Intergalactic Paintbrushes and What it Means to be a Nerd

Is Wren *gasp* posting something that doesn’t include Doctor Who? Er, no. Not exactly. But unlike my tendency of late, this post will not revolve solely around Doctor Who. You’ll see.

A question that has been on my mind a lot recently is “What exactly does it mean to be a nerd?” Actually, it’s been on my mind for the past few years, but more so these past few months. So what is a nerd? Well, according to the Merriam Webster online dictionary a nerd is “an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” While this may be a fairly okay textbook definition, to be a nerd is so much more than such a simple sentence can hold, now more than ever, I think.

But then what exactly is it to be a nerd? Different people at different points in their life would answer differently. Some might say being bullied as a child, being a social outcast, an introvert, poor social skills, loves computers, watches this or that TV show, plays this or that game. Is that what being nerdy is? These days it seems, with nerdy being the new “cool”, there are ever more rigid criteria for nerddom. Certain fandoms such as Doctor Who, Sherlock, or even My Little Pony might mark someone as a nerd, or those strange “hipster” nerd glasses that have become so popular these days, or being able to quote the right pop culture reference at the right time. When in the past to be nerdy may have just meant someone who watches obscure sci-fi shows, doesn’t talk to people much, and spends thirteen hours a day on the computer, now it seems there is an art to it. Or perhaps there was always an art to it, and I just missed it. The point is, being a “true nerd” seems to be so much work these days.

I have been a nerd my whole life. I grew up in a crazy, silly, loveably nerdy family doing nerdy things like watching Star Trek and Star Wars and listening to my dad’s rock’n roll music. I have always felt reasonably comfortable calling myself a nerd, and now I wear that term with pride. Yet nowadays I feel more and more like I don’t have what it takes to be a “true nerd”. I’m awful with all kinds of technology, I have a difficult time quoting certain references in conversation, I don’t watch a lot of the more recent movies and television programmes considered to be nerdy, I don’t know very much obscure information about my fandoms that would mark me as a “true nerd”, I read the wrong books, and I am most definitely not a gamer. I feel more and more like I have to prove myself as a nerd and am falling short.

I don’t think being a nerd means liking or doing certain things or acting a certain way or being good at certain things or having no friends, and I think the definition of nerdy may vary from person. I am a fiction-loving good-naturedly insane socially and technologically inept fiction-loving nerd. Maybe someone else is a nerd who plays Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft or an MMO RPG twelve hours a day but has never read more than a handful of chapter books. Or maybe another nerd loves to read more than anything but doesn’t watch TV shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock because they give her nightmares. Or another nerd can quote references like no one else and has loads of friends because of it. We are all nerds so long as we do that title honor and wear it with pride. Maybe I am different from other nerds, but isn’t that the point? As nerds we celebrate our differences from each other and society and appreciate each other because of it. I am a nerd. I am an individual. And I am proud of it.

John Green, one of my favorite authors and vloggers, says it best in one of his videos : “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. When people call people nerds, basically what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ ” Although the video was posted close to four years ago, that statement holds true today. A larger part of being a nerd is simply the freedom to be unironically, unabashedly enthusiastic about something, which is completely wonderful. So no matter if it’s Doctor Who or Dowton Abbey, a new book or movie or game, if you are incredibly enthusiastic about something you have the right to call yourself a nerd. Really, you could call yourself a nerd anyway, but I think the truly awesome thing about being a nerd is the excitement, as John Green mentions. I cannot think of anything to be that is more amazing than a nerd, despite the outcastedness and the negative stereotypes. Being a nerd is awesome, and I am happy to call myself one.

Oh yes, before I close: I have thought of a new nickname for myself. As this post’s title would suggest, it is “The Intergalactic Paintbrush”. That is all. Hope the rest of your day is happy and nerdy.

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2 thoughts on “Intergalactic Paintbrushes and What it Means to be a Nerd

  1. I think there are different types of nerds. For example, everyone in my family could be considered a nerd. My mom is a math nerd. My dad is a US history nerd. My brother is a computer / Doctor Who nerd. I’m mostly a fantasy nerd, with a bit of sci-fi and word-nerd-ness thrown in.

    So we’re very different from one another, but all super enthusiastic about something that most people aren’t interested in!

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