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Geek Question of the Day: You've probably seen the story of Whitney Kropp moving through the streams today but I thought it might be a good topic for a #gqotd . As geeks, most of us have had to endure mockery and abuse for a good chunk of at least our adolescence, if not longer. What story from your life (or someone you may know) do you think would offer solace or inspiration for young geeks today?
Kea Alwang's profile photoLacerant Plainer's profile photoValerie Stewart (ProjectVala)'s profile photoCharlie Hoover's profile photo
When you're 31 and engaged, you'll have chicks falling all over you because you're unique (goddamnit).
Andi S
I was bullied relentlessly throughout childhood for being "different."  Now, I have a wonderful, supportive community of friends who share my (geeky, odd, sometimes morbid) interests, who love to read like I do, who enjoy fantasy and science fiction and horror and thinking outside the box.

And I have an amazing daughter who I've raised to never feel ashamed of being different, and therefore the few attempts made to bully her pretty much bounced off, because she had the armor of self-confidence. She's now in college and enjoys online gaming, sci-fi geeking, and RPGs.  

And, yes -- +Ian Andrews, that's exactly it -- everything I was picked on for liking as a kid is now something that I share with at least my friends who share similar interests, and some of it has become mainstream.  The Internet is a wonderful thing, bringing people together despite geography, so that you're not stuck in your shitty hometown with your bullying peers 100% of the time.
nope, hadn't seen it.  (big, big rock. i live under it)
"In high school, everything means everything to you. You don't realize that none of it will matter after you leave."
yeah it didn't matter before i got there, didn't matter when i was there, didn't matter when i left.  and what i found when i left...  HA! most of that doesn't matter either.
what matters is what's important to you.  there it is.  one of the big mysteries of life.  
that doesn't mean to be self centered and apathetic...  other things matter to other people (you know "don't be a dick")  it's nice to help out when you can, if you see someone struggling and in need of a hand up.

the failure is letting the opinions of small closed minds have importance over what matters to you. (and let's face it, that's easy to let happen. but the acceptance of others isn't worthy of the cost of your own happiness)  
likewise, asking someone else to pay that cost for your approval is unacceptable, if you don't approve fine... just walk away)

"An it harm none, do what ye will."
when that young woman finishes cooking (reaches drinking age, but not suggesting that she takes up drinking a career choice,) She is going to have guys coming out of the wood work all wanting to date her.
I had a girl friend, was madly in love with her, we broke up on our first anniversary because, as she put it, she "just wanted to see if she could stick it out for a whole year."  And then I found out that nearly everything she had told me about herself was complete fabrication. It doesn't sound so bad here, but it devastated me, quite beyond repair.  No feel good story to come out of that, that entire decade sucked. woof.
Band geek, had glasses and braces, "the chubby girl," laugh so hard with friends that I lose my voice.

I've found people who love me. High school can go screw. :)
I had 1/3 of my high school credits in band, choir, orchestra. then I turned down a orchestra scholarship so I could go to a school known for partying, and for what was in 1980 cutting edge digital recording equipment, I partied, bad move.
I was always very geeky and where I come from, it's considered weird. I am still not mainstream and sometimes one despairs of the mainstream. G+ is the one place I can say something and not be laughed at, so this resonates with me.
Everything comes with a price. Might as well take advantage and be happy.

Not that I was being beat up on a regular basis, but I saw my arch nemesis years later and he looked like something from skid row. I chuckled to myself and moved on.

This is going to sound creepy (and it probably is) but my tortured teen life took its first step toward turning around when I began to idolize Carrie White.  As in, Stephen King's Carrie.  I read the book repeatedly.  I watched the movie repeatedly.  I tried to practice telekinesis (I was a credulous kid, cut me some slack).  And to be very very blunt, if I lived somewhere where guns were available, I'd have shattered that stereotype about only boys snapping and going on killing sprees.  Remember: I was an abused kid at home too.  I had nothing to lose, as far as I knew.  I firmly believed myself alone, talentless, unloved and unlovable.

I so, so, so wanted to go all Carrie on all of them and show them what it was to be hurt back by someone they'd pushed too far.

And then I worked at a summer camp for a snarky-as-all-hell, cynical boss.  He was hilarious.  Angry and bitter, but hilarious.  So in the space of a few weeks, I changed to become that.  Instead of wanting to enact violence against my oppressors, I came out swinging with words.  I was vicious and blade-like with them, which shocked and horrified all of those who were used to having me as a doormat.  It cost me friends, but looking back, those were shitty friends anyway (like my "best friend" who called me a slut when I turned to her for help after being raped by my first time, and they didn't even have the term "date rape" back then so I believed her).  My parents still threatened me with physical violence so I kept the snark mostly muted around them until I was out of their control, and then boy howdy did they react badly after university when I started speaking back and telling them to bring it on and I'd be calling the cops if they did.  One of many reasons they're not in my life now.

I think back to how isolated I felt, how close to suicide, how hopeless I was about ever finding anything close to happiness, and it's downright terrifying.  More young people need to know that that high school bullshit will fade into nothing once you move into adult life.  But I wouldn't have believed anyone who told me at the time, so I have no idea how to tell them.  It's like explaining to a preschooler why having dropped their candy in the dirt isn't the end of the is the end of the world for them.

Jon Stewart does a bit in his live act where he talks about having been picked on as a teen and being hopeless, and how he wants to get through to every bullied teen now and let them know that not only does it get better, but sometimes you get out of it and "get to be on TV".  I've seen his act a couple of times and every time he does that bit, the crowd goes nuts.

Clearly, most of us suffered.  How to translate that apparently common knowledge down to those who need it?  That's the mystery...
I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school. It was realky hard. My combative nature made it difficult for me to brush off the petty bullshit and move on. However, it does get better. Kids eventually grow up and get more mature. The fun turning point was when a couple of my friends who were geeky like me in elementary grew up to be more athletic and popular, yet didn't become assholes, whereupon other kids began to follow their example. I understand that was a fair bit of luck, but again, it always gets better.
The best revenge you can have on anyone who treats you like crap in high school is to ignore them, go on, and be successful and/or happy. Even better at that point is not needing to go to high school reunions to see if they turned out well or not, because they and that time just don't matter to your life anymore. I've never been to any reunion and I never will. Anyone I wanted to stay in contact with, I have.
I'll never forget the moment I walked into the cafeteria and the entire room fell silent. I noticed immediately, but pretended I didn't. I got my food and sat down at my usual table. I don't know how I found out, but I finally discovered why people were giving me the looks they were giving me: someone had vandalized one of the stalls in the girl's room. I don't remember whether it said I was a "Perusian" whore or a slut, but it was something to that effect.

There is no legitimate reason to ever say or write such a thing about a person, but I was young and I wondered what I had done to merit such criticism. I questioned my life and choices. I was having sex, yes. I was having and enjoying exploring it. I was decent about it -- and by that I mean that everyone I slept with knew we were enjoying each other but not taking possession of each other. I didn't want to date in high school, I thought dating would get in the way of the journey I was coursing through education. Sex, on the other hand, was a part of that education, a very internal exploration of myself and of others.

I realized at that moment how those words are used to oppress something beautiful and natural and I decided I was going to fight them. Fight them by being as out and loud about sex as I could be.

It wasn't easy. In so doing, I essentially accepted the role of outsider -- I became the crazy girl, bad girl, slut, tramp, all the names and curses that are attached to a woman who has the audacity to live a life of sexual exploration. But the thing about making it a mission to fight for something is that it stopped being about me and became about freedom and self-expression. That helped a lot. If I had any advice to give to young women and men who are bullied, it would be that. This is not an attack on you. You are not unworthy. You are a warrior for whatever you love and there will always be forces that try to suppress that, both in school and in the world. 

I didn't forget the words in the bathroom, but I did forget the stall -- which I had avoided so religiously because looking would have been like letting whoever had written that win. One day, in a rush, I ran into a stall and upon closing the door, saw the words. And more words. People had added their own commentary. Some had taken my side, some had added more insults. I was Satan, I was the Antichrist. Someone had corrected "Perusian" to "Peruvian." I smiled at the opportunity that had been taken in the name of education. 

If anything prepared me for the flame wars I would eventually weather as an adult -- in my career -- it was that stall door. Every insult and every slight represents another piece of armor. Take it. You are stronger for it. You will need it. Unless you are ready to live the life society requires of you, you will need it. Whenever you think you can't take it any more, look in the mirror and see how every word has solidified into a carapace of titanium. When more insults arrive, feel them hurtle toward you and then stop on the plates you have collected like so many drops of rain that roll down and disappear.

They can't ever get inside unless you invite them in. Don't invite them in. Take only the things you love, the things that feed you. Let your pain and anger be a catalyst for action, not action against them, but against the oppressive constructs that inspire people like them. Find allies where you can and cut ties from those who don't have your back. Do this cutting with the precision of a surgeon. You are only as strong as your weakest man, and on death ground, it's better to fight alone than rally fickle mercenaries around you. 

Because you are at war. You will always be at war. But you are strong enough -- you have always been strong enough, even as you drew your first breath, pink and sticky with placenta. You are worthy, you are beautiful, you are individual. Your very existence is a testament to courage. You do not need the certainty of groupthink and conformity because you are courage. You may not think it matters, you may think that you are alone, but the very act of being you, doing what makes you happy, liking what you like, dressing how you like, exploring what you like, is a triumph for freedom and self-expression on a much bigger battleground than you could ever imagine. 

My story doesn't have an end as I'm still alive. But I've been fighting for the freedom to self-express and enjoy pleasure since that moment. I became a sex columnist, activist, freedom fighter, dissenter. Part of my family disowned me for doing what I do. I kept going. Some awards later, they started sending me notifications on Facebook to list me as a relative. I ignore them. Blood is thicker than water, they say, but the human body is mostly water. I would rather the support of those who have always believed than those who only saw the value in my work because I was on the Wall Street Journal or Lifetime.

As for the people in high school? More than a handful have written in for sex advice. I'm not one to turn down the opportunity for education -- as I said, the battle is bigger than me or you or an incident in high school. It's okay to laugh, so long as you remember that validation is not without, but within you. You do what you do because you love it. Live as an act of fulfillment, not as an act of revenge. 
Wow... I'm at a loss for words with some of these... You guys really are amazing...

On my own front, I was always the fat nerdy kid. As far back as I can remember people were making comments or looking at me with disdain, usually without ever talking to me... My parents sent us to catholic school to get a better education but what it really did was forge what eventually became my armor. It was a place where being different meant being outcast. There were two black kids in the entire school when I was there and I can only imagine how it must have been for them...

I remember one day at recess I bent down to pick something up and my husky pants split up the inner leg from knee to crotch. It quickly spread through the crowd and that's when the mockery really began. Between getting pushed around and otherwise bullied I'm not sure how I got through but I did.

I went from that to an inner city public school for middle school and high school. Talk about culture shock! I was still the fat kid but not as clear a target as before. I made a couple of friends and otherwise learned to lay low and hide from the bullies, drugs and gangs that were all over.

I developed a love for science and technology (thanks in great part to my dad) and I dove into the world of BBSes and Usenet at their height because online I wasn't the weird fat kid anymore.

The big turning point for me though came towards the end of high school. A couple of friends finally convinced me to play D&D (which I had refused to do) and I became hooked. Playing different characters and acting things out in a group started cracking the egg I had put myself in and I started to get more confidence and stopped caring about how others saw me.

The me from back then would barely recognize the me now. I'm married to a beautiful geeky woman (who gets most of my obscure references), I have an amazing stepdaughter from my previous marriage who is in college to become a scientist, I have this amazing community here on G+ of fellow former outcasts, and I spend my days not in a quiet cube someplace but wandering the countryside going into strangers homes to help them with technology in person...

As crappy as it often was I don't think I'd change much of anything because if it weren't for all of this I'd not be who I am now.

My one bit of advice would be that it not only gets better, but once you find your niche, it gets amazing. It likely won't turn out the way you planned but that's ok...

I will say that today is probably the best time ever to be a geek. When I was a kid stories like what happened to this girl would likely have not ended so happily...

+Charlie Hoover, that's such a lovely, moving story. I applaud the way you have lived your life for you. 
Bullying is something that really stokes the fires of my rage. The strong picking on the weak, whatever the context its simply wrong. Like many posting here I did not really fit into the mainstream stereotype but I was fortunate enough to not deal with any bullying as I went the extra mile when fighting back. I simply went through my school years as a social outcast or sorts, the only people to hang out with were the troubles makers and messed up kids. 

Such an environment does nothing for education, I did not want to be there and no real good associations were made with school. So my time was a waste despite having clever potential, in fact I had no goals or aspiration for higher education after high school. I am fortunate that my parents insisted because i realized that in a proper environment education can be something worthwhile and something that can be really interesting.

In retrospect all I can say is how we as a society organize the raising and education of the young is a complete failure. The school environment just bring out the worst in kids, sort of like prison. Kids will follow someone else lead to gang up on another kids so they don't become the target. No one dares stand up for the weak because that puts a target on their heads. As for school staff and I hate to say they pretty much condone this behavior. In in today's internet and social media age, the torment can be a that much more awful. The environment kids grow up in is one of the most critical social issues.

If you want to predict the future of society you look at what the kids are up to. Their environment, education, culture and media exposure are the factors that will shape their minds and beliefs. The fact that children regularly go bullied is a failure on the part of society as a whole. On part of the parents, the teachers and school staff and especially the mass media and popular culture.

The key to a better society with better values starts with the children. We wont make major progress towards a better society if we don't address the foundation of society.
I came on to this post through +A.V. Flox's share and I have to say all your stories are amazing/inspiring/poignant. 

I have to echo +Michael Lewis's sentiment about how it gets to a point where those people from high school no longer matter. I received an invite to a 10 year high school 4 years ago (oops, looks like I just gave away my age) when I was in New Zealand. I declined the invitation because I figured I was not going to fly to Australia to meet a bunch of people that I haven't spoken to for a decade and I've never liked in the first place. I have a friend (probably the only one I still keep in touch with, and infrequently too) from high school who said he might go just out of curiosity about what everyone was up to, but I didn't care - I literally couldn't care less - especially when they are so many other interesting things for me to care about.

I love what +Charlie Hoover wrote "...once you find your niche, it gets amazing" - and it did for me. Without going into details, I'm now getting paid fairly decently for doing the very thing that made me a target during high school, i.e: being "nerdy" and being into things like science, and biology, and dinosaurs - you know, the kind of things that I post about now on G+, the kind of thing that constitute at least a part of my day job (reading about, learning about, writing about, and experimenting on biology). And you're right, we seem to have formed a community of former outcasts here.

+Valerie Stewart - yes, yes, and yes. It also makes me feel sad for them (just a bit) - "Really? High school? But...that means it's all downhill for you if that really was the highlight of your life..." Yeah, I really, really did not like high school.

I'll just repeat a few things here that I wrote while commenting on A.V.'s thread:

To any current high schoolers, I would tell them this - those people picking on you now for being different - they don't matter. Don't let them break you into conformity. They will grow up to be boring and tedious adults or be consumed by their hate, but you, you get to be interesting and have a personality - and it is something that they can never grasp nor understand. 

To those small-minded haters, to paraphrase a great line from the BBC drama series Spooks - "Hate is a cancer, let it eat your soul, not mine."
As a geek living in Mexico I had my share of bullying but only in high school. Soon I learned to cope with it, I came with a solution: I'm fast with words so the moment someone tried to bully me I replied with a cascade of definitions for his impaired brain, most of it they didn't understand. Oh, some times I was punched but most of the times it was fun. And when someone bullied me with words, I just used to laugh. The main reason for a jerk to bully someone is to make himself feel good at expense of others suffering. If you show no signs of feeling bad, they get tired eventually and stop or go looking for someone else. 

First time I was 7 years old and a bully was making my life miserable (he was 15 at that time), until I took a gun (my uncle's) and proceeded to aim it at his head in front of all his jerk friends (it had no bullets, my uncle never had it loaded at home and I knew it) He began crying and begging, my uncle arrived at that time, saw the situation and told this to the bully: "You see? If you keep on giving my nephew a hard time next time I won't be here to stop him"  It was the last time he did mess with me. 

It's not that simple for a kid to stand up in front of a bully, so I guess I was lucky :)
If I had time I'd interview all of you guys for a book...=)
I'd edit it for you. I'm also learning InDesign for my small epub company.
+Brianne Villano Hey thanks! Hmmmm some kind of crowd-sourced anti-bullying e-book might actually be a cool project... I'd need all the help I could get lol...
I just posted something asking for submissions... It couldn't hurt right? =)
Exactly... I'm a procrastinator so the only way I'd do something like this is to literally trick myself...=)
I was never into whatever the other girls my age were into. Not easy being a Star Wars fan back then! It wasn't easy not being able to buy all the "in" clothes others wore. I was threatened if I didn't let some girls peek at my paper during tests, got made fun of, had friends dump me when they became part of the "in" crowd. 8th grade was the worst. But the end of ninth grade suddenly had me fall into the best group of misfits ever. Most of the six of us are still sibling tight over 20 years later. And if Facebook is good for anything, it's interesting to see that most of the "in" crowd are no longer tight. In college, I met a few more  friends that are still like family today. I will never be a part of the "in" crowed, as evident by my first experience trying to be part of my kids' school PTO....but that's okay. The most interesting and caring people I know don't fit in either. And I wrote a YA fantasy series about a girl who doesn't fit. It is my way of channeling it all. Find a way to enjoy being you through your interests and talents. You'll find status quo not so appealing!
+Charlie Hoover Love your story. I fell into D&D too in HS and college with my misfit crew. Miss that, actually. And yeah, it is a better time to be a geek. My son (apparently the geek doesn't fall far from the geek tree) was bullied a lot too, but his 8th grade is better than mine was....his self-esteem is raised by working on Lego animation videos with kids all over the world via the Internet.
+Kea Alwang Thats wonderful! It's definitely easier to be geeky now that we run the thing that makes all the other things go...=)
I still get laughed at when I say I write Science Fiction. But now, I don't let it bother me :)