On Being a Nerd: How to Be Cool

Most of the time, I am a friendly kind of nerd – at least that is how I play my role in life. I like to appear unthreatening so that people keep me around, I guess. Sometimes I am even able to pull off an easy-going persona. It’s a role I’ve played for as long as I can remember.

The Truth is Quite Different

While I am not competitive in any sense as I really don’t care what others are doing (though I wish them well and can’t understand why they do some of the things they do), I am not easy-going at all. Determination underlies much of what I do and I am always sure about where I’m going and what I’m doing.

Well, I used to be.

I have been shaken to my core. I am trying hard NOT to know where I’m going right now. (Which is itself “trying” so I am trying not to try.) I am, at this moment, purposely not pushing to find another tenant for one of my rooms, even though time is tick-tick-ticking down to the end of the month. My fear of not having enough money is starting to wake me up in the middle of the night.

What?! Me Worry?!

Whether I worry about it or not, what happens will happen and worrying about it will only make me suffer twice. How many times did I gently say this to my dear Mother-in-law? She was so scarred from the Great Depression that she worried the rest of her life that she or her children would not have enough. Her lessons on economy and thrift have not been wasted on me, however, and I am applying them daily.

I need to just let it be.

(If you’re in doubt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDYfEBY9NM4 or even my Dad’s favourite, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZbKHDPPrrc)

Say “Yes”!

Recently, I was compelled to apply for a job and when I interviewed they asked me if I’d do an entirely different job – much more intense and one I never would have applied for as I am certainly not qualified. I said, “sure,” because I am purposely working on going with the flow of whatever comes my way.

Why this sudden urge to “let go” of the control I’ve always had?

I’m Just No Fun

For one thing, I haven’t seemed to do very well “pushing” to make things happen. They happen, but they are not always a good fit or accompanied by a happy feeling. All of the pushing, trying, reaching, and striving make me absolutely no fun. Any joy or sense of accomplishment is just bled out of every experience because I worked so hard to get it. I am drained and exhausted. Frustrated, too, and feeling like nothing ever turns out the way I’d hoped it would. OK. I have a lot of anger, too, over this.

How come other people do fuck-all and seem to be having much more fun than I am? Honestly, I don’t know anyone who tries as hard as I do. I try so hard at bloody well everything. If someone asks for my help, I do research, I set them up with spreadsheets and letter templates, I think about their problem and what else might help them.

Nothing to Sing About

When I sang in a band, I’d practice and practice, over and over, working to get it just right. Of course it never was. It also became no fun at all. Just a lot of work. Recently I realized that I rarely sing at all anymore, even to the radio in the car. I used to sing all day long with joy. Ever since I was a little kid. It’s like I’ve lost my voice. I know that finding my singing voice is tied to finding the joy in my life again. I just don’t know how.

Try Harder

At every job I’ve ever had, I read everything and ask questions, figuring out how I could be more useful or contribute better to the team. I am reliable and usually the first one to volunteer for anything new or difficult. I strive to remain helpful, approachable, and friendly – even when customers or co-workers are nasty. Actually, especially when they are difficult.

Do Better

That is my specialty. Difficult, angry people. At the volunteer centre for fire refugees this past summer my first call was from a woman who was obviously stressed right out. She was screaming at her partner, who she said was drunk again. They had been fighting more than usual. Being evacuated and living in a hotel will do that to people, I said. There was a scuffle at the end of the line and he got on the phone. I spoke to him at length and told him that his anger was totally justified but that he had to find a constructive outlet for it – turning on his partner was going to make things far worse. He talked to me and then I talked again to his partner. Both were calmer by the end of our conversation and I reassured them that I’d get them some food vouchers, etc. I felt lucky that I have the life I do and a quiet home to go back to.

The supervisors began to give me all the difficult people at the center within weeks. I didn’t take the swearing or anger personally. I get it, I really do. Not being far from that mental state many days myself. When people are under a huge strain like losing their homes, they will not be on their best behaviour.

Keep Trying

Growing up with an angry, difficult sibling gave me a lot of practice de-escalating and placating. I also know, more often than not, what words or actions will set people off. Maybe that’s even more helpful with people in crisis.

Anyway, the city ruled that only vaccinated people were allowed into the centre so I couldn’t help out anymore. (Some of my own anger and frustration over being fired and excluded from society can be found in Vaccination: The 24/7 Helmet You Can Never Remove.)

And Again

Isn’t it easier to help others than to help yourself? I really enjoy focusing on others. So sick of my own problems – which really aren’t that bad in comparison to most peoples’. Everyone is dealing with challenges, whether they admit it or not. Life has a way of insisting you face your problems, however.

I got slapped up the side of the head with mine. When something happens once, it’s easy to think it was some kind of bad luck or fluke. When it happens twice, like it has for me, it’s not so easy to brush aside. Twice what I thought were solid relationships ended and twice I was fired for no good reason (a good reason to be fired might be blowing a shift, say, or stealing from the company, or constantly showing up late).


The only reason I can come up with right now is that I must have been on the wrong path. No! NOT the wrong path because I learned so much from all my experiences. It must be necessary for me to do something else now.

I know I’ve got to stop striving and learn what I need to do by just sitting quietly and watching what ideas come to the surface. See what unfolds.

After all, it is almost impossible to do nothing.


During a very rough patch I found myself in a job I totally disliked. I had only taken this job because a friend had put me forward for it, not because I wanted it at all. I cried every day on the way home because at the same time I also realized I was living with a man who was in a lot of trouble and not the partner I’d hoped for. After trying to convince him that we should buy a duplex together before he lost his house, I got the idea that I could buy an apartment in my own name and live alone.

I loved my apartment and did a lot of healing there but after two years I grew tired of being dragged into the strata fights and building politics (helpful, remember? I just can’t help becoming involved!). Suddenly, I thought I should buy a house with a suite in it. That way I could have a garden! Here is my house manifestation story: Buying a Fixer-Upper: Back to 1975, Baby!  


I’ve decided to just watch and see what happens. I worry because it feels a bit like giving up.

Fun fact: “God helps those who help themselves” is not actually in the Bible. My roommate told me that and I had to look it up. He was right – it’s a saying that originated in an old Greek fable. (I write about fables and fairy tales in Fighting Like Hell for My Happy Fairy Tale Ending.)

I have lived by that saying for years, thinking I had to try harder in order to be worthy of being helped by the Big Guy. Turns out it was just another smackdown from a know-it-all ancient Greek dude.

It’s a rare thing for me to just “go with the flow” and I had to think about it before I remembered a time when I was able to.

Just Be Like Everybody Else

So, I’ve been an outsider or “weirdo” since my school days as my viewpoints don’t always coincide with the mainstream and frankly, I like that identity. (Conform or Be Cast Out: Have Courage Unvaccinated Friends)

I always thought that being “different” was freeing because you could dress however you wanted to, listen to any kind of music or do whatever you felt like doing.

But the one thing you can’t do when you are “different” is be like everybody else.

For several years, I practiced being the same as everyone else around me. I wanted to fit in. Boy! It was hard work. I spent hours and hours and a crazy amount of money for physical things like working out, plucking and even laser hair removal, as well as for fancy things like eyelash attachments. (About laser hair removal: NEVER AGAIN) And I didn’t do the spa things or the tanning salons that my coworkers and friends did. I did my nails myself in a “French” polish and did as little clothes shopping as possible.

Most of the time I felt like a fraud, albeit a very beautiful, trussed up one. While everyone else was trying to reach a certain weight or muscle percentage, my goal was to get a picture taken with Elvis. This photo, taken in Vegas during the waning days of my marriage, is one of my prized possessions.

The Day I Was Cool

But I haven’t written about the day I was really cool. Yes, it was only one day.

It was shortly after my marriage ended but before I was fired from the job I loved so much (and was confidently good at). Not surprisingly, I had a bit of a personality crisis.

I was no longer a wife or a Mother the way I had been before. With the family home gone, the family scattered and I was alone – and hence working – a lot.

That’s why I agreed to meet a friend to go to a curling bonspiel.


I don’t curl, I don’t know any curlers, and I have zero interest in it at all. The only reason I went to this thing was because I didn’t want to be alone in my rented apartment for a weekend.

Deepak Chopra would say that I had just the right attitude of non-attachment. Outcome? What outcome?

Bring Beer

I thought we might want some ciders or something to drink so I stopped at the liquor store. I also picked up some beer, even though I don’t drink it, because I figured there would be people who preferred it.

It so happened that a few weeks before I’d sold my little sports car and bought a Jeep, which I needed for winter driving. I’d forgotten to tell my friend, Joanne, about that. Truthfully, what I drive doesn’t matter to me much so I didn’t feel it was worth mentioning.

So I showed up in the parking lot and found Joanne, who was talking to several guys literally sitting on a tailgate. More people showed up and someone had tunes and I gave Joanne a cider. Mostly I listened to the talk as I didn’t know anyone else. Then some guys came out of the arena (oh, yeah, there was curling happening somewhere) and needed beer and I said I had extra. So we all went over to my Jeep and Joanne said, “What? You have a Jeep?!” and everyone laughed and I handed out beer.

The whole night went like that.

We went to several bars where I talked to whoever was there, without any intentions or expectations.

Who Are You and What Did You Do With the Nerd?

You know those guys who know they’re good-looking and look at their muscles in the mirror at the gym? Who once played semi-professional sports and are right at home in their uberfit bodies? Well, that guy showed up.

That’s when a sort of split in the universe happened. On one level, I knew that, with a guy like this, I am nervous as a cat and speak incoherently and foolishly. I could sense that he expected me to giggle and flirt with him, like the other women were already starting to do.

But I knew this guy a little because technically I was one of his managers. Because of this, I decided to avoid him as much as possible, to keep an air of respectability. So on one level, I considered this guy hot as hell and way out of my league, but on another, I left that behind and just completely ignored him.

All We Are

This guy followed me around all night but I was busy talking to other people. He’d keep finding me, interrupting me, and insisting that I dance with him. He was trying to get my attention but I was drifting with whatever was happening and being sociable. One time I found myself outside on a deck with the smokers and was having a great conversation with a few new friends when he came out and stood way too close beside me. The people I was with laughed and so did I.

The thing is, they expected him to do that. This surprised me. How much of my life am I living on a surface level, worried about what others think of me? It holds such a grip on my mind that I cannot pay attention to what else is going on.

This is one of the only nights out in my life where I can’t remember what I was wearing, how much I weighed, or what I looked like. I just gave all of that up as if I didn’t care.

Once in a Lifetime

I was just doing what I felt like doing in each moment. I remember moving to another bar or another table if that’s the way things led and talking to whoever showed up. Didn’t matter who. If everyone was dancing, I danced. Once I never made it to the table as I got into a deep conversation with the doorman.

By the end of the night people would holler at me from across the bar, “Kathy! Get over here!” So many people bought me drinks that I gave them away to whatever person was nearest to me. I listened to stories and told many of my own. It was one of the best nights of my life.

It was magical.

I’ve been a curling fan ever since, although I can’t say I’ve ever actually watched a game.


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