I generally don’t read nonfiction, and I can’t remember the last time I read a memoir voluntarily; I get enough of boring, drab reality in my day-to-day life. But I just finished reading Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton. I picked it up during the most recent Humble Bundle, and got around to starting it a few days ago. It’s not a long book, but I still feel like I finished it in record time.
I’m not sure how to say this, so I’ll just start writing and hope things sort themselves out. His experience speaks to me in a way I didn’t think possible. I, like I imagine many others who consider themselves geeks or nerds, often spend far too much time in my own head. As such, I tend to end up brooding over things, turning minor molehills into neurotic mountains. But this book showed me that I don’t suffer alone. That feeling you get when you’re waiting by the phone or computer to hear back from an interview, and the dread mounts daily? Yeah, Wil Wheaton’s felt that. The discouragement after being told you’re hugely qualified but they decided to go with someone else? Wil Wheaton’s felt that, too. The disillusionment with your chosen career path, unable to find joy and fulfillment in your daily existence, beating yourself up for a past decision that’s looking more and more like a huge life-crushing mistake?
You can see where I’m going with this.
The things I’m going through right now, (my failure to find an architecture job, the oh-so-adult stress over not enough money for too many bills), Wil Wheaton has been there. Even the social awkwardness and cycles of hope and despair. But he’s made it. He’s become successful, admittedly in a way he may not have imagined more than ten years ago (the book was published in 2004, and things seem to have only gotten better for him). But he faced up to the (admittedly terrifying) possibility that his life had taken a wrong turn (quitting Star Trek) or stalled out (acting) and was able to re-make himself and find success with a previously-underutilized talent (writing). That is so inspiring, I’m having trouble putting it into words.
I spend a lot of time in my own head, probably too much. When I come across a thorny issue my first inclination is to mull it over in my head. Eventually, this mulling tuns to brooding, as the Voice of Self Doubt weasels its way into my thought processes. It’s compounded by voices such as You’re Going To Amount To So Much and Prove Architecture Wasn’t A $38,000 Mistake. Even well-meaning voices like You Deserve So Much Better and Try Harder make guest appearances. In the past, I would silence these voices through video games, surfing the Internet, or staying awake to the point of exhaustion (not much extra brain activity when you’re overstimulated and only half-conscious).
Yeah, I might have depression.
But Just a Geek showed me there’s another way. You don’t have to listen to the voices that say “You should be out there networking and looking for jobs all the time” (TH), or “Well, you just spent four years learning this stuff, you should at least get your money’s worth (PAWA$M), or “What other options or skills do you have a chance of actually using” (SD). Screw those guys.
I enjoy writing. I’ve been told I’m a good writer (it’s hard to keep those comments from feeding YGTATSM, but I try). I seem to have a natural talent for it; when I was in school, I could quite regularly crank out a mean first draft of a paper the night or weekend before it was due (depending on how long it was), and end up getting A’s. Admittedly, this taught me that I could procrastinate and still do fine, but I think there’s a bigger lesson there. I’m good at writing (shut up, Self Doubt), and I enjoy it. Why should I ignore something that makes me happy just to keep myself beholden to a decision to take a chance that isn’t panning out?
So thank you, Mr. Wheaton. I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but you truly are an inspiration to me. The fact that you’ve made it gives me hope. Your life is a testament to the fact that you shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance and change; after all, when you’re at the bottom, things can only get better. If I ever get a chance to meet you in person I’ll try not to fanboy too much.