The real world can be a scary place, especially if you’re a geek.
Unlike Frodo, we don’t have to deal with hordes of orcs, bone-freezing wraiths, slightly insane allies, tricksey traveling companions, or a sleepless eye of fire scouring the land for our whereabouts.
Our trials take the form of family members, friends, coworkers, fellow students, and people we interact with on a daily basis.
People who, for better or worse, haven’t taken up residence in Geekville. People who could care less about comic cons and cosplay or whose eyes glaze over when you start comparing Marvel and DC films.
Or who—perish the thought—have never heard of Brandon Sanderson.
There’s nothing wrong with family, friends, and everyone else. I don’t have anything against non-geeks. But sometimes, when surrounded by the uninspiring real world, far from the adventure aboard a spaceship or the perils of a quest, it’s hard to cope.
“Uncle Harry, do you keep a wand in your dresser? Have you been to Hogwarts? What’s your patronus? Wait, you mean you’ve never read…? Okay, never mind.”
Much as it would be great to make Hogwarts our permanent home, we can’t live apart from the world. Well, if you’re a loner or have a particular fondness for barren mountaintops, I guess you could, but a life of solitude isn’t healthy in the long run.
Which leaves us with the difficult but unavoidable fact of living in the real world. If that’s the case, what can we do about it? How, as geeks, do we survive when we venture forth into the uncomfortable environment outside our geek (Bat?) cave?
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with.
Geek Survival Guide for the Real World
Note: sitting in a closet and crying (*cough* Katniss), while tempting, is unlikely to produce significant benefit.
1. When you’re around people who don’t share your geeky enthusiasm, just keep reminding yourself how much you’ll appreciate the next comic con.
2. If feeling particularly down, consume vast quantities of chocolate—and Turkish delight.
3. Don’t be afraid to display your colors. Wear geek apparel with pride so people know where you stand—even if you get sideways glances or raised eyebrows.
4. Have a circle of geek friends whom you can take your sorrows to and commiserate with.
5. Let the story of Sam and Frodo encourage you. Their path was dark but they survived and returned to the comfort of the Shire. What’s a day at the office or classroom by comparison?
6. Keep pictures on your phone of costumes, favorite memes, geek paraphernalia—anything to give you a boost when stuck in the Desolation of Smaug—er, I mean non-geek land.
7. Don’t hold a grudge against the Muggles. They can’t help it.
8. Keep plenty of movie soundtrack CDs in your car that can transport you to distant places while you drive.
9. If you’re a coffee drinker, carry your favorite geek mug wherever you go, thus providing a comforting link back to Geekville.
10. When attending parties or participating in social activities, have awesome quotes ready but make sure they’re relevant to the conversation and easy to understand.
11. Keep an emergency kit handy in case you become stranded. Useful items include but aren’t limited to:
- Invisibility cloak
- Sonic screwdriver
- Susan’s horn
- Lembas wafers
12.Remember that stories often speak to real life. If you’re in a tough situation, think of how your favorite hero would respond and do the same. Unless it’s Iron Man.
13. Memorize pieces of Tolkien’s poetry to recite when you need to calm your nerves.
14. Make sure your screensaver at work is a landscape of Middle-earth or some other awesome world.
15. When struggling through the tedious dullness of the day, take heart in the fact that you can watch amazing TV shows like The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when you get home.
16. Be your geeky self and don’t let social judgments hinder your passion, but at the same time don’t be obnoxious.
17. Watch people for subtle signals—you never know when you’ll stumble into another geek and find a new buddy.
18. Take a few minutes to browse the internet for articles, videos, and posts on Facebook that will drench you in the cleansing waters of geekiness as you trek the dusty desert of the real world.
19. On occasion, wear bow ties. If you’re feeling especially desperate, add a fez.
20. If the pressures of the real world seem ready to crush you, recall to mind Aragorn’s speech before the Black Gate and let it stir you to persevere.
The list is by no means exhaustive, but that should be enough to give you a head start. Good luck on your journeys into the real world.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
What other methods would you use to cope with the real world?
*This post appeared in original form in November 2015 at zacharytotah.com