Once upon a time, John Green, author of Paper Towns, invented the concept of the Nerdfighter while video blogging with his brother, Hank. What are Nerdfighters, you ask? Nerdfighters are nerds who fight the awful things in the world (also known as ”worldsuck”) using whatever powers they possess—not superpowers or strength, but obscure knowledge and geekiness: the bando busts evil ear drums with her sonic flute, the journalism dork kicks ass with an expose in the school paper on the horrible chemistry teacher, the math geek fights the scourge of the popular kids with his, uh…. calculator.
Nerdfighters are so amazing that they are not even made of matter. They are made of awesome.
When John and Hank put their vlogs on YouTube, geeky and awkward youth everywhere responded.
And I did, too. So, I guess that makes me a Nerd Mom. Nerdfighters have created and donated to charity projects in massive numbers (see Hank’s response to the first annual Project for Awesome–there have now been three, to date), vlogged by the hundreds with candlelight vigils for Rwanda, and come out of their nerdy, sometimes lonely shells to sing funny, poignant songs, share their great ideas, and challenge one another to use their awesomeness for the greater good. I want to be one of them. Is that really so ridiculous?
Let’s be honest. That super-smart kid who could do calculus in sixth grade and blew the curve in every class you ever had together in high school used to piss people off. He was ostracized and teased because he cared more about getting to the next level of the latest video game than he cared about wearing clothes that fit. Maybe it was the kid who could recite Shakespeare’s sonnets by heart, or the kid who sat alone at lunch obsessively reading comic books.
Wait–were you that kid? Was it e.e. cummings instead of Shakespeare? Or a guitar instead of a comic book? Come on, you can tell me–you were on the ass-end of the college dorm pecking order or blackballed from a sorority, or something, because you were just. Too. Weird. Right?
Yeah. Me, too.
I’ll admit it. I was the kid whose parents dressed her up for the Renaissance Faire, sent her to writing and computer programming classes, and introduced her to Dungeons & Dragons (at age eight, no less). My family moved from small-town northern California to L.A. at the onset of puberty–not an easy transition, I assure you. I survived by devouring the school library until I became the Sci-Fi Nerd who preferred the out-there worlds of Asimov and Heinlein to the real world, a world full of people who’d known each other since elementary school and weren’t interested in giving me the time of day. Only the other Honors English geeks understood. And I never got that close to them, either. Man, do I wish I’d known about Hank and John Green back in High School.
Today, I’m proud to tell the world that I’m a 38 year old Nerd Mom. I still feel out of place in my rich, Silicon Valley neighborhood, even after nine plus years. I don’t wear make-up. I get my hair cut once a year. I wear jeans and a pony tail to work–in fact, I’m often mistaken for one of my students. My favorite book? The beat-up, coverless thesaurus that is never far from my right hand. (Okay, a new Orson Scott Card novel can still turn my head in a bookstore.) I take Wing Chun Kung-Fu, not yoga. I like to draw cartoons on the walls.
I consider myself a Geography/Writer Nerdfighter, out to enlighten the world about things like over-population, ethnocentrism, climate change, and orographic lifting. And you?
What kind of Nerdfighter do you aspire to be?
Doesn’t it feel positive and wonderful to see your “shortcomings” of the past as strengths? Now imagine telling your shy, confused, depressed, and/or awkward teen that he or she could be one, too. Tell them their abilities can help them do good in the world. What will they do with all of that personal power? Forget the sky—the freaking Universe is the limit.
How would you fight worldsuck?
Would you take down the evil junk food czars of America with a Healthy Eating viral marketing scheme? Or create a netroots movement bent on formulating a school policy to stop cyber bullying in your local schools and beyond? If you found yourself riding the fail caboose at work, would you turn it around and become a driving force, like the backward-facing, north-bound CalTrain?
Okay, so maybe I’m still too dorky for you and this is just more annoying crap in your otherwise generally annoying day. That’s okay. I’m used to it. But…try this. When you send your kid off to school tomorrow, tell them, “DFTBA!”
But don’t tell them what it means–make them look it up.
Then you’ll know for sure what you have on your hands.
DFTBA. [Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.]
Heck, even us grown-ups could use some of that.
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