What was so cool was how easily my students accepted my answer, even though they’d been ready to institutionalize high-school me a few moments before. Even kids who weren’t engaged in the conversation looked up to respond. “Yeah, that’s true,” they nodded, almost eager to agree with my validation of all things nerdy. One student commented that Shakespeare wasn’t a common thing to be nerdy about, but the incredulity had left his tone. After all, he’s the school’s resident computer nerd. He couldn’t fault me for having my own nerdy tendencies when I was in high school.
So what’s your nerdiness? Claim it. Own it. Be proud of it.
Admittedly, some activities are more widely recognized categories of nerd-dom. If you claim a certain fascination with all things sci-fi, if you can speak Klingon or Elvish, or if you can finish a Rubik’s cube behind your back in a matter of seconds, you’re more likely to be labelled a nerd. PC gamers, Magic the Gathering players, and avid comic book readers can’t help but fall into this category, too. That’s OK. Let no one dissuade you from your interests merely because they are nerdy.
Because, yes, you athletes and “cool kids”, this applies to you, too. There is some topic that you know better than other people, some interest that occupies much of your attention voluntarily. You are the movie guru, the sports statistics guy, or the culinary expert. You’re the girl who’s fascinated by fashion design, the kid who can read the last Harry Potter book in one night, or the go-to person for random knowledge about cars. Whatever engages your interest in your spare time, whatever you know more about than other people, that’s your nerd-dom, whether it’s musical theater or college basketball. If your interests are culturally accepted as “normal,” that’s OK, but that doesn’t make you better than others. So don’t make fun of the “nerds”, because you’re a nerd, too. You just might not know it.
Everyone is nerdy about something. What’s yours?