being a nerd is not about what you love; it’s about how you love it.

My weekend at Calgary Expo was just amazing. I didn’t think it could possibly get better than last year, when I got to spend a lot of time with my family from TNG for the first time in decades, but I was wrong. This was one of the most amazing weekends I have ever had at a convention, ever.

I’m still processing things like getting to meet Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, finding out that they’re lovely people, and then being invited by them — twice — to join them for drinks. I’m still working out the reality that I kind of know Nathan Fillion, and when we see each other, we do things like this.

On Saturday, someone asked me during my panel to sum up my life in five words. I thought about it for a minute and replied: “I hope I never wake up.” (I hyphenated wake-up, even though it’s not technically correct. Don’t tell Andrew.)

So also during my panel, I was asked by a young woman to explain to her newborn daughter, Violet, why it was awesome to be a nerd. As it turns out, I’ve been having that conversation with my sons for their entire lives, so I spoke from the heart and told her.

I’m very lucky in that every now and then, I get to say something and people will listen to me. It’s an incredible gift from the great elder gods that I treasure, and respect, so I do my best to honour it when I get to use it. This video went pseudoviral yesterday while I was traveling home, so I suppose you could say that I got to be Dad of the Internet for a little bit, which is kind of neat.

This morning, reader LN sent me a link to this image, because it has Wesley Crusher holding his Sparks McGee hat. That alone would delight me, but the fact that the image goes so well with my talk on Saturday supports my belief that there really are no coincidences in this version of the timeline.

You'll Be Safe Here, by *dryponder at DevianART
You’ll Be Safe Here, by *dryponder at DevianART

I always tell people that conventions are so wonderful, because you’ll be surrounded by people who love the same things you love, the way you love them. But that’s not entirely correct. You’re also surrounded by people who love things you don’t even know about, but you love your respective things in the same way, so you get to love your thing enthusiastically, completely, unironically, without fear of judgement.

In other words, you’ll be safe there, and I’m so grateful that I get to be part of that.

73 thoughts on “being a nerd is not about what you love; it’s about how you love it.”

  1. This is one of the beast speeches I have ever heard.

    Being one of the nerds he describes, I just hope he had a white bag of jelly babies in his pocket to go with the scarf.

  2. Is there any possibility of getting the title of this article on a licensed T-Shirt? with a – Wil Wheaton at the end? I could look at having one made, but it would not mean the same if I was not supporting the artist who said this.

  3. Enjoyed this read…

    What an awesome thought: “I hope I never wake up.”

    In my case, the nerdness is music and the making thereof. I live in a great place with a great family and work in a great job – all of which support my passion (music) to the nines.

    Indeed, I hope I never wake up.

    Thank you for that brain-worm. I’ll spread it today.

  4. Such awesomeness! This speech brought tears to my eyes and was the exact thing at the exact right time that I needed to hear yesterday. You made my day! Thank you thank you thank you for being you and putting yourself out there.

  5. I wish you had said something like this to me way back when, when we were in mindvox and just kids–I was bullied and terribly shy. I wasn’t allowed to have a game machine, so I had an amiga and a mindvox account. I don’t think that was healthier. But yeah, “being a nerd is just having a passion about a thing,” is a good way of putting it, and it is also true that when you are a “nerd,” you not only have a passion for something, but you want to take it apart, figure everything out about it, and make it yours and make it the best, which is why nerds are so cool to hang out with. I have never done something just part-way. And I have, over the years, learned that those who are critical of me for pushing the competition and for getting the best grade or for getting published in a top tier journal are just doing that out of their own character lapses. It is hard to be an individual and the more individualistic you are, the more praise, respect, and scorn you will receive from others.

  6. I watched this with my 9-year-old daughter. I got very teary-eyed, and she just sat there with a big grin on her face. I could tell the wheels were turning in her head. She began listing things she loved that made her a nerd. She loves dance, Mythbusters, Minecraft. More Minecraft.
    She’s had some problems at school lately about her nerdiness. She came home really sad a couple months ago, because some kids around her were giggling in the classroom. She looked down, and one of them had written “NERD” with an arrow pointing towards her. It doesn’t help that she recently got phase 1 orthodontics, either. We talked then what it meant to be a nerd. It’s not a bad word. It’s a compliment! It’s really awesome! She’s getting it. It’s a learning process, and she’s very smart.
    She has mostly good day, but on the bad days, I really wish I could take all the hurt away….put it on myself somehow, just so she won’t have it weighing on her. Kids can be so mean, and her school has been great with helping to sort things out. Thanks for your words. Sometimes things get reinforced better, if they are not coming from mom or dad. I look forward to attending one of your panels in Denver!

  7. Hey Wil. tried putting this under the MegaCon blog, but it’s closed for comments. Didn’t know where else to put it so I thought I would post this here.

    I Don’t know if you remember but when I had you sign the metal autograph plate at MegaCon in Orlando you mentioned to send you a pic of the finished product with the art I was having done. Well it’s a bad pic but here it is, plus a close up of the art of you.

    The artist Tim Proctor wanted to know what you thought of his portrait of you. Here is his web page and email.

    [email protected]

    Hope you like it.

  8. I totally agree with the convention sentiment. I went to my first PAX this year (East since Prime hasn’t happened yet) and it was like heaven for me. I live in a fairly small town in a fairly isolated place of CA (at least as far as geeks are concerned). The nearest convention happens about 45 mins to 1 hour and a half away and they aren’t very big conventions, either.

    Going to PAX was life changing for me. I was surrounded by people who were just like me. I was surrounded by cosplayers (which was so AWESOME!!!) and many other things I loved. While there were not a lot of video games there I was interested in, I still had a blast. Favorite memory: Getting quite intoxicated (somewhat accidentally, that’s a funny story) and playing Cards Against Humanity w/ friends and random people. SO much fun!

    I only wish I had a few more limbs and heads and eyes to take in all the sights (oh and tons more time!). It was an amazing first experience and I can’t wait to go back to another one (although maybe not PAX, perhaps Emerald City Comic Con?).

    I highly recommend if people are considering going to cons to go to one. They are so much fun and totally worth the price (and possible con plague, though I got lucky and didn’t catch it).

    Also, I really loved your video. I wish when I was growing up that I my parents fostered my geekiness more(although they did encourage my love for books, so that’s something). They never really understood it (my parents thought video games were a waste of time for me, but my brother was allowed to play them even though I ended up playing them more hehe) and I didn’t really come into it until I was about 17 when I discovered the world of MMO’s. It was like a gateway drug for me haha. I already had geeky tendencies, but the love of MMO’s pushed me over the edge.

    I’m now into just about every geeky fandom you could imagine. I wish I had been into some of them a lot sooner, but I’m into them now and that’s all that matters.

    I really appreciate this video and everything you do in general. You are a great role model for young geeks and nerds and we need more people in the world like you.

    Thank you so much Wil.

  9. Dear Will,

    Thank you for being “just that guy”. You are such a great person and we really appreciate having you here at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. We always cross paths but I have never formally met you. If you come next year I will make sure that I come and shake your hand. You got in trouble last year by coming to meet my “Make a Wish Kid”when you were actually supposed to be signing the piano. And this year you connected with Weird Al and I was there to witness it. Jenn R. is a personal friend of ours and we are so happy that she is able to look after you and she is so impressed and thrilled to have you here and “walk”everywhere with you. I love that you have rejected golf carts – I am glad you let us drive you to the airport.
    This year is my forth year with the show. Every year I do something different, a special project, a business process improvement. When I saw your video on Saturday evening, it really resonated with me and I was moved to tears. I also had one of the hardest days in my entire life, but after seeing your video I decided to overcome my Friday/Saturday and Make Sunday my own. I connected with all the volunteers, did things that really made a difference – thanked very volunteer I could for all of their hard work and for being there. Your words have made me embrace that I am really “Nerdy” about business process improvement, innovation, efficiency, heart – all which allow me to transport my life and family, my team at work, and interactions with everyone to a whole new level. On Tuesday when I went back to my career with the City of Calgary – I got the opportunity during a meeting to share the audio for your panel response – then we went around the room and shared with each other what we are “Nerdy”about. I have shared this video with many people that I work with and on facebook and I really feel that everyone needs to watch it as they can all get something different from it.
    I feel that your response to Violet is so moving that it should be a video!!! I think everyone could benefit from it.
    On behalf of Calgary and Calgary Expo. Thank you for being YOU. Please come back every year like you do for Emerald City.
    You are inspirational. I am a better person and have grown so much this week, I’m amazing/Feel amazing, in parts because of you.

    Thank you!

  10. Thank you for this. I am a Geek with a 12 year old daughter who is following in my footsteps with passion. To be a girl geek can be hard. When you live on a small island in the middle of the Caribbean (where geeks are not abundant to be certain) it can be very very hard. She loves so many things so passionately and is not discouraged when others call her geek or nerd; she is content to be herself. But sometimes the tears do come and your video/speech came out on one of those nights. I showed her and she smiled with this knowledge that there are others out there that “get it”, knowing there are others is enough! Thank you again….it made our day here in the Turks and Caicos.

  11. Wil, I really loved and have shared this video and story. But coincidentally, this week, I also read the story of Paige Hall, who tried to share her love of comics by going in costume as Wonder Woman to a Con, and just had a horrible experience.

    I appreciate your request/command to Violet to be honest, honorable, and kind… but unfortunately there a lot of con-goers who just aren’t those things. Do you have any insights into how we can make Con-Land more welcoming to geeks/nerds/everyone?

    (More details on Paige’s story here – she’s a talented artist in her own right, BTW – )

  12. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but I got more than a little teary while I watched the video. Our baby girl will be born in July to two parents who love board games, rpgs, science, science fiction, Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and pretty much everything that can be considered nerdy. In fact, our “office” (where our Geek Chic table lives!) is lovingly called “The Nerdery.”

    Thank you for speaking so eloquently. I can’t wait to watch the video with my baby daughter.

  13. That video was so inspiring. I will have to favorite it on YouTube so that, when I get depressed, I can watch it and remember that I just need to do what I love. “Work hard because everything worth doing is hard.” Augh… That hit me in ALL THE FEELS.

    If you don’t mind, I’m going to slap it on my latest blog post. What’s so funny about finding this video today is I basically posted my blog’s mission statement, and this fits right in with what I was trying to say! “There really are no coincidences in this version of the timeline” is such a great statement, and is really what I needed to hear today.

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