Not too long ago I attended my 25th high school reunion. Let’s just say it was not without a tad of trepidation that I went. My tribe tended towards the geeks and freaks, smart kids with interests and styles not necessarily in line with “The Crowd.” My people: The kids writing for the school newspaper, check. Early gamers, check. Science girls, check. Theater people, check. Artsy folks, check. Taking advanced placement classes, check. Throw in a few folks on the track team, check. For Pete’s sake while most other kids were working at the local store or restaurant, I was a museum docent. . . . at Higgins’s Armory. Some of us were labeled pretty early on, and it just stuck. A friend of the family asked me once, after seeing Pretty in Pink, when the story of my college experience was being released? You get the picture.
Growing up can be so awkward, for everyone involved. As I grow older the more deeply I understand I that pretty much everyone has an inner geek, as well as, an inner critic. And it can be so darn easy to get sucked backwards in time to that sense of uncertainly- even when you are a full grown, fully functioning and successful adult. To feeling like you don’t fit in. Or people will never get you. Or that it is somehow wrong to stand out from the crowd because of the amazing oneness that is you.
Hence my inner monolog about going to the reunion: “Will I recognize anyone? Will I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb? Will people slip into old cliques? Will we try too hard to impress each other? Or will people have grown into their skins?” It took me a while to grow into my skin and my personality. I sure hoped everyone else had too. But just in case I did not know anyone there or my worst fear were realized, I arranged for reinforcements and went with a high school friend. After all, who wants to make a potentially awkward or unsettling trip by them themselves?
So off we went my friend, who was infinitely more hip in high school than me, myself and my inner geek to the reunion. And reunited we did. It was absolutely lovely to see people. You could see the promise the potential hinted at in high school and how it had grown into something rich and full for people -especially in those folks who had in one way or another fallen in love with their inner geeks. I am delighted that my fears were not realized and for the most part people seemed to have grown into themselves. That might actually be a life long process. But the point here is you have to start and continue the journey.
You hope that by the time that high school is long over that you do indeed grown into the best parts of yourself. More importantly that you learn to embrace the whole of yourself- even those bits that you might not like quite as much as others- so you are not fighting nature.
Your Inner Geek is Spectacular
So here is what I think. Each of us has a spectacular and singular constellation of skills and strengths, experiences and quirks that make us just a little different from the rest of the crowd. In someway we all have a “geek” inside. That’s got to be good since “geek is the new sexy” seems to be a reoccurring theme in contemporary life. When you embrace your “geekdom” you stop struggling against what is not changeable or trying to be someone you are not. Then you find there is more you can do and that you can do it with less effort. You develop a greater sense of mastery over your talents. You can nurture what you want to develop more of and mold what you do have to its fullest expression, without apology.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~ e. e. cummings author, painter & grammar rebel
All of this starts with knowing your worth and value- what you bring to the table- and celebrating what is unique about your abilities thoughts, perspectives and experiences. When you do you can also can muster up your courage and move forward especially when that feels scary. And the cherry on top of this is the nagging self-sabotaging voice in the back of your mind (you know you have an inner critic- we all do) you are able to tune out it’s yammering.
Your Inner Geek Makes Dreams Come True
You might even realize a life long dream, like my client Talamieka Brice, who with her husband, Charles, launched a photography and graphic arts business this year. Brice Media is a growing business with several national contracts and a snazzy new 2012 American Graphic Design Award. That did not happen overnight, but from finding the courage to stand out from the crowd in the best way.
Talamieka came to me feeling squashed, burnt out and on edge, knowing that she wanted to step out in a bigger more personal way with her work, but not sure how. Or when. For 6 years she had worked at well-respected hospital creating gorgeous in-house designs for magazines, newsletters, posters and other company campaigns. In her spare time she and Charles, were building their dream, Brice Media. Building it through fits and starts of effort. But not a sustained focused approach.
Talamieka knew she and Charles had the artistic talent. But there were questions.
- Could she push past the doubt and negative thinking that habitually crept-up and swept the rug out from under her feet over and over?
- Did she have the smarts and strengths to run a business? Could she make the scary leap from the safety of a salaried position? What would that take?
- Could she craft an intelligent plan to move Brice Media from an idea to a storefront?
- Would that nagging voice in the back of her mind ever stop yammering?
The biggest hurdle, getting out of her own way- this was a key focus of our work.
Talamieka began to fully and unabashedly embrace and celebrated her “inner geek” and all that makes her, HER. Look at her shine as brightly as the flower in her hair.
Once this shift started she could see herself as both artist and business owner, and begin acting as if she had already lived into the full promise of being a “successful artist and business owner”. She could look past the feeling like an awkward 10-year old girl and step into living as if she was the vibrant, smart creative businesswoman she is in truth. During our work she built upon her “geekdom” and stretched in to projects, like narrowing down her target audience to invite in the clients she can best serve- always a scary prospect for business owners. Having the necessary and challenging conversations with Charles her partner in life and business to ensure they mapped out a plan to launch their business in a way that made the most of each other’s signature strengths and interests.
She followed what was calling from the marrow of her bones.
What does Talamieka say about the transformation she undertook? “Now I am clear and focused 95% percent of the time instead of 10% of the time. When I get off track I can get right back on. Working with you gave me 20 years of my life back, by clearing away my negative thinking and self-doubt. . . . helped me embrace and accept myself. To truly live on the highest level unafraid. You can’t put a price on that.”
Lots of folks wrestle with these questions. I’ve been thinking about what and how we can go through the very real and human challenge of bear hugging your inner geek- more over how to do that with as much grace and perseverance as possible. Over the coming months I’ll share more of my thoughts on this and welcome yours.