I love birthdays, and this is the last Fangirl Thursday before I turn the big 2-7 next week. Birthdays always seem to make me nostalgic now (Maybe that’s a side-effect of getting older.), so today I’ve been thinking a lot about who I was 10 years ago—the 17-year-old nerdy girl about to embark on her last year of high school before entering a big, scary future. And then it hit me—some of you reading this might be 17 years old right now (or even younger), and I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted today’s Fangirl Thursday post to be about.
Letters have been very important to me lately, so today I’m going to write another one. However, this time I’m going to write to a real person—the person I was 10 years ago. Maybe—hopefully—those of you reading this at a similar point in your life will find something good to take away from it. And maybe those of you who feel like sharing could write some advice you’d give your younger self in the comments.
I feel like I’m writing this to you from the other side of a canyon. So the first thing I want to say to you is simply this: You make it to the other side. There are times when it’s going to be scary and lonely and difficult—times when you feel like you’re going to crash if you look down—but you make it. You reach a place where you feel comfortable in your skin, where you feel proud not just of what you accomplish but of who you are—all of who you are. Your life isn’t perfect 10 years into the future—and it’s certainly not what you think it’s going to be in 2005—but you’re happy. And trust me, you’re going to reach a point where that becomes the most important thing, even though it’s going to take you a lot longer than it should to reach that point.
You’re a nerd, Katie, and you need to stop acting like that’s something you need to hide from people. It’s a part of you—the part that cries when you think about Alias ending, the part that downloads fan videos about Charlie from Lost, the part that still reads Star Wars fan fiction (You never stop doing that, by the way.)…Being a nerdy girl isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s something to own with pride. Ten years from now, it’s going to be the way you define yourself to the world at large, and no one who matters is going to think less of you for it. In fact, proudly calling yourself a nerd is going to draw people to you like never before.
You care a lot, and I know that sometimes it bothers you to feel things as strongly as you do—especially when it comes to how much you care about your favorite movies, TV shows, and books. It makes you feel weird sometimes, so you try not to show how much things matter to you. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to care about things. It’s okay to love things deeply and to never want to stop talking about them. It’s okay to spend hours reading Harry Potter message boards or memorizing your favorite Disney World planning book. What’s not okay is making fun of yourself for it in front of other people. There’s a line between not taking yourself too seriously and not taking yourself seriously enough. It’s going to take years for you to figure out how to walk that line, but people are eventually going to respect you for the things you’re afraid they’ll mock you for now.
The world isn’t kind to teenage girls. I know you feel like your passion for things is a joke to people older than you, but forget them. Don’t listen to anyone who wants to make you feel small or silly for liking what you like. Don’t lose that passion, and don’t be afraid to show it more often. Don’t let people silence you because you’re afraid of being made fun of for talking about what you love. I know it’s scary to be sincere, but it’s worth it. There’s a whole world of people out there talking about what they love with the same passion you have. Find them. Hold on to them. Join them.
I know you read those SD-1 message boards and dream of being a part of the kind of community you’re too afraid to join right now. I’m here to tell you that one day you’ll stop being afraid. It’ll be another few years and another few TV shows from now, but you’ll stop lurking in the shadows of fandom. And it will make you so happy. You’ll find whole communities and chosen families of people who understand you and support you. With their help, you’ll become more comfortable showing your whole self to the rest of the world.
That’s the biggest thing I want to tell you—it may seem like you have to jump over the canyon on your own. But that isn’t true at all. There will be times when you have to take leaps of faith and go it alone. But most of the time, you’ll find people who will want to help you make a bridge from one side to the other. You don’t know what this means right now because you won’t meet Leslie Knope for a long time, but “no one achieves anything alone.” You’re going to meet so many wonderful people in the next 10 years, and you need to know that most of them come into your life and stay there because you’re a nerd—not despite it.
The world wants to tell teenage girls like you that it’s not cool to care. But I know that you know better. You’ll never be cynical, but you’ll waste too much time trying to be because you think that’s what adults need to be in order to be taken seriously. I’m here to tell you that’s a bunch of junk. Love Disney unashamedly. Hope every single year for the Bills and Sabres to have great seasons. Talk openly and honestly about being moved by the stories and characters you love. You’re a nerd. And here’s a little secret—so is everyone else. Most people are still just too afraid to embrace their ability to care about things. I know you don’t always feel brave, but embracing your nerdy side makes you braver than you ever thought you could be. It changes your life in ways you’ll never expect.
You’re a nerdy girl, and your future is infinitely brighter because of that.