Spending four years explaining myself never got old, trust me. My trapezius muscles grew thick and bulky from the repeated shrugging. I was gifted a new creak in my neck from staring off into the distance.
The hell was I going to do?
One thing I’ve learned: do what you love and people take notice; or, put simply: Embrace your nerddom.
I’ve always, in one way or another, been keen on electronics. From taking apart my Sega in Elementary school, to building my clunky beige PCs in High School. I built them with picked-parts, while friends ordered Alienware behemoths, which used to be coveted. I poured over data, reading blogs, Cnet and Tom’s Hardware. I was constantly plowing through reviews on NewEgg and TigerDirect, searching for the best buy my non-existent allowance, and later a menial bakery staff wage, could afford. So what the hells does all this have to do with Literature?
I’m a nerd. You’re a nerd. Simple as that. You wouldn’t be in an English Degree program had you not been born a nerd. Your seemingly-cool professors have argued over the ‘legitimacy’ of THAC0 in versions of D&D – and that is likely the less ‘nerdy’ conversation they’ve had. I’ve poured over books to find the word ‘red’ to support my argument that an author was pushing ‘virgin imagery.’ You likely picked up ‘Dracula’ and never looked at it the same way after spending a week with it, peeling metaphors apart like a banana/onion hybrid.
Don’t run away from your nerd-self.
I left my undergrad program with an idea: one where I’d go to grad school, write a book, and … who knows anymore. I went to grad school; it wasn’t for me. It might be for you, and hell – I may go back, but if I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t have landed what I do now: getting paid to write. Circling back up two paragraphs, I’m a nerd. I’ve got this Jack -of-all-Trades thing down: computer hardware, english, programming, a burgeoning love for food, and an obsessive homebrewing hobby. I landed a job waiting tables out of college at a tiny gourmet grocery store and café that recently was called a ‘taste maker’ by some fancy ice cream people two states over. I waited tables, wrote in my journal, read books, went to school at a fancy downtown private college, and got tired. I was ready to enter the workforce, get a career, and “move on.” To me, that meant losing my dream of writing a book was about to disappear, but I was ready. I had a few interviews, sweated through a handful of dress shirts in Chicago summer heat, and became downtrodden.
I loved the place I worked for, but the pay was stagnant and there was zero mobility – or so I thought. One day my manager called me upstairs and sat me down. The owner offered me a job as their marketing guy. I’d do it all. A weight lifted off me and I found a new direction. Just like that.
I got to nerd out on a computer all day. I nerded out about food to those starving for more foodie information. I got to explore and define the world of social media for a place I cared about. It didn’t just open the door to new opportunities, such as Fancy Food Show, working from home, and so much more, but it also tore down the walls of what I could “do with my English Degree.” Marketing, or really advertising, isn’t dirty work if you aren’t a scumbag. It’s not as sexy as Mad Men, as any author of any caliber can attest – but pimping other nerds nerding out, while you nerd out to other nerds who love the same nerdy shit you do is pretty fucking magical.
Find your way. You’ll get discouraged and that’s fine, but rethink the ‘lines’ of your degree and embrace your nerdery.