Written by Shae
Lately, I've been in a bit of a funk. I think we all go through these phases. Being a human can be exhausting, but we have our escapes. One of the biggest draws to comic books, novels, games, shows, movies, and anything we throw ourselves into, is that we get to escape from our problems for just a moment. Whatever they are, whatever we're feeling, gets put on hold. Adventures are abound in the nerd realm and we can't help but crave them. I've mentioned in blogs previously how X-Men, literally, changed my life, but I don't know if I've gone in depth enough with that. I'm not saying I can relate to everyone's story, but I think we've all had a common draw to the world of geek and I think it holds different meanings for all of us.
When I was little, I didn't know much about comics or nerdy things. The nerdiest I got was watching Power Rangers and wishing I could be one. Yes, I've watched the re-runs. To this day, the Black Power Ranger is my absolute favorite, though I had a crush on the Yellow Power Ranger...I was an outcast. I was always the odd one out; nobody wanted to play with the kid who couldn't even really see. No, really, outside is a bit of a hazard for me...thankfully they make custom sunglasses now! Being the only handicapped kid I really knew, I stuck to myself a lot. Then, something magical happened. When my mom married my dad, he introduced me to a brand new world. X-Men, the '90's cartoon, was something we'd watch together as often as it was on. While I was still an outcast, I wasn't so worried about it. You had a group of people who didn't fit in. They had different powers and were literally Mutants.
Bit more background here. My visual impairment is called Achromatopsia. It's a rare genetic mutation that affects the functions of the cones and rods inside the retina. Now, at the time. We didn't know that's what I had at the time. Without certain testing, they gave me a misdiagnosis of Conedistrophy, which meant eventually I would go completely blind. Either way, my vision is non-correctable, and it makes life kind of a pain sometimes. Being a mutant myself, it was really the coolest thing ever to see a group of "mutants" fighting evil. Each had their own power and was capable of doing some of the coolest things ever. That was the draw, right there; being a mutant wasn't bad, just different. Different wasn't bad. That was the first time in my life I knew that. Different, was just how people were; especially mutants. That pivotal first show I saw of X-Men was such a defining moment in my life, I remember it clear as day. I remember my dad telling me about every different mutant in that universe and how Wolverine was his favorite. Mine will forever be Gambit, but I have a special place in my heart for Shadowcat and Storm. The draw to Gambit was his eyes. They looked as different as mine felt. The cool explosive powers and throwing cards were just a bonus.
From there I got into more Batman and other various nerdy things. Anime was my next biggest phase, and while it all seemed fantastic, it was also getting harder to deal with life. I learned what I had at 14, and I can't tell you how big of a crushing blow it was to hear that I didn't have what they thought I had. Sure, that's good news, I'd never lose my vision. Achromatopsia comes with the lovely tag of no cure. No fixing it. And my vision will be the same. Despite thinking I would lose my vision some day, I have doctors and specialists telling me how there would be cures one day. How, modern medicine and science could fix everything. My biggest dream was to fly one day. My dad was in the Air Force and I thought being a Fighter Pilot would be the coolest job. I had hope. And then I was told there was nothing anyone could do.
I think we all have low points in our lives that we can't see past at the time. I know we all struggle, even now in my adult life I find it hard. But, guys, it does get better. Truly.
I had the honor of meeting Stan Lee a few years ago at Dragon Con. At the time, I wanted to tell him so many things. How his work was amazing; how much I loved Marvel; how influential those franchise were; most importantly, how his works saved my life.
The summer of 2003 saw some things. I was a year away from graduating high school, and the teenage angst of life was in full bloom. I'd decided one night that I was just done with it all. I think we don't talk about the darkest points in our lives, really, we brush past them and pretend they never happened. I can say that I was among those growing up in a time where being a nerd and a geek were not really acceptable. It was shameful to collect Pokemon cards and watch anime, let alone read manga and/or comics. Already sticking out for being handicapped wasn't that fair either. But, there's another aspect I haven't talked about either. I guess this blog is getting very personal, but we're all friends and I'm an open book. Comics, manga, anime, and pretty much anything geeky were amazing in so many ways because it didn't matter who or what you were. You could fall into these worlds and forget it all for a bit of time. I can say, looking back, I was going through a lot of things at the time. When you're combatting internal turmoil over something you have no control over, questioning your sexuality, and just not fitting in, things tend to build up. I wasn't being myself and I think my dad knew something was wrong.
We've never talked about it, but that night in May, he took me to see X2. The sequel to a movie to a childhood cartoon and comic wasn't that appealing at 17. Yet, I went for my dad...and something clicked. I remembered how much this show had meant to me. How much I bonded with my dad over it and just what it meant to me. That movie reminded me of why I fell in love with geek culture and why I should celebrate being different, not hide. To this day, my dad and I have seen almost every X-Men and Marvel movies together. We've missed a couple, but we try really hard to see them together because it's just our thing. My dad isn't as nerdy as I am, but it's one of the things we love to share.
It sounds cheesy to say that Marvel saved my life. The truth is, it did. In a way, X-Men gave me a new life path and a strive to do things. To be like the mutants who saved people and fought bad guys. Not all mutants have cool powers, I'm one of those regular ones, but we're all special. If there's anything to be learned from X-Men it's that differences should be celebrated, not shunned. Not being like everyone else isn't bad, because really, we've all got something that makes us special. Finding our own meanings in the things we love is what being a geek is all about. While, none of us are perfect, we're perfectly awesome. Geek culture, for the most part, has always been about acceptance. There are always nay-sayers and those who like to nitpick, but for the most part, we're a group people who love the nerdiest things. Sharing those things is even better.
I've always felt normal amongst my fellow geeks. As if I have a second home. The draw to escape into other worlds has drawn us together, but some of my deepest connections with others have been because of our common nerdy interests. I can honestly say that without stumbling blindly (this pun is intended) into the geeky world, I never would have met my best friends. I can't imagine a world without them. Who else would have lightsaber wars in the aisles of a store with me!? Who!
It's always amazed me how one simple cartoon changed my entire life. I couldn't be more thankful for X-Men or any of the other amazing shows, comics, games and so on that are out there. They've given us outcasts a place to call home. If that isn't the best thing ever, I honestly don't know what is.