Saturday, May 25, 2013

Geekology: The Beginning

As with all things, there needs to be a beginning. A mission. A goal. A statement of intent. Why am I doing this? What is the point? And most important, who are all you people? So let me start with the basic quandary. What is a geek and what is this "geekology"?
Geekology is such a broad term. I joked at one point that I had made it up (and if I did I call dibs), but I couldn't find some sort of solid definition on it. So I had to access my inner English teacher and broke the word up into its "word parts." In the simplest of terms, it is the branch of knowledge that deals with topics valued by those who embrace the label of geek. The World English Dictionary defines geek as:

1. a person who is preoccupied with or very knowledgeable about computing
2. a boring and unattractive social misfit
3. a degenerate 

Sadly, I am neither extremely knowledgeable about computing nor am I a degenerate. My label of being boring and an unattractive social misfit is up for grabs. But as I sought to define just the basic definition of geek, I started to find debates and varying comparison, refining the terms that, from my youth, were so ostracizing and making them mainstream. What is a nerd? If you've seen Revenge of the Nerds, it makes you wonder if you can relate to the people in that movie. Do I eat my boogers and hock loogies? Is a pocket-protector what I should really be using? And was my last eye exam really trying to reveal to me that glasses are in my near future? A great deal of defining is occurring here and I guess the first thing I should deal with is the idea of Geek vs. Nerd and if I accept the idea of them being the same or different. 

The same dictionary that defined "geek" above, gave me this definition for "nerd":

1. a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
2. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.  

So how do I fall into this category? Well. . . I can confess to being rather irritating to my colleagues and, at times, I feel less than attractive. But as much as one or two other self-conscious people want to think of me as "stupid," I am hardly qualified to be called stupid. I also have to say that I am not ineffectual as a person. I mean, I'm a teacher and a mother. The effects of what I do will influence someone or something. Even the second definition is lacking and embeds the term with negative word choice. "Nonsocial" hobby? I don't know about you, but I have a hard time playing board games by myself. Reading could be considered a nonsocial hobby, unless you are obsessed with sharing what you're reading with others. Movies, plays, television shows are all things that, well, can only fully be appreciated with another person. Whether you are relentlessly mocking them, ala MST3K, or holding a post-viewing drink session at the local pub. Remember the invention of the drinking game to enhance group viewership? I could go on and if you are a geek or nerd, you know exactly how social being a geek or nerd can really be! Can't run that D&D game without help. See how far you get on your own in World of Warcraft my friend. At some point you need to link up with someone.

Another article I read spent a great deal of time comparing and contrasting the two, not unlike myself, but they essentially surmised that "a 'nerd' is primarily marked as having a high intelligence and is not necessarily more fascinated with one subject any more so than another. A 'geek', however, is obsessively fascinated with particular subjects, but is not necessarily attributed with an above average intelligence. Thus a 'geek' has the compulsion and drive to learn vast quantities of knowledge about a particular field such as computers, or Star Trek trivia, without high intelligence being assumed. More than likely, the main confusion between the terms comes from their common association with specific areas of knowledge that seems to require a high level intelligence (for example, mathematics and science). Thus a 'geek' who was obsessed by the pursuit of mathematical or scientific knowledge, might also be classified as a 'nerd' as society considers such pursuits to be intellectual in nature and as requiring high intelligence” (Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter Culture).

Not of much help, but I felt more like they were contributing a geek to be of average intelligence. Being a teacher, I love to look at and define exactly what intelligence is and how you are assessing the person's intelligence. Do you just mean I can blow through math problems at an alarmingly accurate rate? Or do you consider it being able to use high functioning literacy comprehension skills? 

So I thought a little bit longer and I remember having watched two very intriguing videos on being a geek/nerd.  The first was Wil Wheaton responding to an audience member's request to explain to her daughter why it is alright to be a nerd. First, he said that he uses nerd and geek interchangeably.  He then went on to say some incredibly profound things that struck a chord for me and my journey. Mr. Wheaton was explaining how he "liked things that were a little weird; Science, reading books, board games, and trying to understand the world... [People] made us feel like something was wrong with us for loving those things." If I can relate to this, am I doing the right thing? Have I really found the cork to plug up the hole that has loomed so large in my life? I loved biology and reading! I loved playing games and making up stories. I am one who consistently is trying to understand the world through inquiry, connections, and the search for knowledge. I was, perhaps unintentionally by those around me, made to feel like I was weird and out of place. My worldview was abnormal and often times misunderstood. Even now I very much align with being viewed as strange for the way I think about things and what my interests and passions are. What it boiled down to was that nerds/geeks love things and it is that love that creates the worldwide community of geeks. It doesn't matter what you love, its that we strive to share our love with others that love the same thing. Who cares if its Star Trek or Star Wars; Harry Potter or Twilight; Firefly or The Walking Dead. . .we have passion for the things we love and that is what makes us geeks/nerds.

I liked this a great deal. It made sense, to an extent. I had a brief discussion with my husband, because we are similar and yet different when it comes to geeking. I always just chocked it up to me being a girl and I have girl tendencies sometimes. I am cool with his passion for swords on the wall, but I prefer to display my geekdom on a t-shirt or through my pins. What I still struggle with is that I am not purely a one-geek kinda girl. I am geeking all over the place! I suppose I could say I am a cultural geek and my geek emphasis is on film, narrowing it down to nuns in film. I could say that I'm a literature geek, but I feel like I'm missing something in that regard. Film is a safer bet, but I'm assuming I fall very much in line with being a cultural geek. I love to see the interconnectedness of culture and the multifaceted rainbow of webs that spring forever forth drawing and linking us all together. I feel part of a world I otherwise feel removed from.

Yet, I was still missing something. I needed to weigh in with the woman I feel is responsible for shining a light down my very dark tunnel and bringing me to the threshold of realization: Felicia Day. Several years ago, my husband's best friend shared with us The Guild. I drank it up like a stranded woman in the Sahara drinks a gallon of fresh spring water. I could not get enough of it. But I didn't have time to reflect. My life was moving and changing too fast for me to catch up with it, let alone to share a cup of coffee and reminisce about the good times. But once the pieces started to fall into place and my life started to find balance, I was right on the doorstep of Geek & Sundry, ready to drink up the refreshments they had to offer.


Felicia Day had posted her State of the Sundry Address on March 26, 2013 and I found the missing pieces to my puzzle. She addressed what makes me feel awkward about embarking on this journey: How commercialized and pigeonholed  geeking  has become. Everyone wants to be a geek and I feel like I'm pandering to a mainstream sensation. That already sets my wheels spinning. To have found the thing that I, for so long, neglected and rejected because I was told it was wrong. I was told people who were this way were losers and didn't amount to anything. . . now everyone wants to be one. Wearing a "Come to the Darkside. . . We have Bacon!" t-shirt labels you a geek. So now the the world is being flooded with psuedo-geeks and it makes "coming out" a hell of a lot harder. Yet, her direct address of the problem, made me feel better about it being alright to "come out." 

For Miss Day, it is someone who "dares to love something that isn't conventional." It's someone who is "an outsider, a rebel, a dreamer, a creator,a  fighter." And I thought of a special moment in December 2012 when I made a breakthrough as a first year teacher. I was preparing to teach a unit on aviation. I wanted to hook my kids. I wanted to just start off with the dreaded F-word. . . FUN! I committed to my idea of FUN and bought the brown leather bomber jacket and the brown leather aviator cap and the goggles. I forgot the white scarf, but that's alright. I put on the whole kit-and-kaboodle and I jumped out of my backroom, hands on my hips, eyes to the sky and said "I am Aviator Bonilla and we are about to start an adventure into flight!" In that moment, I had my kids. In that moment, I had myself. I felt exhilarated and inspired and I felt amazing! And as the year went on, I remembered to embrace my silliness. Embrace the things that make me different from those around me. Who wants to be a lemming? I wanted to take my leap of faith and fly with my happiest thought to the first star on the right and straight on till morning. And when I finally hosted an incentive in my classroom, I was embracing my gaming geek and organized an entire Table Top Gaming incentive. My world was feeling complete.

I am the outsider. I am the rebel. I dare to dream and make those dreams a reality. I create amazing and inspirational things and I fight to stand for what I believe. Her words were my final assessment. The final obsessive compulsive knock as I hear my name being called. "Sarah, the Geekisphere is waiting for you. Come out and play." Uh... don't make it creepy. Think inspirational.

I am Sarah Bonilla and I am a GEEK. If nerd suits your taste, so be it, but who cares about these ever-changing definitions? Clearly the dictionaries have defined these terms as negative and derogatory. So let's reinvent it. I choose to be an example of what the definition should be. And that is what this journey is all about. I am definitely not going where no "man" has gone before, but I am definitely going where I have never gone before. I want answers. I want knowledge. I want to spin more multicolored webs of cultural connections! I want to understand and be some place where I can be understood.

Augmenting Geekology is about breaking through the barrier and hurtling myself head long into what I have, for so long, held at arms length. Now is the advent of my inner geek girl. My journey is long and it will be a battle, but I want to know. . . I need to make sense of it all! Because this world I have entered is so large and I am but one, small human, I have focused my beginning work on the theme of Science-Fiction and I will initiate my journey with the gateway drug to geekdom that is Star Trek and Asimov. 


  1. A very noble mission - good luck with your geeky quest! I'll be sure to check back here and see how it's going for you.

  2. I am so glad I found your blog! It's always thrilling when you find someone passionate about the same things you are. It's weird to be a woman in her 30's who is finally finding the courage to come out of the geek closet. Over the last year I've allowed myself to let my freak flag fly with no regrets. I credit some of that to my daughter who at nine was being made fun of for obsessing over Harry Potter and spending hours creating DnD and Pathfinder characters. It was up to me to show her how awesome being a geek could be. In doing so I reignited my passion for all of the geeky things I let society tell me weren't appropriate adult activities. I look forward to reading your posts!