Recently, I spent a few days in Washington, DC, at the home of one of my best friends from college. It was fun for me to reflect on the adventures that we used to have as roommates, the crossword puzzles that we would sneak into acting class, the agonizing over auditions, the secret crushes on fellow performers. I met Elaine on one of my very first days at BYU, as we had a voice and diction class together. I was first struck by her insane beauty and infectious smile, but after getting to know her better, I found that we had quite a number of things in common. With her passion for life and unflagging determination to succeed, she helped me get through a lot of hard days in the good old HFAC, and we celebrated each other's victories. And then one time, we walked across campus after make-up class looking like this:
Today, Elaine is still amazing. She is the wife of Mike, her high school sweetheart, who, much to my pleasure, has retained his Boston accent. She is also mother to three and a half year old Maya, who is incredibly bright and friendly and adorable. Besides her family, Elaine is devoted to yoga, gardening, healthy eating, ice cream, and is currently working on a play at a theater downtown. She's still passionate about the things and the people that she loves, and truly inspiring to me.
While hanging out with Elaine, I was reminded of what exactly it is that draws me to some people. I always hear people talking about what's "cool" or who's "cool" these days, but I have no interest in being "cool." I happen to love nerds. To you, a nerd might be a condescending term, but for me, it is a label of high praise. Nerds are passionate about something, whether it's zombies, dance, Russian literature, Ira Glass, 80's music, or baking non-gluten bread. It doesn't matter what it is, the point is to really enjoy something(s), while not being the slightest bit embarrassed about it. I think it's sad that people will hide or even squelch their passions to appear cool to others, therefore rendering them completely uninteresting. In my experience, so-called cool people are often unfunny, boring, and quick to agree.
When I think back on my nine years in improv comedy, all of the performers that were the funniest and loveliest were by far the nerdiest, and I loved the uniqueness they brought to their work. One guy was an expert on pop culture, one knew about all things fantasy, one loved sports, and my brilliant friend Lisa could improvise about sci-fi all day long (if someone had only asked!) I really miss them.
My own husband was an actual nerd in high school. While watching the amazing TV show Freaks and Geeks once, he said of one of the geeks, "It's almost painful to watch this, he's SO much like I was." It was a minor ah-ha moment for me, as he's not the most comfortable or outgoing in social situations, but still amazingly funny. I loved him all the more for it. If I have my way, I would want all my children to be nerds. Better that than a bully or follower any day. I squeal inside when my children rant and rave about Avatar and Harry Potter, because I know we're on the right nerd track!
When I meet new people out here, I love it when they let it slip that they're addicted to Veronica Mars, or on a quest for the best-tasting macarons in the city. I'm immediately interested and want to get to know them better. Being a nerd is a major part of "Being Hailey" and I'm grateful for Elaine and all the other nerds in my life, because without them, I wouldn't be who I am today.
Besides, who wouldn't want to re-enact a mock alien abduction with their best friend in college?