How would you define a nerd? Non-athletic, smart, anti-social and obsessed with some facet of culture (movies, books, video games, etc.) are terms I’ve heard.
How about a jock? Words like athletic, dumb, popular and obsessed, this time with improvement (working out, practicing for their respective sport) are often used.
Now compare the lists. Almost every trait’s opposite is present in the other list. These terms are regarded as opposites, two ends of a spectrum. I hate this spectrum partially because people have tried to put me at both ends, and it just doesn’t work. I am a dedicated runner. This past fall I made the state cross country team and finished 37th out of 103 in the most competitive class in the state. I also love books, especially sci-fi and fantasy, video games and trading card games.
As humans we like to put people in little boxes, but boxes are limiting and almost dehumanizing. When I was younger, I was terrified of people knowing that I was a massive Pokemon fan. I was afraid people would make fun of me. I thought that if I was a nerd, people would make fun of me, and I would be looked down on. People wouldn’t like me.
I got into running and sports late, but by then I had already been labeled as “the smart kid.” Despite my athletic ability, I would find it incredibly insulting now to be labeled a just a jock. I am proud of my intelligence, and the thought that someone would discredit my mental abilities because I like to stay in shape is upsetting. Everyone deserves to be accepted. Everyone deserves to do what they enjoy without being judged.
Now consider this scenario. Thousands of people get dressed up in costumes and face paint, and join hundreds of thousands of other people to see franchises that they adore and follow almost religiously. I just described both the Super Bowl and Comic-Con. So why are they seen as opposites when they are eerily similar? Why is one more socially acceptable to go to than another?
We are just biased in our thinking of these groups, of creating division where there should be similarities. They keep us from seeing the amazing gifts and talents that others have. I have a friend that is a 6-foot, 210-pound football player that could probably build a functioning car out of duct tape, rubber bands, and Popsicle sticks and is fanatical about video games. Another friend has the layout of multiple cities and almost all of the presidents memorized, has won several spelling bees and runs an average of 8 miles every day. So keep your mind that people are not as cardboard cutouts that you can classify with a glance. We’re all beautiful, unique and impossible to ever fully understand.
The Wichita Eagle’s TeenTalk board is made up of teens who write columns and features for the Eagle. Reach the writers c/o firstname.lastname@example.org