When I was a child there was a turning point that came around junior high/high school. It's hard to put a timeline on it because of the many variables that went into the shift.
Before that I played D & D, I read Uncle Scrooge and superhero comics, I really really enjoyed Trek and owned books, t-shirts, and, yes, I even owned Mr. Spock's marshmallow dispenser from Star Trek V. I was on the fast track to full blown nerd. Then several things happened. I fell in with an "art-school type without an art school" crowd that went from David Lynch to The Beat Generation to goth culture to controlled substances. Also, I became very interested in dating. Mind you I always had that nerd undercurrent (you'll note I didn't go down the Trek/CosPlay/ComicCon road, but eventually very much down the photo/film/fashion/literature/classical music nerd road. So in a way my argument is invalid as I still find myself in geekdom, just perhaps a more socially acceptable geekdom. The kind people are afraid of making fun of lest they look like Philestines), but my life went in vastly different directions from where it seemed to be going. Then, after about 15 years of trying to be cool, I started slouching back to nerd-dom with my hat in hand to see if they would have me back.
At first this made my wife a little nervous but Battlestar, Dr. Who and The Watchmen (the graphic novel that is. We very actively didn't see the film. I think you get more geek cred points if you actively not see the film and have quotes from Alan Moore memorized as to why you did not see the film) softened her up.
I often wonder where I would be if I'd stayed the nerd course. I doubt I would be fabulously rich, working for Wired or Boeing or something. I might just be working in a comic book store and everyone at the Ren Faire would know my name. Which strikes me as "living the dream." Or maybe I would be exactly the same but the Kathy Acker section of my bookshelf would be replaced with Isaac Asimov and so forth. I wouldn't have caused/experienced a great deal of the heartache, sorrow, regret, and permanent damage that I've experienced (at least not the particular events I've experienced.) On the other hand, I would have a different set of heartache, sorrow, regret, ect. If things had not played out exactly as they have, I would not be where I am now which, in spite of the unemployment, is the best place in my life I've ever been.
But it's a moot point. I live in this universe and modern quantum physics would have us believe that it is impossible for us to ever travel to parallel universes.
My point is that it's an "innocence lost" marker for me.
Ray Bradbury tells a story of when he was a child he collected the Buck Rogers comic strip from the newspaper. He had a huge box full of them. One day, some of the other local boys found out and made fun of him. He went home and tore up all of his Buck Rogers comic strips. He said that that was one of the great tragedies, the great regrets of his life and, on one level, I can see that. He also said that after that experience he decided to run with his dreams and to hell with what other people thought about them. In a way, I spent 15 years of my life tearing up Buck Rogers comics.
All of this is a very long winded way of saying that I have twice in the past month picked up Frank Herbert's Dune with the intention of reading it. The first time, I read the first page and spent almost as much time in the glossary in the back and then I put the book away and went to read something else. It's one of those canonical works you hear about and I thought, as I am won't to do, it would be good for me to find out what it was all about. Finally, in frustration, I turned to the internet and asked on Twitter "Can someone please either talk me in or out of reading Dune?"
One response was "Don't because 90% of the other Dune books are about how the first story was a bad idea."
To which I thought, "Much like my life."
It's not an attempt at a nostalgic return to a safe, womb-like time in my life when everything was more innocent like someone in a high stress job who blasts music from when they were in high school when they get off of work. Rather, it is a freedom of the fear of man. Peer pressure used to be a great motivator for me in my youth. It pushed me to so many regretable actions. I've now swung the other way. I care about doing what's right, true, compassionate and good, not what's popular. I care about exploring and marvelling and wondering. Rather than being a top feeder, I care about fraternity, equality, love of my fellow human (and any non-humans that may be present.)
So often one goes around as a Greek Tragedian with the appropriate mask to fit the occasion. I spent so much of my life so far being cool and, worst of all, unenthusiastic. My gosh, but there's a stigma toward enthusiasm in our culture; and it's one of the things I hate most about our culture. Ceasing to care about what other people think and focusing your energy to the goals you were created for is a great liberator.
Now I am free to explore, be enthusiastic, enjoy and rejoice and be filled with joy. I can ask questions. I can run rampant like a madman, like a Commedia dell'Arte Zanni. I can talk about at what point does a robot become a human, without caring what people think of me talking about such things.
Being married also helps. I don't have that social pressure; and Laurie fell in love with me as I am. But this started before Laurie and I were a couple.
This was a difficult post for me to write because I had some ideas about what I felt the need to talk about, but I wasn't completely clear on the exact point (I'm still not sure I've hit it, but I think I'll post it anyway.) I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I revel in the freedom I now find from the fear of man and pursuing my true purpose in life. I'm through being cool.