I’m sorry…I’m a nerd….

As an educator it’s always frustrating to hear this. I recently guest lectured for four classes – and could tell the students were interested and engaged with the subject matter (history). Many took notes, asked excellent questions, and would come up to me after the presentation. However, what struck me as sad was how many came up to me all excited, going ‘Oh! I was in Wales last fall and when I was there I saw…oh….sorry….I’m just like….. a huge history nerd!’ …..I literally just spoke for an hour about staring at walls in old buildings and YOU’RE SORRY!?!?! YOU’RE THE NERD!?!?!?
Even when I teach my writing classes I get “I’m just a nerd about ___, sorry….” prefacing or suffixing readings during the mandatory and usually dreaded sharing time. Usually what’s being shared is amazing and original – and actually the most compelling pieces are commonly shared from teenagers – after they finish apologising to me for their interest in whichever genre they’re using (usually horror). I get apologies from people as young as 13 and as old as 70, sometimes I get wonderful life stories – and people are still “sorry”.
So where does this impulsive need to be sorry for being interested in anything slightly not ‘normal’ come from? Why is it that we can be interested in history, or art, or even science but not “too interested”? If you’re a professor or a field expert or a professional artist you can be as unapologetically interested in whatever you like, but if you’re just starting out or it’s your hobby or it’s not your full time ‘thing’ it’s suddenly not OK for you to voice your interests? Why is it more shameful to be interested in things like history and science, than it is sports and movies?   Why is some knowledge praised and other knowledge criticised? Why do we have this pervasive idea that you can ‘know too much’? There’s really no easy cut and dried answer here, but it’s something to at least ponder.
The fact of the matter is simple – people shouldn’t be apologising for finding things interesting, or getting excited about learning, or discouraged because they are interested in some tiny little niche area of the world that most people don’t care about. So – instead of next time being all sorry about getting interested at a talk or class, or geeking out over a museum exhibition, or just in general being excited about something that you don’t consider ‘normal’ – be really happy and proud that you have these kind of interests – look at it as a contribution instead of a hinderance.
 And for the love of God, if you’re ever at one of my lectures do NOT come up afterwards and say you’re sorry for being interested!