I wanted to start off this week by simply saying I am a nerd.
And I'm proud to be one.
You see, when I was in school, I was the nonconformist. I wasn't a jock. I wasn't one of the popular kids. I wasn't involved in band or choir. I didn't fit in with the preppies, and I certainly wasn't a stoner.
For most of my life, I've been fascinated by the worlds of science fiction and fantasy and the possibilities they had to offer. My personal library includes books that simply fueled that passion and keep me wondering what else these worlds have to offer.
Growing up, I spent many hours glued to the television watching shows like "Star Trek," "Battlestar Galactica" and "Babylon 5" along with many other sci-fi programs that most people have never heard about. I would beg and plead with my parents to let me watch any sci-fi program that premiered each fall, many of which lasted maybe a season.
This, by the way, was a challenge since at the time my family only had one TV, and Dad always wanted to watch "Hee Haw."
I then remember one memorable day in 1977 when my brother, Mom and I sat in a movie theater and watched "Star Wars" for the first time. I was absolutely awestruck when the Imperial star destroyer soared across the screen as it opened fire on the Rebel blockade runner during that opening scene.
You might say that one movie changed my life forever. It opened my imagination even further and convinced me to delve even deeper into the lore of science fiction.
As it turned out, I wasn't alone. I didn't have many friends growing up, but all of us fit into this "nerdish" category. Together, we created our own unique clique where we could talk about just about anything we wanted. For us, the worlds of science fiction and fantasy captivated our imaginations.
Then we were introduced to role playing games, and it was a perfect fit. It allowed us to expand our imaginations and to use our minds to figure out solutions to simulated problems.
The idea of being able to battle a dragon inside a dungeon (without actually dying) was a bonus.
Now as a teen, I tended to get harassed because I didn't fit the accepted norm. Apparently, watching particular television programs and a desire to dress up as a specific character from these programs was considered "uncool."
But here's something that doesn't make sense. Why was it wrong to obsess about a television program but it was perfectly fine for sports fans to obsess about every moment of every game, regardless if it was football, basketball or baseball?
Let's not forget the desire of these diehard sports fans to paint their faces in the team's colors and go completely wild watching these games. But at the same token, I wasn't allowed to dress up like character of a well-known television program and for a brief moment in my life enjoy that wonderful illusion.
Despite the bullying I suffered as a teen, I refused to conform to what others expected of me.
I suppose the one thing that gave me the confidence to just be myself came in 1984 when I saw the movie "Revenge of the Nerds." It gave me some reassurances that I wasn't "weird."
The message comes at the end of the film when actor Anthony Edwards, who played one of those beloved nerds, asks the university's alumni why people like him were targeted.
"Why? 'Cause we're smart? 'Cause we look different? Well, we're not. I'm a nerd, and uh, I'm pretty proud of it," Edwards said.
When I heard that speech, I knew it was perfectly OK to be a nerd and to stop trying to hide that from others. To me, being called a "nerd" or a "geek" is a term of endearment.
This is why I'm so glad that people like me now have a place to call our own. At Mountain Home High School, for example, individuals turn to clubs like NerDFest, where they can simply be themselves and share their fascination of games, Japanese animation and science fiction and fantasy movies and television programs with others just like them.
In talking with these teens recently, I quickly found out that I am "out of my league" in terms of the shows they follow and the games they play. To a point, I may not be "nerd" enough, which I find made me chuckle.
I appreciate that today's students have so much more to enjoy from the new fantasy worlds that have been created since I was their age.
It doesn't stop there. Throughout the year, there are conventions where fans from across the region gather in unity to share that common bond, just like sports fans that gather in a stadium. It's just that the fans that go to a comic convention, or comicon, tend to obsess a bit by going in costume of their favorite hero or heroine and often spend countless hours ensuring they've perfectly captured that character's appearance, from the costume and makeup to the actual props they wear or carry.
During these conventions, we often get to meet many of the stars of the shows and movies we've followed over the years. I've had the distinct privilege of meeting people like Gene Roddenberry, who created the original Star Trek television series. I've also shaken hands with actors like Nichelle Nichols and George Takei from that ground-breaking program.
How many sports fans out there can make the same claim regarding the times they were able to meet their favorite athletes?
Before I close today, I have a message for all the "beautiful people" out there — the ones who want to judge us because we don't fit into the accepted norm. There are more of us out there than they are of you. Deal with it.
I'm a nerd, and I'm proud to be one.
— Brian S. Orban