This week my students had a poetry slam and I participated. This is the poem I shared/performed with them titled “Nerd.”
When I was a kid I won a medal
For reading two hundred books in the third grade
You see, back when we were wild eyed children
peering at the grass and searching through it
to see if it held secrets, and rummaging
through cabinets trying to find a hidden
door to a secret world, only to find that box
of pop-tarts mom put high up so we wouldn’t
gorge ourselves on sugar,
well, being a nerd was alright.
Then something changed—
suddenly it was uncool to read and
in middle school I was meant to spend time
practicing N’Sync dance moves.
My friends would say that books made me look
like a geek and nobody wants to be friends
with a geek. Turns out I needed new friends,
because really I was led in a terrible direction
when they prompted me to tie my hair in
a fake-haired scrunchy,roll my shirt up
to expose my tummy, and put on
3 inch foam Spice Girls platforms.
I was 5’7 in the 7th grade and I looked ridiculous.
So in high school I decided to hang out in a different click,
because everyone has clicks in high school even if
they don’t like to admit, and I was deemed a punk and a nerd-
which was fine because I was no longer the “geeky giant”
with a man-shoulders and weird Next-Gen t-shirt that
I wore at least once a week—although it still made appearances.
Now I get called a nerd at least five times a week,
which is okay, because I am.
But I also see it being used to put kids down,
like it’s something terrible—a visible scar,
but it’s not an insult that could be hurled
or at least it shouldn’t be.
I’ve come to terms with what it means to be a nerd.
My nerdiness connects me to the world and
to something larger and less self-serving
than just myself. It connects me
to ideas and feelings and wonder
about where our world is going
and also where it has been
To me, being a nerd means I take time
to investigate the world around me
and that I form relationships
with others who also question
and think critically,
and most importantly have curiosity
You see, being a nerd is never an insult,
but a point of pride and self-love
and I will go on being a nerd
because like bowties,
nerds are cool.
So take some time to pull those glazed over eyes
from the glare of a screen and examine what it means
to be a human being.
You see, I think it is a human strength that we
cannot fully understand our own existence.
In hundreds of years of good and bad guesses
music that pulls that heartstrings, literature that seeks
to define love and grief, as if it is possible, we have yet
to come up with a ‘right’ answer or an encyclopedia entry
on the perfect and purest form of humanity.
It is our vast complexity and trek for discovery
that really keep us going.
The minute we have all the answers—
solve every equation, predict every outcome,
analyze every emotion and idiosyncrasy
or worse, the minute we don’t care to seek,
is the minute humanity ceases to be unique.
So you don’t have to be a nerd about sci-fi or books,
You don’t even have to be a nerd about anything “nerdy”
but be a nerd about something–engage it,
because once you believe you have all the answers
life ceases to interest you—time
becomes a constraint sent to bind you
in infinite boredom, but you are bored
not because you have all the answers,
you are bored because you have ceased to look.
I may be a Trekkie and still aim for 200 books a year,
but that is simply what I chose to love.
That is simply how I discover and chart my world.
Pursue wonder and never stop searching
for that something that makes you passionate
and makes you feel something.
Because at the heart, being a nerd is not about what you love
but it is about the way you love it.