Suggested listening: Bootylicious - Destiny's Child

Despite my best efforts, I am a rather zealous person, sometimes to the point of being what I think most people would call "overzealous". I flip out over minute details that other people might overlook, and I find myself jumping up and down and squealing in anticipation of upcoming activities and events. Example: last weekend, Toby and I were driving north on the Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu, windows open, a sunshiney breeze playing with our hair, ocean gleaming and mountains towering in front of us. I bounced in my seat, shook my hands in the air with glee, and said, "We LIVE here! I LIVE in southern California! This is where we ARE! I can come to THIS beach whenever I want! WE LIVE HERE!" There may have been some toe-tapping and jazz fingers involved as well.

So when I read this piece over on You, Me & Charlie last week, I was thrilled. It starts off with a quote from author John Green:

"Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff. Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. ...When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

There is so much truth contained in that one little paragraph, and I wish I had read it years ago. Do you see up above where I said, "Despite my best efforts"? I have wasted an incredible amount of time on those efforts, and in the end, they were all for naught, because here I am, nerdy as ever.

Let me tell you a little bit about my nerd journey. I have always been strongly inclined towards uncontainable excitement. When I was younger, as is the case with most children, I did absolutely nothing to try to hide it. Why would I? The world was big, life was amazing, and all of my excited energy had to go somewhere, so out into the universe I sent it, like a big, happy-go-lucky patronus.

Then junior high hit, and I began to limit the people I was exuberant around. I figured out the "right" times to show excitement, and learned to squeeze it all up inside of myself during what I (or others) deemed "inappropriate" situations. My main criterion, sadly, was whether or not a boy would like it. If I could use the excitement to my advantage - to giggle, be cute, etc. - then I let myself loose. Most of the time, though, I came to the conclusion (mostly on my own, I realize now - it was never really backed up by outside sources) that to show that much elation would cause others to deem me "uncool".

This lasted a long time. In the "correct" situations, my excitement shined. When I was with my family or people with whom I felt comfortable, I allowed myself free jubilation. The rest of the time, I bottled it up. If I accidentally let it slip out, which did happen on occasion, I would kick myself afterwards for days.

What I really think it came down to was that I was afraid of allowing myself to show happiness, or passion. I was afraid of being vulnerable. If I let the world know that I enjoyed something to that extent, beyond a, "Meh, yeah, it's pretty cool" kind of sentiment, then all of the people who weren't close to me or didn't care about me as much were free to poke holes in my joy or to make fun of me or to simply think I wasn't cool. And I couldn't let that happen, because that would mean that the situation was out of my control, and then I wouldn't be able to reign anything in and make everyone like me again.

The result of all of this bottling up was a significantly less Rachel-y Rachel. I still expressed happiness and a decent level of enthusiasm, but I always felt like I was taming myself a bit. I think I desperately wanted to let it all out, but I wasn't quite ready to give up that control, so I kept it in. There was this tension between who it seemed I was, and who I could be if I would only let myself.

It's only been in recent years that I've finally started letting go. I still have plenty of, "Oh god, I can't believe I just said that/let my voice get that high-pitched/jumped up and down like a five-year-old/laughed that loudly" moments, but now, instead of continuing to kick myself, I let the moment pass. I acknowledge the exuberance in my head and allow it to exist. The inner battle is subsiding. It helps that I have a boyfriend who adores my childlike wonder and extreme exhilaration, and tells me so every time I let them out. It helps that I've come to realize that most of the reactions from other people were complete assumptions on my part; how the hell do I know what anyone else is thinking in response to what I do? And it helps that I am starting to care less. So what if they have a negative response? I'm still me, and if they don't appreciate joy and unbounded enthusiasm, then maybe they're not a person I want around in my life anyway.  

Like all important things in life, it's been a process. The need to be ironic and level-headed is everywhere, and I was especially taken by it, mostly because it is something I'm not, and the grass is always greener hipper on the other side. But I like that I'm to a point where I can express all of this to the entire world on my blog. Now anyone can read this about me and know that I, like so many others, have tried too hard to be something I'm not for a portion of my life. But that's not what matters. What matters is that I am past it, or at least getting there. I freak out. I laugh uncontrollably. I feel such intense joy and love and passion that it sometimes hurts. I enjoy life.

And to those who can't handle that, I say: I don't think you're ready for this, 'cause my brain is too nerdalicious for ya, babe.


waldo nerd

P.S. I just found this quote, and I couldn't figure out a good place to fit it into this post, so I'm going to tack it on to the end here, real quick-like, because it's so true, and so relevant to everything I just said: 

"Enthusiasm is a form of social courage." - Gretchen Rubin

Preach, sista. 

Happy Hump Day, y'all!