Last week was difficult, this week will be long. Most of my problems are happy. One can hardly whine for having too much client work, can one? But still, I sure did lose myself in a lot of World of Dance videos this weekend. The purpose was two-fold because I have my head in a dance routine I get to inform creatively for a client. Which is...a literal dream come true.
It's my second time working with dancers (at a distance and only in generating the initial ideas) and even though I've been dancing my entire life, I still feel so unqualified. When I feel unqualified, I have to hang onto joy by seeking inspiration. It's the only thing that keeps me from running out of the room.
Howdy. This was a Patreon early release months ago. I decided it was time to publish since I'm in the process of searching for an editor. This essay was originally written for the spoken word and I haven't quite stuck the landing/ending yet. (That's where the editor will help.) It also means I'm presenting it to you with somewhat non-traditional paragraph chunking, a trick I learned at Hello Giggles to help with emotional emphasis.
I hope that even in its unfinished state, it makes you laugh.
I was a kid, I was self-conscious. Not a great revelation, I realize. We were
all kids, and to some extent, we were all self-conscious. But my
sensitivity was different. How different?
me tell you a story.
frigid February morning, our kind fireman neighbor gave me a ride to grade
school in his pickup truck. He got into the driver's side. His two youngest
daughters climbed into the middle of the front seat. These girls were
everything I wanted to be. They were stylish, pretty, and popular. They were
good at sports and they smelled like Jean Nate. Their family was comprised of
five beautiful sisters with blonde, silky hair, just like Barbie. And whether I
was wrong or right to think this, I felt like Igor anytime they were around.
I was this:
hopped into the truck last and closed the passenger door behind me—on my right thumb.
that’s not the weird part.
weird is that I looked at it and decided not to say anything. It’s only a few blocks to school. It won’t
be that bad. I turned to face front and when I did, in my peripheral
vision, I saw our neighbor and his daughters staring at me, horrified.
that your thumb in the door?” the middle daughter asked, her side ponytail
jostled just a bit as she talked.
tried to play it cool, “Huh? Look at that. Whoops!” I opened the door, calmly
removed my thumb, which was happily housed in a thick knitted mitten, and shut
the door again. I looked back at them and laughed a little, shrugged my shoulders
and rolled my eyes like, what are you gonna do? The old body part slammed
shut in a car door problem. When I got to school and removed my mitten, my
thumb was red and bleeding. But I still didn’t say anything. That
is the kind of self-consciousness I mean.
probably wondering why I so desperately needed to fly under the radar. That’s a
question I still ask myself, but it’s at least partially because I faced a
rising tide of social anxiety. I don’t mean run-of-the-mill
self-awareness, like, “Oh, do I have something in my teeth?” Nor do I mean the
mild fear of disapproval your average Jane experiences from time to time. My
social anxiety back then certainly didn’t fit the current definition of geek or nerd. Words that now make you imagine Tina Fey, Rivers Cuomo, or the latest Silicon Valley
billionaire.I want to tell you what it was like to be a nerd before
being a nerd was cool, and at risk of repeating myself here, it has a lot to do
This entry is vulnerable. You've been warned. It's 100% okay to skip this and poke around for the normal, happy geek stuff.
Well then, let's continue.
A few things have recently given me pause about claiming my identity as a geek. Not because I'm sorry or planning on changing it, and not because I'm deep and introspective, but because my therapist is literally making me. I struggle with anxiety in a way that's totally changed the course of my life and I think some of that has to do with the other side of the geek coin.
1. I've been editing an essay about the pain of standing out. It was originally part of my thesis...which was also about being a weird little kid. I'll post it after this. I want it to be funny. I want all the essays from my book to be funny. It's okay to laugh, healthy even. But there's something else.
Many people have remarked about how different the world is now and how much easier it is for those of us who love comic books and action movies and sciencey stuff. But it wasn't always that way. And it wasn't just pop culture that earned me my moniker. It was this.
Like...my face. And my clothes. And my clumsiness, social anxiety, and awkwardness. Everything was, in a word, terrible. (At school, anyway.) Until I met new friends in junior high who adopted me and taught me a little bit about how to blend. I desperately wanted to look like a girl and not like a sickly little boy, so the fact that my first new friend had a mom who was a professional hair stylist definitely proves there is a God and he is loving.
My efforts since that semi-traumatic childhood to reclaim those years of deep-seated vulnerability are what lead me to become a writer. I churned out nerd stuff for content farms starting in 2007. It was my day job. Because what else are you gonna do with all that knowledge sitting in your head from years of watching movies and tv? That content came out as half movie/tv reviews and half deep, psychological, trauma-based tips and tricks.
We had a friend over recently and we were looking at terrrrrrrrible old YouTube videos we made for a laugh. Even within some of my early theme park stuff from a decade ago, I was talking about panic attacks as a "joke". There are plenty of embarrassing entries here where you can really tell I'm trying to work something out psychologically.
And still today, I try to shrink myself away. I hide. I'm over-sensitive. I'm certain people hate me. I'm desperate for approval and belonging. That makes me a perfect mark for bullies sometimes. I can't even believe I'm saying that as a thirty-six-year-old woman. But I still do people's homework for them in a lot of ways. I still wear a kick-me sign, even if it's invisible. I'm petrified of getting in trouble or doing the wrong thing. And I HATE victim noise. But I'm telling you what anxiety has done to my life. I'm working really hard to change it. But it's been shockingly difficult.
It's...it's not cheerful experience is what I'm saying. It's deeply, deeply stressful. And sometimes very sad to see people roll their eyes and look relieved when I walk away because I'm such. a. spaz.
2. Yesterday, when I was searching for some public speaking tutorials for a client, I stumbled across this. And it ripped my heart out. Please be warned, this isn't for the faint of heart. I cried for a long, long, long time after I watched it. Steel yourself.
I have a loved one who survived a school shooting incident recently. It changed them forever. They're resilient and young and funny and beautiful. They'll be 100% fine with time. Maybe not 100%. Life chips away at everyone, right? But definitely 99%.
I'm watching them deal with some of the feelings I once struggled with in my youth, but like...times a million. Because theirs is mixed with the very real fear that they might die because they stand out. I don't want to say anymore because I respect their privacy so much, but I know that millions of kids...kids, you guys...are feeling the same way. And it just breaks my heart.
It's not a coincidence that my career has taken me into the world of simulations, where I spent three years poking and prodding at people's feelings, trying to get them to be more compassionate. I don't know where this entry is going. I just know that I'm in a moment in time that I hope is brief. I'm starting a new kind of therapy called EMDR. I tweet and delete about it all the time. But I'm wondering if this journey I'm on might help someone else. So maybe more tweet, less delete going forward.
That's where I am today. Kinda raw-nervey. Kinda sleepless and anxious. Writing down bad memories and identifying triggers and looking, really looking, at how much my life has orbited around the sensitivity that developed from the early traumas of standing out in a negative way.
I don't have a neat little wrap-up for this right now. But let's see where this goes, eh?
I couldn't sleep last night and I just kept thinking about that Rambo meme where he's giving the thumbs up. You know, this one?
I got curious about where it started and found Thumbs and Ammo, an entire website/subculture where people replace guns from iconic movie scenes with the thumbs up gesture. The juxtaposition is always hilarious. Always.
Makes me want to revisit Be Kind, Rewind, Michel Gondry's excellent treatise on how movie geekdom has the potential to unite the community. There's power in masses of people gathering to share an experience. We mostly think of film-going as an isolated occasion. Funny, isn't it? With so many of us sharing the same theater. The same mythos and emotional arcs.
Here's another video that explores the subject of deeper meanings in familiar stories. The segment on Neverending Story, in particular, really makes you think.
Back in high school, my friend Sara and I spent many a weekend crowded around her PC exploring the intrigue of Myst. We also spent a lot of time reenacting Tom Baker episodes of Dr. Who. Needless to say...we were pretty cool.
When I stumbled across this video yesterday, it made for an excellent, engaging Sunday watch. Definitely a time capsule worth opening.
Did you play? Do you miss it? What do you hope Cyan tackles next?