This is a difficult post for me to write.
A few months back, I discovered that history was to be scrapped from my school’s curriculum for the remainder of my secondary school life. We were to be stripped of the subject without so much as an apology, and as a student who had been set on taking history for a number of years yet, it came as a bit of a blow to my confidence.
I felt betrayed by the teachers and school board members who, just a couple of weeks earlier, had celebrated our win at one of the region’s biggest academic competitions with a history project that had taken us almost a term to prepare. The project was extensive, exhaustive even, but I actually really enjoyed working on it. For the most part my school is great, it really is, full of supportive people and staff, so for that reason I won’t reveal details of the competition’s prize fund. What I will say is that we were shocked when we heard the history department would be seeing none of the prize money. Not a penny. Of course, we quickly learned why.
I’ve always been good at history, but had never before considered the fact that I might love it so much as to be deserving of the label history geek. I’d always felt relief entering a history classroom after a bad day in maths or a particularly mind-bending set of equations in compulsory physics, but when I realized I really loved it as a subject, I couldn’t stand the idea of seeing it taken away. I chose to do what we as people – and as geeks – do best: I fought to save the thing I loved. I fought to keep history on my school’s curriculum, and I won.
What I did have was the support of some close friends, family and a few teachers who were willing to back one girl’s academic dream. I had found something I could really fight for, no matter how inconsequential that fight might seem to others, and that changed me.
And maybe, even having won, it still won’t make a difference. Not to other people, not to the decision the school will have to make next year when the time to make budget cuts and schedule classes rolls around again. But if it does, if it makes me a more dedicated, enthusiastic, hard-working person, if it means I will have the courage to continue standing up for my beliefs, then I’ll be glad I did it. If it makes me even more of a geek than I already knew I was, then I’ll be even happier. Geek is a label I’m proud to wear.
We are not just geeks. We are not people who subscribe to one way of living or one way of being. We are diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultured. We are smart, focused, funny, intense, infuriating, individual, stunning. We are daring, we are brave, we are defiant. We are many.
We are human beings, and we have a right to not be judged, to suffer in any way just because we fit into some kind of bizarre social category someone came up with when there was no other place to put us.
We are so many different things they had to invent a label for us, people.
How could you not be proud of something like that?
I recently found out that some other students have come forward to sign up for the 90 minutes of history class we managed to secure. Maybe they just didn’t have the courage to do anything before; maybe they’re geeks in disguise. Maybe they’ll hate me for adding to the heavy workload which will invariably follow as September rolls around. I don’t know.
I do know that I used to be afraid of admitting that I love to learn, that I love history and books (and horses) beyond all imagining, but I’m not afraid anymore. I chose to fight for something despite the fact that it would prove beyond all reasonable doubt that I am a geek and always have been, because to me, being called a geek feels like a privilege. A wonderful, ironic, beautiful privilege, because it makes me part of one of the most strongly bonded communities on the planet, and that goes against everything the geek stereotype tells us to be.
If I hadn’t been a geek, I wouldn’t have had my first experience of being the change you want to see in the world. The change I fought for is a small one – but it makes me think that maybe I could fight for bigger things, too.
If, in my future, I can be a force for good, or just part of a force for good, if I can help a person who was sad yesterday be happy tomorrow, then I will have lived my life in a way that makes me marginally worthy of the geek label.
Some of the most brilliant people on earth are geeks. Michelle and Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates – you’ve heard it all before. There are people in history who would definitely be geeks if they were alive today. Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and pioneer of early computer technology? A total geek. Mary Shelley, creator of one of the most legendary monsters known to fiction? She wrote Frankenstein while on a holiday that would so entirely count as a writer’s retreat today that aspiring authors would be lining up to just absorb some of its inspirational geekiness.
All of these geeks have something in common: they found something they believed in – jobs, ambitions, books, ideas – and they fought for it, worked for it.
We are geeks. We are strong. We are passionate. We are beautiful people, and we are worth so much more than the definition a single label can give us.
I’ve always been a geek. I’ve suffered for it and lost hope because of it. A couple of years ago, I came to terms with the fact that I am a geek and probably couldn’t change that even if I wanted to, but this year was the first time I used my geekhood to make a change in my world. It was the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing thing I’ve ever done, and now I know who I really am. I’m proud of who I am.