Yesterday as I was waiting for my chips in a typical northern chip shop, I overheard another customer telling her friend about her younger brother's new hobby. "He's started getting into flying model planes, such a geek," she said with distaste, "and he's not even any good."
What's wrong with having a hobby? Now I do hate to stereotype, I really do but she struck me as the type of person who would look at anyone suspiciously who showed an interest in anything more than watching Coronation Street or the X-factor.
It's been a while since I'd encountered people like this. When I started college it gave me the freedom to choose the type of people I wanted to hangout with. For the last 10 years my circle of friends has included robot geeks, music geeks, book geeks and food geeks to name a few. All of whom are fiercely passionate about their chosen obsession. And they certainly wouldn't sneer at another's because they didn't understand it. Whilst they may not understand the object of affections, they understand and respect the passion.
I myself have had many obsessions over the years, writing, comics, comedy, quantum physics and hair styling appliances to name a few. But while they burn brightly for a short while I am easily distracted and soon another takes it's place. This makes me have more respect for those who have a passion for something their whole lives. As a kid my Dad would drag me around radio shows, chasing after his first love, short wave radios. Whilst short wave radio was not my thing and I spent many a bored hour, looking back I can appreciate all these people coming together to share their interest and the community it created. And now I am keen to follow Baz to any show where he and his hack group may be displaying their varied wares. I may not have the skill or intelligence to understand what they do but I love to see their creations, to marvel at their passion and appreciate their commitment.
Next year me and Baz undertake our biggest joint project when we become first time parents in February. Baz is understandably terrified. A reasonable fear would be two geeks like us creating geek squared, an uber-geek ripe for bullying but this is not what he fears. Baz and his passions survived the bullying, not unscathed, but stronger, more determined and more successful. The fear is having a child who will not understand, who shuns the geeks like the woman in the chip shop. I do not fear this. Children rebel against parents, yes, but in the end anyone who has been that close to an enthusiast, and seen all the positive and creative energy it brings to their lives cannot help but be affected.
I wonder about those people who judge and sneer at the geeks and hobbyists, I cannot account for their attitude. It reminds me a lot of school. The fear of not being exactly the same as everyone else. The fear of standing out. Luckily this was something I was not concerned about and myself and a small group of friends were labelled 'the swots' all the way through high school. Of course teenage years are hell and I have every sympathy for anyone who ran with the crowd during those formative years. My sympathy is lost when this attitude carries on after the battlefield of school and moves itself into our workplaces, homes and chip shops.
In the end we don't have to understand to appreciate. If a child reads this who is being bullied for having an unusual or geeky hobby, I have a message for you. Keep going, believe in yourself. There will come a time when these people won't be in your life. You will end up happier, more successful and a better person than any of those that bully you. Believe in yourself.