It’s not always easy being a nerd. There’s always going to be someone telling you that you care too much about “just” things: “just a TV show,” “just a book,” just a band,” “just a sports team,” etc. There are always going to be people who judge you for your emotional investment in fictional worlds and characters. And there are always going to be people who think that there are better, more productive ways to spend your time than reading, watching TV, or writing about things that make you think and feel.
That’s exactly why we as nerds need support systems—people who encourage our nerdy sides, foster our passions, and help us find even more things to become invested in.
I have a wonderfully large nerdy support system—from all of you lovely readers and commenters here at NGN and my friends who will talk for hours with me about books and TV shows to my cousins who are just as nerdy as I am, my father who’s taught me so much about sports fandom, and my sister who’s my favorite TV-watching partner. However, there’s one person who is at the heart of that support system—one person who first opened my eyes to what would become one my life’s biggest passions and has encouraged that passion ever since—and it happens to be her birthday today.
That person is my mom. When I was a bored preteen looking for things to read, my mom led me to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby, and my life was never the same. In introducing me to those two books, my mom introduced me to my future—analyzing the pieces of media that make me think and feel the most deeply. As a reader herself, my mom knew the value of books and just how much of an impact they can leave on you, and I’m so thankful she passed that appreciation for the value of great literature on to me.
My mom is quite possibly the most genuinely supportive person I’ve ever known, and she’s always encouraged me to follow paths that I’ve chosen for myself, paths that make me happy. When I began talking about starting NGN, my mom was one of my biggest supporters, encouraging me to write for myself again and to do something I really enjoy with my writing.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my mom over the years is to be true to yourself, even if people don’t think you’re “cool” for it. I’m a nerd, and my mom has always encouraged that part of me. She never tells me to stop investing my emotions in things I care about; she never tells me it’s weird to cry over a TV show or movie or book. Instead, my mom is often right there in the living room with my sister and I, offering her own strong opinions on the media we’re consuming together. My mom loves Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, thinks Hook is a great match for Emma on Once Upon a Time, could watch this season’s finale of The Mindy Project over and over again, and thinks John Green’s sense of humor in The Fault in Our Stars doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. In other words, she’s one of us.
If I want to talk about an episode of Castle, my mom is always willing to listen. If I want to share a good book that I read, I know my mom will often take my recommendations. And just by knowing that, I know that I have someone in my life who continuously fosters the part of me that keeps this site running.
I’m the nerdy girl I am today in no small part because of my mom and her encouragement—from the first books we read together when I was little through my gushing to her this morning about the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance.
Now I want to turn the tables on you and ask: Who in your life encourages your nerdy side?
Like you, my mom has always been supportive on my fangirl side, especially as a teenager. She drove me to McDonalds and Burger King to collect the NSYNC and BSB CDs that came with the kids meals, depending on which band I liked at the time. She listened to me talk about each piece of Gilmore Girls and CSI during commercial breaks, and always encouraged my love of reading.
These days, my biggest fangirl support comes from you, Nikki, Leah, and the community you’ve built here. You guys reignited my love of fandom and being passionate after a few dormant years and are still my go-to people for all my feelings about various shows and ships.
I feel like our mom’s would have a lot of stories to share about driving their daughters to fast food restaurants in search of limited edition boy band CDs, because my mom definitely did that for me, too. 😉
I’m so happy I can be any small part I can be in your fangirl support system because you’re such a huge part of mine, too. ❤
“There are always going to be people who judge you for your emotional investment in fictional worlds and characters. And there are always going to be people who think that there are better, more productive ways to spend your time than reading, watching TV, or writing about things that make you think and feel.”
So many times I found myself in that place and I always felt like something was wrong with me, I was like:” why do I care so much about that character? Why do I spent my time talking about something that most people doesn’t know about?” It hurted me and it made me feel strange. I tried to hide this side of me but i learnt to accept it and be proud of it also thanks to a memory of my grandmother. She loved watching soap operas, one especially,The Guiding Light, and she was so invested in it. she wasn’t just an ordinary watcher, she was a fan. She commented the episodes and characters’ actions with us, her grandchildren when we found us at her place and we always laughed so much, ’cause she was so passionate about it. At some poit this memory made me think:”well, the nerd side must run in our DNA!”
My mum also opened my eyes to this world and supported it in some way, even if she has never noticed it. She made me fall in love with the movie from her youth and the books she loved when she was a young girl.
You know, here in Italy we have dinner at 8pm usually and we watch television while having dinner and at that time of the day the most important tv news edition is on, so normally everyone watches it.sometimes when I was a pre teen/teenager at that moment of the day on another chanel some pretty tv show was on but everytime I asked my mum if it was possible for me to eat and watch that tv show in the sitting room instead of eating with everybody in the kitchen watching the news she never said no. She would even ask me what happened in the episode. And even now when I have some tv show live streaming at 2 or 3 am and I tell her :”Ehi mum, look I’m watching an episode online at 3 am, don’t worry if you hear some noises”, she never answers me with something like:” you’re 32 years old, grow up!” instead she’s like:” ok but don’t go to sleep too late when it finishes!”
She knows also that books are life to me and she always asks me for reading advices and she supports my writing passion.
My sisters too are my support system, with them I can show my nerd side in all its glory and when we talk about tv shows, books or writing I feel really loved and accepted.
This whole comment made me smile. I’m so happy you also have family members who support you and the things you care about. 😀
I love reading about everyone’s nerd encouragement! Your mother sounds awesome, and its always great to hear when parents are supportive or even the source of their children’s passions.
For me, I definitely got my nerdiness from my Dad. My parents got divorced when I was a wee 1 year old, so I never grew up living with him. We had an every other weekend kinda deal growing up, but those weekends were when my nerd was allowed to flourish. He taught me how to read off of a Kool-aid Man comic book we got at the grocery store. He took me to see the remastered Star Wars in the theaters. He lent me his copy of ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. He bought me my first rubik cube. He would go out a purchase every movie version of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ he could find and we would watch them together (he also took me to see it live in SF for my 13th birthday, also, my favorite is the 1943 version where Christine snubs both men to focus on her career and the men to get a drink together). So yes, the nerd definitely came from him. But I think the most important thing my Dad ever taught me was that liking nerdy things was never something to be ashamed of or hidden away. The fact was, my Dad was (and still is) a huge nerd. Heck he used to record Deep Space Nine on the VCR. But at the same time, my Dad is by far the coolest person I know. He plays every instrument known to man, and still plays in multiple bands as a hobby. He has a huge network of friends and is well loved by everyone. Along with that Rubik cube he was giving me Pink Floyd albums at 12. I always tell people that the most important life lesson my Dad taught me was that you can be a huge nerd and still be the coolest person in the room. That’s my Dad. You cant put him in a category, because he is doesn’t fit into any. And because of that, I always grew up owning and taking pride of the nerd in me, because it always felt like any other normal part of me, like playing golf and liking the color green. I have never hidden it, and always embraced it. And while I learned pretty early that others didn’t get as excited about TV or playing Civilization II on the computer as I did, I never felt weird because of it, I just went on the Internet and found online friends to supplement the gaps.
I think we live in an age where all people are starting to embrace their nerd sides and people are growing up more like I did, unapologetically, and I am really excited to see that, because I think it was a great way to grow up.
Extra story about how awesome my Dad is, when I was in the middle of my X-Files obsession, one weekend he told me we should learn how to play the theme on the piano, so we sat there for hours listening to the theme over and over until he figured out the notes (you couldn’t find thing like that online yet in the 90s) and taught me how to play it.
I love hearing all of these fabulous stories about parents supporting their kids as we’ve grown up nerdy and proud. Your dad sounds awesome, and I love that he’s the kind of person who can be both a nerd and the coolest person in the room—because those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts, as he proved to you as you were growing up.
Growing up nerdy is the best way to grow up, and I’m happy to think more and more kids are growing up believing that.
I loved what you wrote about your mom and what folks here have written so far. I love understanding the connective tissue of how people become who they are. I have a great set of parents who have always believed in me and wanted me to be happy. Knowing that they would be proud of me if I became a Supreme Court Justice or a maid in a local hotel as long as l was happy gave me the freedom to explore what I was interested in. My parents are high school educated, blue collar and came to the U.S. when they were close to teenagers. So their dreams for themselves and their family were from a strong sense of hard work and humility. My love of theater, movies, music, Star Wars, school were all things that were atypical among my extended family growing up. But my parents lack of personal interest never dampened their encouragement of mine. As a parent now, I value that humility and confidence even more now as an adult.
That said, when I thought about the question who encourages your nerdy side, one name immediately came to mind — Mr. Randazzo. Mr. Randazzo was my high school band director. He was my real life Mr. Holland’s Opus. I was a kid on the verge of quitting band in junior high. I loved playing, but I wasn’t fond of the director in my Junior High. Mr. Randazzo guest conducted our band one week and I was hooked. Hooked on the infectious energy he brought to music, hooked on the absolute joy that radiated out of him when he picked up a baton. I wasn’t the best or the most talented student to walk through Mr. Randazzo’s classroom, not by a long shot. But I was someone who shared his love for the camaraderie that came from being a band geek. I ate it up like candy and Mr. Randazzo not only recognized it in me, he believed in me in all the things I did. He was the person who taught me what it was to love what you do in life. His passion for music and teaching was self evident, his gift of sharing it renowned. Mr. Randazzo introduced me to jazz, expanded my love of classical music and proved on a daily basis that when you come from a place of passion, love and joy what other people think doesn’t really matter and it certainly doesn’t matter than what you believe. He was a die hard Yankee fan and a lover of Kander and Ebb. His band room was littered with trinkets and mementos of his geekdom and fandom. He wore it on his sleeves and made it hip to be square. One of my great memories of the glorious three years I spent as his student was our senior band trip. We were in Pennsylvania for a competition and not only did the ‘what to bring’ instructions inform us of our need for water guns for the trip Mr. Randazzo went across the parking lot of the hotel and convinced the branch manager to give him the key that opened the water hose along the side of the building so we wouldn’t have to go back and forth into the hotel to reload. We then proceeded to hold the be all, end all water gun fight of all time. 80 kids and him with the other chaperones serving as referees. Bus vs Bus for over an hour. We were soaked, giddy and happy and no one was happier than him.
My parents always supported me and gave me the freedom to chose my own path. Mr. Randazzo showed me what it meant to do so with passion and joy.
I love this comment so much. Teachers and directors and coaches can have such a huge impact on the lives of the young people they interact with. It makes me smile to see just how happy your band director made you and how that happiness has impacted so much of your life. Positive and passionate people make the world a brighter and more beautiful place, and this comment was a testament to that. I don’t even know this man beyond what you wrote about him, but I want to be like him. I want to help people understand the importance of joy—and I want to organize an epic water gun fight ASAP. 😉