Full disclosure: I am a full-blown adult nerd.
Nerd is a pretty broad term—sometimes it’s science nerds, or book nerds, or fandom nerds. But really it just means that you’re extremely passionate about something and you like to show it. You exhibit your emotions and feelings about what you love and that’s okay.
For me, being an adult nerd has been a great way to relieve stress and have fun. I’m a pretty enormous Harry Potter nerd, as well as a social media nerd (do I have fellow Tumblr friends out there?), a young adult novel nerd, not to mention the dozens of other fandoms (fan communities) I dabble in. I love getting into passionate discussions with my friends about the intricacies of the house system at Hogwarts or the latest Vlogbrothers video on YouTube. It’s a hobby that’s not only fun for me, but also engaging and empowering.
When I was 22, I jumped head first into the world of fandoms. Through a few chance encounters, my need to have something to do outside of work, a roommate with a common love of Harry Potter, and a desire to not hide my own nerdy obsessions any longer, I quickly found myself knee-deep in fandom. I started volunteering for The Harry Potter Alliance, an organization that engages youth and fandom communities in social justice through parallels from the Harry Potter books and other novels, TV shows, and movies. What I found within that organization was not only a cause I could believe in and enjoy simultaneously, but also a group of friends and colleagues who helped me realize how indulging in our passions improves our daily lives. This encouragement has pushed me to find my other passions, and more than three years later I am heavily involved in many communities.
Through things such as The Harry Potter Alliance, Nerdfighteria, Tumblr communities, LeakyCon, and so much more, I have come to find networks of friends that I would have never been exposed to otherwise. They are friends I would have never been exposed to just through college and work—friends who make YouTube videos for a living, who work for entirely online non-profits, who go to conventions all over the country and get paid to do it. We live all over the world and yet we are able to form true, close friendships based entirely off of our shared enthusiasm. I never thought I’d meet some of my best friends online but it only makes sense now considering how much we have in common.
As an adult, however, I can often see the more difficult sides of nerd communities. Sexism, ableism, and racism are not uncommon, especially in communities heavily dominated by a specific group—cosplayers constantly face discrimination based on body type, gamers are often pegged as mysognyistic for how they treat women who try to join the traditionally all male community, and comic fans are defensive of anyone who claims to be a true fan but doesn’t know every single detail of a story. Every community has them, even the most inclusive and welcoming of them. Assimilating into the cultures we love can take a lot of conviction, especially when we don’t always fit the mold. Not to mention that the social aspect of these communities can be difficult to break into, especially if you don’t know what to expect. But the more atypical members who join these communities, the more changes will permeate them.
To me, being an adult nerd is about not allowing ourselves to hide from who we are. For those who have been nerds all our lives: our passions as teenagers are still part of our passions as adults and it’s okay to keep those interests alive even as we age. At twenty-five I’m more enthusiastic than ever about my nerdy passions and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. I look forward to the day I get to pass those passions on to my own children and share in them as they too learn the world of fandom, stories, and nerdy obsessions. For those who are just now discovering geekdom, don’t be pressured away from finding new interests and new ways to express yourself—it only goes up from here!
Photo by Meaghan Morrison