Confession time: I haven’t always called myself a nerd. In high school, I would’ve called myself “studious,” and then gone back to outlining my essay comparing the treatment of women by Tolkien, Hemingway and Scott. After that, I went home to play Need For Speed on the PS2. But you know, I wasn’t a nerd or anything.
Once I got to college, I got even more into video games, and even more into traditional nerdy stuff. I still tried to be conventionally cool, but I also tried learning Elvish. Weekend consisted of epic Risk games just as often as they did of parties and shopping. I didn’t constrict myself to “being” anything.
Then, I met a lovely nerd who loves me. And, my life got even nerdier. The first time I played Dungeons and Dragons is almost as fond a memory as setting up my first dorm room. I branched out from Risk and started playing Dominion and Carcassone. The Spiel des Jahres seal (which represents the German Game of the Year) started meaning something to me.
And that, dear homies, is when I started calling myself a nerd.
It was enlightening. I allowed myself some nerdy t-shirts (but only when I felt “worthy” of a fandom), and started skipping a couple classes every month to get some more video game time in with my best friend.
Today, I’m rocking a black sweater and Batman earrings. I’m going home and reading comics in my Superman pajamas. Thursdays are Minecraft days during lunch at work. Let’s not even talk about how many video games I manage to squeeze into a week.
The main difference when you’re not afraid to label yourself is that it’s easier to find something in common with people. Sure, they might not actually be nerds, but they may have a tabletop game obsession, or go home to play an MMO. It’s a conversation easy button, which is great when you’re not particularly conversationally adept like me. I’m grateful to everyone who takes the time to talk about their own hobbies with me. Labels also give you room to grow inside a community. Maybe you’re into hobby trains or tea, or makeup. If you embrace a community, you instantly get to experience your hobbies in a new light.
Obviously, we’re all more complex than our labels. But sometimes labels-as-shorthand can be incredibly helpful! Thoughts?