More confessions of a nerdy kid, or I dare you to get excited

Hands in the air

Last time, I talked about the pleasure of the anticipation of purchasing…a modem for my computer. This was back in middle school, a time of general emotional trauma for all.

I was a bit young for my grade, and so perhaps wasn’t as attuned to the standard level of self-consciousness required to be an eighth grader. It’s not that I wasn’t desiring to be more accepted and popular than I was (as I had quite a long way to go in that category), but in other ways, I was serenely unconcerned with appearances and how I came across to my peers.

Passing notes in algebra class

Case in point, this modem. As this was a big purchase that I was saving up for, I was of course savoring the soon-to-be event. And part of the savoring was talking about it. I was so excited about this 1200 bps modem, that I not only told my friends about it (most of whom understood, being as nerdy as I was), but also people I wasn’t friends with.

I distinctly remember writing a note to the guy who sat in front of me in algebra class, a kid I knew peripherally only because he shared the same given name and whose surname was next to mine in the alphabet, giving us a kind of anthroponymic camaraderie. In this note, written in the margins above my algebra notes were the phrases:

“1200 baud modem”

“I’m getting it”

There are no embellishments here. These were direct quotes, unencumbered by context. I was just excited, and he was someone I could tell.

If he had any reaction, sympathetic or not, I don’t recall it. We were in class at the time, so surreptitious note passing was not conducive to big reactions.

Today’s embarrassment

For a long time, and even while writing the original post, the place where I inevitably went was a kind of long-throw embarrassment, shaking my own head at how I could be so socially awkward as to think that this was an acceptable feeling to convey. There is a special kind of embarrassment for looking back at one’s own actions undertaken without the metering effect of self-consciousness.

But the more I sat with the situation, remembering the interaction (and I remember it well), the more I began to question my reaction. What was so unacceptable about what I wrote? Why was I was supposed to keep this excitement to myself?


In fact, the longer I think about this, the more I envy the 8th grade version of myself. I was 12, and I hadn’t yet learned that there were certain things that were cool and certain things that were uncool. I hadn’t yet learned the feedback mechanism that goes along with wondering how my actions are being viewed. I was just an excited kid.

READ MORE:  Confessions of a nerdy kid, or the pleasures of saving up for things

More to the point, I was a kid excited about something supremely uncool. Or perhaps it wasn’t the modem that was uncool; I think it was more being excited that was uncool.

By high school, like most of us, I had finally learned that there was a benefit to being socially accepted. But the cost to this was a certain lack of genuine expression. I certainly wouldn’t be talking about a modem to a stranger in 10th grade.

Reclaiming excitement

We can’t get back to that point where we lack that kind of awareness. We can’t just forget about the social constructs that shape our behavior. And that’s probably a good thing, because that internal feedback mechanism can prevent us from inadvertently being hurtful or rude.

But I believe that we can push past the part that tells us that we need to moderate our enthusiasm. I believe we can show our excitement when we are excited, regardless of popular opinion.

Indeed, there is a bravery involved in showing excitement, especially when you know the social risks of the sneer or the eye-roll. Much like it is easier to be a book critic than it is to be an author, it is much easier to cut down others for what they like than it is to merely like something.

Sometimes, the forces that we fight against are systematic (like debt or inequality or apathy), but sometimes we can fight back not by protesting or looking to larger solutions. Sometimes, we can fight back by not letting us tamp down what makes us shine.

What is your “modem”? Is there something you’re excited about but feel like you can’t show? What would happen if you did it anyway, secure in the knowledge that there is nothing at all necessarily wrong or uncool about your desires? We may not all be into the same things, but if nothing else, but I think we all can agree that conviction of belief is pretty cool.

I dare you to get excited about something and show it. Will you?

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