I had an interesting conversation with one of my younger cousins the other day. I was searching for Lord of the Rings unabridged audiobooks (haha, nice try, Abby) online, and not for the first time that evening I was reminded by her that the things I like are either lame, weird or generally uncool (apparently there is no saving grace for audiobooks [I never found out the reason] and Lord of the Rings is weird [this is true in a partial sense I suppose, but I was definitely offended more by the implication of its lacking quality than by my own strangeness]). I don’t think she meant any harm by the comment (she’s still pretty young and as I recall I had almost no filter myself at that age), perhaps trying to be helpful in steering me away from nerdy things (good luck) or exercising a rampant curiosity, but it brings up an interesting point that I’ve been considering for, oh, several years now, which is simply this: I am super okay with not being cool.
I think there are several reasons for this.
- The vast majority of the things that interest me have never been particularly popular. Fantasy, sci-fi, classic novels, comics, anime, D&D, Shakespeare. To me the sweeping scale of such things are a source of wonder and delight, the depth of some of the worlds astounding, the characters personal heroes. I have learned much of how I want to live my life from just such stories, the contrasts between good and evil, how to fight it, courage, friendship, integrity, communal responsibility. These are things which capture my heart and attention, which call me to greater creativity and integrity in my own life, and while each of these hobbies and genres certainly has its own following, many of them exceedingly vast, I wouldn’t argue that (with rare exception) any of them are (or at least have historically been) popular if you come at it from the mainstream direction, often for very poor reasons.
- The vast majority of the things that are supposed to be mainstream hardly interest me at all. Again, with rare exception, most of the things that are seen as popular or, more significantly, the things you have to do to be popular, don’t hold any appeal. I don’t keep up on current culture, I don’t like most top 40 music, heck, I don’t know almost any of the people my young cousin informed me are great. This has been true of me for almost my entire life. I remember thinking years ago that I couldn’t wait until it was acceptable for me to be culturally unaware (in that sense of the phrase). Now that I am, I’m delighted, and I suspect such a feeling will only grow the longer I live.
- I’m a Christian, which means if the world at large is terribly fond of me, I’m probably doing something wrong. Now I don’t mean to say that as a Christian I should go running around making people hate me on purpose, but it is something that’s basically promised in the Bible. John 15:19 says “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Again, this doesn’t mean that I go around trying to tick people off, it just means that if I’m truly living the life that I want to live as a child of God, there’s going to be some friction. It also means, to my understanding, that if I spend all of my time pandering to the altar of popularity, I’m doing something wrong, a topic which for the sake of this post is just a little too big to get into now.
- Lastly, being cool (at least in the eyes of mainstream culture) wouldn’t improve anything about my life right now and I honestly don’t think that it ever could. I’ve never been popular, and all the time I tried to be in middle school was essentially miserable. I spent so much time chasing after the approval of others, taking on their interests, trying to please them, and I didn’t enjoy half of it. Since pursuing the things that I love, since resting in His approval, I’m in a better place than I think I’ve ever been. I have people that love me for who I am, people who share my interests (if you seriously pursue your passions, you will eventually find people who share them, even if you don’t know where they are now), five wonderful books full of wonderful people, and hobbies that I can fully enjoy without having to worry whether or not other people think it’s cool.
Now, I’m not saying that being popular or well liked is bad or that society’s approval has no place (as I said above, communal responsibility certainly does have its place, which is yet another blog post), and as someone who hopes to be a successful author , I would hope that my work will get bountiful and loyal readers someday, but I don’t feel the need for me as a person to strive for popularity, and I think we might be better off as a society if none of us did. The passions which beat in your heart are there for a reason. Pursue them whether or not others think its cool and do so with excellence. If others don’t share your passion, love them anyway.
So here’s to a new year of uncoolness and pursuing what you love. Go forth, my nerdlings, and nerd.
P.S. What experiences have you had with being popular or unpopular? Did you ever find that the things you were passionate about weren’t popular and pursued them anyway? How do you define “cool?” How have these decisions directly affected your life?