When I was at school, the 'in' subjects were sports and drama. Not much good if you were shy and uncoordinated, like me.
At that age, it takes a special kind of strength to go your own way and not care what people think of you. I didn't have it. I've always cared far too much about other people's opinions. And so I played down my strengths, learned not to be proud of academic achievements, and convinced myself that being clever or interested in learning was a Bad Thing.
But unfortunately for me, I was clever. I was interested in things like science and numbers. I enjoyed reading and playing board games and watching sci-fi films. I had no desire to spend all my free time hanging around a shopping centre, or trying to look older than I was so I could get into clubs and drink alcohol. My ideal Saturday morning was spent in the fantasy section of the local library. In fact, I was a geek.
Even at university, when it was finally OK to be academic, there were some things I felt I had to hide about myself. There was a role-playing fantasy group on campus, and most people I knew laughed at them. But secretly, I wanted to join. I wanted to have the confidence to wander around with a bunch of other people wearing cloaks and swords, saying things like verily and forsooth. I wanted to be comfortable with my own geekiness. But I wasn't.
It's taken me nearly thirty years to finally be proud of being a geek. To say yes, I love fantasy and prog rock and astronomy and jokes only mathematicians can understand, isn't that great? I wish it hadn't taken me so long. I wish I'd enjoyed my geekiness sooner. But I hope I've at least achieved it in time to teach my children that it's OK to like what you like – whatever that is.