Yass, Geek: Teaching Our Kids to Be Awesome, Not Cool
Y'all, I have a confession. It's one that will likely shock you, possibly even appall you. You might not believe it. "No!," you'll cry incredulously, attempting to shield yourself from the blow I'm about to deliver. Friends, it's time for you to know the truth. Get ready.
I. Am. Not. Cool.
Just another day at Target.
Nope. Nooooo. Not at all. There is nothing cool about me. Not the way I talk too loudly. Not the way I laugh like I'm shouting. Not the way I run hot on both ends of the emotional spectrum, either getting too angry too quickly or too delighted too obviously. I have no poker face. I have very little social filter. I am, in many respects, a hot mess.
This song was written for me, but I won't heed it.
(Also, we can all agree that we all wanted to be Sharks and no one wanted to be Jets, right? Right.)
And, while this has cost me occasionally in my life, it has been worth it. Because here's the thing about being cool: it's boring. Being cool means tempering enthusiasm to maintain composure. It means reining in emotion, action, and reaction to meet external expectations. Cool has its place, certainly (I'm looking at you, Oval Office!), and its utility (the skill of self-control is always useful), but it shouldn't be our highest aim.
Me? I'd rather be the opposite of cool. I'd rather be awesome. Awesome is big, bold, excited, and imposing. Cool is decorous and mannerly, even in rebellion. Awesome takes up space and makes noise. Cool is studiously indifferent. Awesome loves and hates and breaks and bravely mends. Cool knows the hippest thing to say, often without sincerity. Awesome is all bungling authenticity and tongue-tied well-meaning. Me? I'm for awesome, and I want to teach my children how to embrace their awesomeness, too.
If this is all sounding familiar, that might be because embracing awesome goes hand-in-hand with nurturing a passion for passion. It's about loving what you love without restraint or reservation, even if it makes you look silly, obsessed, or deeply uncool. It's about mouthing the words to the cast recording of Hamilton I'm listening to while working out at the gym.* It's about my older daughter completely freaking out, jumping up and down, shrieking, and drawing stares from strangers when finding out that the Terracotta Warriors are coming to Seattle. It's about my leopard-loving younger daughter dressing almost exclusively in leopard print clothes for going on a year and a half now. It's about never letting looking cool getting in the way of being awesome.
Cool? Never. Awesome? Every. Damn. Day.
And sometimes, on special days, it's about walking around downtown Seattle looking like this.
DEFINITELY not cool. FEARLESSLY awesome.
Last week my older Smartling and I fully dressed up and geeked out to attend GeekGirlCon 2016. GGC is a fantastic event dedicated to all things geeky. One can attend to celebrate movies, television shows, SciFi, fantasy, books, musicals, myths, legends, and, well, anything else you can imagine. And, since it is female-oriented (though all genders are welcome and were represented at the event), it is a safe space in which to wander around in cosplay and let your geek flag fly. GGC has strong anti-harassment policies in place and emphasizes that cosplay and attire is NOT consent to be touched, photographed, or recorded. In fact, one of the best parts of GGC is the courtly way in which people will kindly ask to photograph others' costumes. It was a gently bonding social experience to compliment and converse with others based on our shared awesome geekery, and we both felt like minor celebrities when fellow cosplayers would ask us to take our picture.
Because we definitely wanted to dress up in corresponding costumes and we love Kiki's Delivery Service, my little Geeklet and I went as Kiki and her black cat Jiji to the conference. And, because they are also awesome, a crew of our friends met us there dressed up as the father, younger sister, and Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro, Wonder Woman, and an abstract representation of pointillist comic book print.
And while I could go on and on and on about all of the wonderful costumes we saw (Joy! Rosie! Twilight Sparkle! More Reys than I can count!) and the fantastic activities we did (The DIY Science Zone! The Cosplay Contest! THE HAMILTON SING ALONG!!!**), those things are not as important as the simple fact that we did awesome, goofy, fun, silly, deeply uncool things with our kids. We did not care that we looked strange in public. In fact, going out to lunch outside of the convention center amongst gawking normals was a highlight of the day. And within the world of GGC, we personally demonstrated what a commitment to geeky awesomeness looks like among a whole crowd of people dedicated to loving passionately whatever they most passionately love.
Now, this event might not be for you. Heck, it might not even be for the girls as they get older and develop interests of their own. I didn't even know it was for me until I was there and felt at home with my fellow enthusiasts of all stripes. The point isn't GGC itself anyway. It's just about letting our excitement for what we love take over a bit, to be wildly gleeful and enjoy the heck out of what we enjoy. It's being the people in the stands of the big game wearing face paint and happily losing their minds, not the people politely clapping after every big play. It's occasionally showing up for the midnight debut of the latest awesome movie rather than waiting a month for a more reasonable matinee. It's letting the kids bury you up to your neck in the sand rather than only allowing an ankle-deep cop-out. It's being awesome, not appropriate or reasonable or cool.
Attending GeekGirlCon with my daughter and our good friends was an exercise in nurturing enthusiasm. My girl, our girls, all of our children, will likely have adolescent years of craving coolness and stifling their magnificent awesomeness. Let us, until then, encourage their passionate interests and loves before they no longer want to share them with us. Let us embrace our own wonderful geekery with them. Let's show them how it's done, friends. How to go all in, to commit, and to celebrate our own passions as well as theirs. Because, damn, cool sure looks good, but it rarely feels as true or as satisfying as awesome.
Yeah. That's me and Elizabeth Schuyler.***
*One day I'm going to write an essay without referring to Hamilton, but that day is not today.
**Nope. Definitely not today.
***BOOM! HAMILTON HAT TRICK! I thought it would be like Bettlejuice and that if I referenced Hamilton 3 times Lin-Manuel Miranda might appear. No such luck. Yet. Today.