Monday, June 9, 2008

an open letter to...

the daughter of my brother's wife (not technically my niece but I think of her as such)

Dear Kaylee,

Congratulations, Smarty Pants. You've achieved another end-of-school-year best-student-ever award. Yup, I know you're proud and you should be. And some of your peers might even congratulate you and help you celebrate your achievements. Seeing as that this is something that the people you know have come to expect of you (since you get this award every year), I may be the only one who knows that this one feels just as sweet as the previous ones, even if everyone around you has become jaded by the experience. That is because once upon a time, I was you.

Yup, yup. I was/am a nerd. Just like you. I got the straight A's and the academic accolades that come with such a record during the course of many, many years. Along with those accolades came the teasing and harassment from my peers who didn't like me because I always set the curve on the test or because I always had the right answer when I rose my hand. I had very few friends in grade school. My junior high years weren't any easier. As I ventured into my teens, being popular became so much more important then it had been. And, Kaylee, I was NOT popular, by any means. I was so removed from popularity that I was practically invisible. People only noticed me when the teacher was handing back graded tests and the teacher would single out the person with the highest score (that would be me). And my descent into oblivion continued for a while.

I clung to the few friends I did have. They were my life lines. And then something magical happened. I went to high school.

Now, I haven't heard anything from my brother about what high school you'll be going to one day, but I should tell you that it's super important. High school saved my life. It was there that I found other people who shared my commitment to academics. Maybe some of them were the social pariahs of their junior highs. Or maybe getting good grades was the cool thing to do at their old schools. I don't know and it didn't matter. What mattered is that I found myself surrounded by people I could truly consider my intellectual peers.

While I had never been the social butterfly before, I began to flourish in high school, making friends in all of my honors and AP classes, some of whom I still talk to today. They never made me feel like less of a person because I was smart. "Nerd" became a term of endearment. And people who didn't understand something that was said in class would come to me for help, not because they were using me but because they respected me for being smart.

You know how they say that high school prepares you for college? Well, it truly does. Had I not met the friends I made in high school, I don't think I would've been socially prepared for college. And if you decide to go to the best university in the country (ahem, that would be USC not that Notre Lame your papa likes) I can speak from experience that you will find LOTS of other nerds there. It's like a big nerd convention with tons of people thirsty for knowledge and eager to learn new, complicated things.

So ultimately, what I want to tell you (if it would even be appropriate to send you this) is that you are perfect just the way you are. Just keep on reading books way beyond your grade level and being smart and doing your thing. Yeah, school can be rough sometimes. Yup, there are bullies and mean girls and people who are jealous of you for being smart. And trust me, I know it can be really hard.

But one day when you're older and out conquering the world, you'll look back on this time of your life and think, "I was a nerd and I'm proud of it!"

1 comment:

Mme. Meow said...

Nerd pride! Congrats to Kaylee!