Major Nerds and Super Geeks: We Become Specialists in What We are Naturally Good At and Love to Do Anyway

In order to be cool these days, you have to embrace your inner dork.

By a college student’s junior year at a large university, there is no denying what he or she is majoring in.  Because by that point, there are certain undeniable quirks which have been weaved into the way they speak, how they spend their free time, or most importantly, who their friends are.  So when I chose the term “Major Nerds” as part of the title for this, it’s a play on words with a dual meaning like the classic TV show “Family Matters”.  It seemed to me that while in I was in college, a student became a nerd or a geek for whatever their college major was.

For me, the easiest ones to spot were the drama majors.  When a drama major walked into a room, they basically sang everything they said.  Their private conversations were never private; instead, everyone else in the room was an audience member for their traveling play production.  Of course they were also some of the most sincere and friendliest I knew in college.  Or were they just acting?  I guess I’ll never know.

I earned my degree from Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.  So it’s no surprise that in addition to every typical degree you could think of, they had a few peculiar options as well.  In particular, I’m thinking about the Worship majors.  These were the students planning a career in leading worship music at large churches… I guess.  Because every time you saw them, they were carrying a guitar playing “Shout to the Lord”, somewhat successfully drawing in a crowd of people singing along.

And if they weren’t doing that, they were inviting people to their “Night of Praise”: As part of their graduation requirements, the Worship majors had to entice an audience to come to a worship service in which the Worship major ran the thing.  For me, it was the most random thing someone could major in at our college.  I just couldn’t understand why a person would be willing to limit or brand themselves with such a specific degree.

What if after a few years of leading worship at a church, they decide they’d rather work in a bank?  And during the job interview, the employer says to them, “So, I see you have a college degree in… worship?”  And too, it’s just a weird concept to me that a person has to learn to worship God or lead others in worshipping God.  It makes sense, but also, like I told my friend James Campbell, whom I recently lost contact with because he evidently “quit” facebook: “Is that really something that you have to be taught?  Isn’t that comparable to having to take a class on ‘how to make love’?”

Then again, I’m not the one who feels I was called by God to work in the ministry.  So of course I can’t relate.  As for me, as if it wasn’t blatantly obvious, I was an English major.  To caricature us, I would say we were a strange hybrid: Decently liberal and very artistic on the inside, yet pretty conservative and sophisticated on the outside.  In other words, baby Literature professors in training.

Our heads were in the clouds, yet our feet were on the ground.  We were trained to dissect and diagram every situation into literary components; we were the Grammar Police to our dorm mates (see I am the Human Spell Check).  We were the only students who actually enjoyed writing papers.  In fact, I didn’t start out as an English major- I became one my junior year when I realized that if I enjoyed writing term papers, and all my friends came to me to proofread theirs, that maybe I should stop looking at some big dream of a career and just to what came easy to begin with.

And though those last two paragraphs about English majors were written in past tense, I can’t say that any of those characteristics about me have changed, simply because I graduated.  In fact, they’ve only increased in intensity.  In my office, I’m still the guy people come to when they need a letter written or an important e-mail proofread.  Obviously, I still enjoy writing- you know, hence the website and everything.

And really, that’s the way it works.  Most people end up majoring in whatever comes most natural for them anyway, for however they are wired.  Is it true that Finance and Accounting majors love working with numbers?  Sure, but it also comes easier for them then it would for me.  We all still like being challenged in our particular field.  When we can succeed in the difficult tasks of our specialty, it furthers us in becoming a locally recognized expert, equipped with knowledge and experience that impresses and possibly intimidates those who in different fields than we are.

I can tell you why the “k” in knife is silent and I can spell any word correctly without thinking about it, but I can’t do numbers.  I can’t do science.  Nor am I a computer whiz.  There are so many things I’m not good at and that I know little to nothing about.  But when it comes to the English language, literature, creative writing, and any kind of written communication in general, I’m your guy.  In other words, I was an English major nerd.  And always will be.

I use the word “nerd”, but I could say “expert”, or “go-to-guy”, or “whiz”, or even “buff”.  It’s all the same.  We all like to be good at something.  And when we can, we like to THE person for our niche.  Which often means we all have a bit of quirkiness attached to us.  Everyone’s at least a little weird.   Even the people we think who are the most normal.

iContact: Behind the Thought Process of Keeping Eye Contact with Another Person

Standing up straight. Having a firm handshake.  Maintaining eye contact. And the greatest of these is maintaining eye contact.

Throughout my life those three tips of advice have been constantly bouncing around in my head, though ultimately they end up like the failed attempts of a person who makes the same New Year’s Revolution every year and never keeps it. Maybe I could be a stronger leader, influence more people, and have more friends if I could simply act on these commonly heard instructions on being a successful man. Perhaps then I could be a successful motivational speaker (one that doesn’t live in a van down by the river). Or the next Billy Mays.

Looking another human straight into the eyes is like staring into the person’s soul. If I’m not thinking about it, I can look a person in the eyes for a long time while I am talking to them. But then I tend to think about the fact that I am looking at them in the eyes.

Then it’s all I can do to just look in one of their eyes because it’s too intense to look in both. Then I wonder if they can tell I’m just looking in one eye. Then I think about what I’m thinking about, but start to laugh because I realized I shouldn’t be thinking this much about it. Then I realize I don’t even know what the person is saying at this point, but conveniently they were saying something that was at kinda funny so my smirk has a purpose.

Eye contact is a learned skill. But sometimes I feel like it’s a natural born talent.

Wearing sunglasses is cheating. If I wear sunglasses, the other person tends to assume I am actually looking them in the eyes. It’s also an advantage to me because they don’t know exactly where to look since they can’t see my pupils so they get distracted. That causes them to agree with everything I say, and laugh sometimes, hoping I was telling a funny story. The secret to being a strong leader, having more friends, and influencing people is to wear sunglasses.

And to stand up straight and shake peoples’ hands firmly, like an Alpha Male boyfriend does when he meets a guy friend of his girlfriend who may pose a possible threat because the guy friend is artistic and funny. When the truth is, the boyfriend’s real threat is that the guy friend is a better listener and more sensitive. Seen it happen more than once in college.

dad from day one: Proud Papa

Twenty weeks.

*Did you hear about this blog from American Baby magazine?  If so, click here to get to the main page (table of contents) for “dad from day one”.  There’s a whole lot more where this come from…

During the closing credits of my favorite movie of all time, I Love You, Man, Barry (Jon Favreau) finds out his wife Denise (Jamie Pressly) is pregnant after she vomits on him at the wedding reception.  With puke on his shirt, he says to her, “Please, try to make it a boy.”  Barry is a Type A jerk, inhabiting every memory and idea of a typical beer-guzzling frat boy.  So of course, having a boy (instead of a girl) would be very important to him.

Being that I’m nothing like that character in the movie, instead being much more like the main character, Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), I had just always assumed I would have all daughters.  Here’s the picture I had in my head of my future family: Me, wifey, three daughters, and two Cockapoos (or Labradoodles).

It just makes more sense that a guy who has no interest (or talent whatsoever) in sports or hunting (or anything proving I’m man enough by showing my “game face”), but instead has always been enthralled in everything artistic (drawing, entertaining, acting, singing, songwriting, writing) would somehow automatically make a better father to daughters instead of sons.  So that’s part of the reason I was so authentically surprised to learn that our baby is a boy.  Like somehow I deserved a son less because I’m not a certain macho stereotype I’ve memorized from three decades of watching sitcoms and movies.

And now, I have to admit, there’s a part of me that can’t help but laugh that without any preconceived hopes or crossed fingers, I get what every man secretly hopes for- a son.  There’s an unspoken concept (at least in my mind) that raising a son is a rite of passage for a man.  A coveted elective course, a special honorary badge, an engraved trophy so easily received- to be a father to a son.  A chance not so much to relive my own life, but to enhance another future man with all the life experience and knowledge I’ve learned the hard way.

The movie I Love You, Man is built around the fact that male friendships and bonds don’t often come so easily.  By a man having a son, he is automatically given that opportunity- to nurture a male the way every boy and man craves to be taught and directed.  What I lack in knowledge of fixing cars and football statistics and home repairs, I can make up for in teaching healthy communication skills and anything that falls under that categories of “literary”, “artistic”, “psychological”, and “entertainment”.

In other words, I have a feeling I will be raising  the likeness of a future Jewish comedic actor, maybe the next Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the next Shia LaBeouf, the next James Franco…

A well-rounded people-person who is confident in who he is, that’s who I predict he will become.  Who knows?  Maybe he’ll be a quiet, mild-mannered, studious, future accountant.  But with a dad as quirky and Hawaiian-shirt-wearing as me, I just don’t think he has a chance of being anything like Clark Kent.

Baby Jack's body is the length of a cantaloupe this week.

Here’s what The Bump says about Week 20:

Baby’s digestive system is busy creating meconium (a tarry black substance made of swallowed amniotic fluid, digestive secretion and dead cells), which will fill the first diaper after birth. And, speaking of the diaper situation… baby’s genitals are now fully formed!

To return to the “dad from day one” main page, click here.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

People Watching 101: Wedding Rings, Shoes, and Accessories

It’s not something a person really learns to do- it’s more of an instinct.  Whether it’s the majority or minority of people in this world who are “people watchers”, all I know is that I am one of them.  And I’m proud to be.

Why?  Because like a housecat, I find creative ways to entertain myself with the most ordinary things in life.  I can’t stand to be bored.  So when I’m in a situation where there’s nothing to do, I think.  And if I’m in a room full of strangers, I “people watch”.

That means as I pretend not to directly look at them, I try to figure out their story.  Because I’ve got clues and hints to go on:

1)     Wedding ring.  Is this guy sitting 8 feet across me a married man?  Does he go home everyday to a wife, just like I do?  If not, why not?  Is he too young, not ready?  Wants to be but just hasn’t met the right girl yet?  If  he is old enough to be a grandfather but doesn’t wear a wedding ring, is he widowed?  That’s sad.

2)     Shoes.  Leather loafers with tassels means the guy is a banker or investor.  Polished black leather shoes means he’s a lawyer.  Cowboy boots means he’s a songwriter.  Chuck Taylors means he’s artistic in some way.

3)     Accessories.  Book?  What is it?  Cell phone?  What is he doing with it?  Is he talking on it?  Am I having to listen to his conversation?  Is his phone attached to his belt?  Is it on the table?  Is he writing in a journal?  Listening to an i-pod?  What music he listening to?  Journey?  Chicago? Is that a Rubik’s Cube I see there?

I could go through the entire endless list: hairstyle, voice, attitude, clothing, accent, etc.  But really those first three paint enough of the picture to imagine a good story to entertain myself for a few minutes.  Then it’s time to move on to the next character.

And of course, I carry around my camera with me.  Because I never when I have stumbled into my next website post: People Watching in Nashville Traffic

The Nickbob Ability Test

In the spring of 1992 in 5th grade, I decided to make recess more interesting during our “free play” days outside on the playground by inventing a secret society.  I would recruit 1 to 4 of my friends to take the Nickbob Ability Test during each P.E. class.  It was a combination of physical skill, physical agility, and artistic effort:

Physical Skill: With hula hoops laid out flat strategically on the asphalt, the recruits had to throw rocks from a certain distance and land them in the hula hoops.  There were five levels of difficulty they had to complete to make it to the Physical Agility portion.

Physical Agility: Using my friend Michael Brooks’s stopwatch, I would time the recruits as they ran through the playground.  They had to make it through the “obstacle course” within a minute and 45 seconds.  Then they could finish the last portion of the Nickbob Ability Test, the Artistic Effort portion.

The Artistic Effort portion simply meant the recruits had to draw and color a picture of themselves and give it to me.  I kept them as a collection of those who passed the Nickbob Ability Test.

All together there were about 30 of my classmates who participated.  I know for a fact that the following people took and passed it:  Brian Winkles, Amanda Duckett, Meg Guice, Susan Johnson, Alex Igou, Jenny McElroy, Michael Brooks, and Jonathan Grupp.

The few.  The proud.  The… Nickbob Ability Test Takers?…