Nerd Life: On Milestones

So, in the past couple of posts there have been a handful of references to a personal day of note and/or goings on in the second half of this month.

Oh yeah, what's that all about Kel?

A week from today I will be turning 30. No, not 29 for the second time; 3-0.

Normally I'm not especially into celebrating my own birthday. Hell, I usually don't even like to write about myself on here beyond observations and anecdotes that are hopefully of use to you, the reader. The Care and Feeding of Nerds is meant to be an informational exchange on a variety of subjects that fall under the purview of Geekdom, not a LiveJournal and I make a concerted effort to ensure that one does not devolve into the other. However, these posts ostensibly aren't conjured from the ether and sometimes personal experience can touch on a larger phenomenon within Nerdery.


In this case, it's the notion of staring down a numerical threshold that has some measure of social "weight" to it. I say social because I have no illusions about the physical act of aging. Oxidation at the cellular level will occur whether I want it do or not; my ability to fast twitch certainly isn't what it used to be. This sort of biological degradation can be forestalled and ameliorated and concealed for a time, but is ultimately inevitable. Furthermore, the actual number is semi-arbitrary. If I'd been born in another hemisphere, I'd be turning 31.

Given this, my focus is the amorphous concept of aging both in terms of one's own mindset and as an individual being regarded within the public sphere. Public in this case refers to both our nerdy subculture and the muggle populace we interact with every day.

Why does it even matter? You are who you are and to hell with anyone who gives you guff!   

That's true, to an extent. The notion of 'public' interaction might make more sense if you've ever planned a wedding or had a baby. You know that year after you graduated university how far too many people felt it was perfectly fine to shoot you all sorts of invasive questions and unsolicited advice? Yeah, as you reach and plow through various milestones that whole nonsense metastasizes at an exponential rate. Much as you may try to brush it off, this sort of run-on collective consciousness has a way of getting to you.

It's been a while, but if you remember back to last year when we first talked about what defines a nerd/geek, one of the fundamental identifiers was the following: 

-   There are given subjects (or subsets within a subject) that you LOVE. These subjects may be considered 'normal' by an outside observer but, more likely, they are obscure, complex, or not-deemed-age-appropriate by the general populace.

The general consensus by the non-geeky populace is that our fanatical love for the very subject matter that would garner the 'nerd' moniker in the first place is illustrative of our stubborn refusal to grow up. The burgeoning prevalence of the "man-child" archetype, particularly in visual media, is evidence of this. Despite the fact that we are currently in the midst of the Nerdaissance, with arguably more geeky properties breaking into more facets of present culture than ever before, the idea of actually loving and appreciating the source material beyond "I tune in to watch every week" is regarded as obsessive, particularly once you reach a certain age. It's assumed that, by 30, there are far more productive and appropriate ways to with which to spend our time. You should be mowing your lawn and attending PTA meetings, not painting minis or spending an afternoon engrossed in a game of Twilight Imperium.

We've also discussed the fact that our subculture is often fraught with contention when we regard one another's nerd cred, so there's an added layer of friction that we tend to bring on ourselves with regard to our all-important body of geeky knowledge.

Not to get all gender-y on you guys, but this sort of scrutiny tends to be heightened when it's a female caught in the crosshairs of the public gaze. On the one hand, there's the omnipresent potential to have to "prove" yourself as a nerd to your brethren, which does not diminish with time. Concurrently there's this sort of voiceless chorus extolling you to not only to have all facets of your life beautifully tied together, but also to be the anchor and persistent reality check to any male significant other you have (if you happen to be straight). If the "man-child" is the burgeoning stereotype for geeky guys, we nerdy ladies are dealt the role of overwrought harpy pseudo-mother whose sole purpose is to nag our "man-children" into functional adulthood.

Um. How's about no.

Add to all this the deeply conflicting narratives both genders receive throughout their late teens and into their 20s. We're told to live it up and revel in a few decades of youthful freedom, but are then admonished for not having our proverbial shit together by the time we reach 30. As awesome as it would be, we can't have it both ways. But, in all honesty, anyone with two functioning neurons can parse out which of the narratives is sound and which is unadulterated malarkey. Responsibility should be ingrained, not thrust upon you. If you reach your third decade of this life and cannot attend to the consequences of your own actions then there is truly little recourse for you.  Seriously, if I hear "30 is the new 20" one more time I will punch someone in the throat.

30 is not the new 20. 30, regardless of how you finagle or factor or compute it, is still 30. 

What's truly nefarious about this whole rigmarole is that it's all set up to be a series of hyperbolic dichotomies. There's no regard given to the concept of balance outside the HR department of your workplace, nor are various subcultures made to exist on any sort of spectrum. It's a whole bunch of "Are you an adult or are you a nerd?"  "Are you a responsible muggle or a man-child/harpy geek?" "Aren't you a little old to be gaming?"

All that, right there, is complete bullshit.

There is absolutely nothing, aside from laziness, that prevents a person from simultaneously being a comic book fanatic/RPG addict/cosplayer and a homeowner/business professional/good spouse. In fact, many of the skills from some nerdy pastimes could be readily translated into the commercial sphere. We've already seen that we can be a formidable consumer demographic. Moreover, our community, fractured as it can be, would benefit immensely from solid examples of individuals who are both overtly nerdy and "successful" in the traditional sense. We're entirely capable of a rich and balanced existence, we just have to want to make it happen.

Here's to making it happen. To games and costumes, classes and careers, friends and conventions and all this life has to offer.

Here's to you guys, and to making the most of the next decade.

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