Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Epbot Exemplars: Obadoba

Sometimes I get caught up in my little online bubble here with all of you, and I forget that not everyone thinks it's cool to be a geek. I take for granted how freely I can share things like Portal and Star Trek and my obsession with Ghostbusters, knowing that you guys just GET it - or you at least get *me.*

Still, the sad fact remains that many - if not most - of our next generation geeks face mockery or even bullying because of the things they love.

But here's the good news:

By being ourselves, both online and off, and by proudly showing off our cosplay pics and nerdy art projects, and applauding each other's efforts, and by just unabashedly reveling in our passions instead of secreting them away, we're already helping. We're setting the example. We're helping create communities where it's possible to forget not everyone thinks geeks are cool.

Which is my long-winded way of introducing today's Exemplar: 15-year-old Paige, aka Obadoba. She's given me permission to share her story, so here it is, in her own words [edited slightly for brevity]:

"I've been considering writing to you for a looong time, but your post abut anxiety really hit it home and I knew I just had to sit down and write this all out.

"Last year, I suffered from anxiety and depression. I'd been a bit socially awkward all my life, and I don't think I'd had any close friends since I was in kindergarten. 

"The public school in my town was one of the worst places I've had the misfortune of being in. If any of [my classmates] found out I cosplayed, they would've descended like vultures. If you didn't fit in perfectly, you'd be cast out in an instant. They block the halls, insult my religion, throw things at me, and a few other things I'd rather not say (which ended with them getting called down to the office for sexual harassment).

"I don't know how many times me and my few friends had to go to the office to report bullying. Nothing was ever done. That was the main factor that led me to depression and anxiety. I was distant from the few friends I had, any off comment could send me into a panic, I started to get a bit of a stutter, and I couldn't disagree with anyone else's opinion no matter what.
"One thing that helped me, my little sliver of light in the dark, was going to conventions. The first few cons I went to were cool, but I really didn't do much. And then I started to make friends. I've met amazing people through the last few months. I've talked to some amazing cosplayers, and made some pretty cool costumes myself. I learned a lot, from panels and from people.

"...Fortunately for me, we found a charter school half an hour away with a few spaces open. Switching to that school is probably one of the best decisions I will ever make. There are SO many more geeks here, and best of all, I've made wonderful friends!

"I've gone from being the freaky little introvert to the president of the anime club. I'm probably the most ostentatious person in my grade. I'm part of several cosplay groups, and I'm even planning a cosplay meetup next spring with the help of some friends."

(I don't know about you guys, but I was cheering on the inside those last few paragraphs.)

Paige ends by saying a lot of wonderful things about Epbot, and how she plans to keep on attending conventions. In fact, here she is cosplaying as Aranea from Homestuck, so you guys can say hi if you ever see her!

And in case you're like me and have no idea what Homestuck is - it's a webcomic. (Thanks, Google!) And this is Aranea:

She's wearing orange and has blue wings. Naturally, I love her.

Thank you for sharing your story, Paige, and for reminding us that while bullying is still sadly alive and well, that's not where the story ends. It might take some people a little longer to figure out, but trust me, you're the one that's cool.

Aaand relevant video of awesomeness:

[Note: contains mild language] 

True story: when I went back to watch this just now, I got a virtual sucker-punch right to the feels, as Wil Wheaton would say. It suddenly went from a goofy, fun anthem to something so much more personal and real. Or maybe I just need a Midol. (NOT A WORD, JOHN. Not...a word.)


  1. Awesome story and way to go!

    I was bullied during most of my school life, so I can definitely relate to her struggles.

    I am proud to call myself a geek, mostly because the geek community has shown me incredible amounts of love, support and acceptance.

    It is hard some times, but in the end, I truly believe it is a great thing to be a geek.

  2. I am glad she was able to find her place in the world :) The great thing is that finding geeky friends usually leads to more geeky friends :)

    One note, I have a problem with the music video for "I'm the one's that cool" because in the end the bullied become the bullies, and that's not cool at all.

  3. I'm sitting here at my desk at work tearing up. You rock.

  4. Paige - your costume is awesome! Great job!

    I'm glad Paige shared her story & found a school & friends that were support her interests.

    Shameful that her old school did nothing.

    You rock Paige!

  5. Awwww.

    Something always bothered me about that Guild video, though. The ending with the Populars playing the song on a Rock Band type game, and the Jock saying that it was awesome.

    The cool people can pick up bits and pieces of nerd culture, but still look down on us fully immersed in it. I thought the point of the video was that we're still not cool.

  6. Heck yes Obadoba! My daughter, probably just a year or two younger than you, was going through the same thing, though not nearly as bad. I'm so glad she found a few kids who are as rabid about geekdom as she is.

    Oh, and God Tier Aranea? Glorious! My Christmas project is to make horns for my kid (and, let's be honest, me!) so we can cosplay at Katsucon this year.

  7. It's a pity that schools won't do anything for fear it pushes the boundaries of what they *can* do, and also lack of funding (I'm in Canada) to outreach programs and stuff hurt those who might find a place where they can be different and it's not seen as a bad thing by them or their peers. I was bullied - for me it was chess club, yearbook team and art classes where I learned to embrace my inner geek. Where it wasn't wrong to love star trek or doctor who.
    The best part is, it does get better & the geek shall inherit the earth ;)
    P.s - I love that web comic character, gotta check it out for sure. I am *obsessed* with orange lately :D

  8. Paige, you're beautiful. Life is so short, and part of what shapes us in the small time we have here, in my opinion, are our experiences with others. Good and bad. I'm saddened that you had to go through that, but am glad that now you're in place where you are happy and feel free to be yourself. I hope what you took away from that experience is not the mean comments, or negativity of others, but a sense of strength. So many others in your position have not pressed on. Be proud, as we all are of you, and keep being your awesome self! Our time here goes by too fast to be anything less.
    Nikki T

  9. Paige Is 10 kinds of awesome!

    Kids are so cruel all too often. The good news is, we get to form our own community. She is doing that... and that is also 10 kinds of awesome!

  10. Paige rocks! I feel like teaching her the secret handshake and giving her a big hug to welcome her to the club :)

    Also, that video gave me tearsies. Really. I'm trying to decide which steampunk persona is going with me to a Christmas dinner next weekend (Which shall it be? My gear girl? My aristocrat jewel thief? Steampunk Hoth Leia? Gah, the choices!)

    In the midst of this terrible (not!) dilemma, I was chatting with my mom and I said, "I am SO lucky that I finally found me a geek pack to run with!" Grown-ups who like to play dress-up, and like to build things, and be creative, and read books (shocker!) and are tolerant of differences and don't hesitate for one second to let their freak flags fly.

    Paige, you've ALWAYS been cooler than them! I'm glad you're figuring that out earlier than some of us do :)

  11. when picking out a high school, I specifically chose a small school where almost none of the kids I'd gone to elementary & middle school with were going to -- best decision for me for sure. I'm really glad Paige was also able to find a school that suits her! It makes such a difference. Reading the excerpt from Paige's letter took me right back to how I felt when I was transitioning into highs school life. Pulled on my heartstrings big time.

    also... awesome music video!!!

  12. This could have been written by my husband. He was happiest as a child at a charter school. He never had many friends until he went to college. At college he lived with people in the same degree, started playing DnD and swing dancing, joined DDR club, joined a church *he* chose, not his parents, and an academic-focused service fraternity. He had more opportunities to make friends with the same interests.

  13. I love reading about the Exemplars. Anything that shows love to those amazing younger geeks out there is fabulous. Paige, bravo for not letting high school beat the originality out of you!

  14. I was never picked on in high school, but that was because I hid my geekiness and wasn't totally true to myself. Now that I'm an adult, I regret not having been more open about my interests. Way to go, Paige, for being loud and proud!

  15. Wowzers, I am SO feeling this... that was ME. Right down to the bit about having to leave "normal" school (I was home-tutored and took the GED). Conventions (and a bit later, Rocky Horror) saved my life, absolutely; since there was no Interwebz, cons were the only way to meet other nerds and make friends, many of whom are still my "family" today.

    Paige, darling clever girl, I'm sorry you had to go through such hardships, and you might not know it now, but it has strengthened you and who you will be in ways no one can tell. If nothing else, I'm sure you will grow to be even more of a kind, loving, *accepting* young woman. Many blessings be upon you, girl.

    Cheers, thanks a lot,


  16. Paige,

    I'm so glad you hung in there and made things change for yourself, finding awesome people, and knowing (and loving!) who you are. Took me a little longer, so good on ya!

    And, just wait until you get to pick a college- I walked onto my campus, and saw nothing but people flying their freaky, geeky flags high, and proud of it. It felt like finding another, awesome family. So choose wisely, and welcome to the ranks!

  17. Oh Jen, this one gave me chills. My 16-yr old son is a geek and a proud Homestuck. I know more about that comic than I probably should by now!

    I could tell you all about him here, but I think it'd be easier to email, if that's okay? He's a second generation geek, and while it's easier for kids whose parents "get it", it's still hard to march to your own drummer. I could not be more proud of my geeklings. Yes, plural, because my 7-yr old shows all the signs of following in his big brothers footsteps.

    Any child who is true to his or her self, while facing bullying, taunting, teasing, lack of understanding, or whatevertheheck schools are allowing (zero tolerance by left foot!) deserves applause. And sweet Paige definitely should be applauded for being who she is. If I could, I'd give her a big hug! She is going to be a real FORCE as a grown woman!

    PS "I'm the one that's cool" is my theme song! :-D

  18. Wouldn't it be awesome if the Geek community blanketed that school with letters and emails and demanded they work to make the school a safe place for all children?

    When I was in high school I was fortunate to have a few teachers who were also geeks (thank you Mr. and Mrs. Boyle, Mr. Read and Ms. Gearhart!) and not only "got" me, but understood the rest of us too. It didn't mean the teasing stopped, but it did mean that I knew I was was okay to like Star Trek and Lord of the Rings and stuff like that because some of the teachers did too...and would defend me (and others). Unfortunately, too many kids don't have that support for whatever reason. And, unfortunately, bullies will find something, and unfortunately, some school districts are more concerned about how nice their football field looks than the well-being of their students.

    Kudos, hugs and a big "you go girl!!!" to Paige. Maybe I'll see her at a convention some day!

  19. i love that paige is staying true to her, not changing for someone else's version of acceptable.

  20. I know that hotel in your picture, Paige! The bottom picture is my kids in that same convention hotel.
    Here in the Twin Cities, we've got a HUGE geek community. Check out for links to conventions and clubs. If you go to CONvergence in July, stop by Connie's Quantum Sandbox (an art & science project room for kids and kids-at-heart) and say hi!


  21. Way to go, Paige! You are an amazing woman.

    It's not about geeks and not geeks, it's about being true to who you are as a person. You've got that part figured out, so keep being yourself.

  22. Obadoba, school is major pain for almost everybody, you're not alone in this. Children can be the most vicious and cruel creatures. But we endure and that makes us better.

    Regarding the video, I only have a small problem with this "i'm the one that's cool now" message. It shouldn't be us vs them, geeks vs. jocks or whatever, we're all just people. We should always see the other as an individual and remember that everyone is different and there is a place for everyone.

  23. Paige - awesome job getting out of that school, and seriously awesome use of "ostentatious!" I like your vocabulary :)

  24. Nice one Paige for having the guts to move schools! Glad your life looks so much better now :)

    I have a bit of a problem with the "I'm the one that's cool" vid... great sentiment, but why were they dressed differently when they were in the band? Why did they have to change themselves to become cool?! Felicia Day is obv awesome, but I don't think it made sense for her to be doing all the sexy dancing!

  25. Yay Paige! My own daughter has recently discovered the power of cons and loves them! Keep on keeping on, sister! You ARE the one that's cool!

  26. Paige, I really wish I had been so sure of myself in high school as you. I didn't go to my first convention until this year and I'm about a dozen years older than you. :) Big internet hugs for you, friend!

  27. I love almost everything you post, Jen, but that video hit me a lot harder than I expected. You might want to add a warning message that watching the video can be anxiety-inducing for those of us who have been the victims of bullying. :(

  28. I'm a brony and an Avatard. I've found Abe awesome little community here on the Internet and half the time forget that no, not everyone is as accepting. I've never really been bullied, thank God, but to all the people who have been I give hundreds of hugs. I guess I'm lucky in that I go to a school where, during my band lesson today, my teacher started talking about Lord of the Rings.

  29. amazing story, i went through something similar in high school but instead of remaining true to myself i changed to fit in... until after school when i saw the error of my ways! sooooo glad to hear of someone staying true to themselves despite the horrible bullying. and that song... it's always been real and personal to me!

  30. I very deeply relate to this lovely girl. I went through things very similar during my school life - I was bullied from age 6 to 18. I fit in no-where, and could never talk about any of the things that interested me. And, like in this case, the school did nothing (not even when someone wrapped a cord around my neck). It stuns me what schools will allow to just wash over. I often wished that I could have gone to another school, but it was never an option, due to financial and location issues. It makes me feel so glad that there's been another option for Paige.

    I'm also glad that I have now, 6 years after leaving school, found some flatmates and friends who are just as geeky as I am. :)

  31. I was lucky in that my older sister found the punks in our community when I was about 12 and I was basically raised by them. I had been the nerdy kid that didn't say much and sat in corners, knitting. After meeting the punks I was still incredibly different but I carried myself proudly because of it and didn't catch too much flack anymore - oh, there was some, but not as bad as it could have been (a 14" Mohawk and chains on your leather jacket will do that). I got to hang out with intellectual punks who weren't afraid to talk about politics and games and sci-fi and all kinds of stuff that the "normal" kids weren't interested in.

    I'm so glad that Paige has found her people. It's an incredibly freeing feeling to not have to pretend or feel ashamed.

    That song was amazing. It's a heck of an anthem.

  32. For Paige:
    Hey, I'm 19. I hid away my geekiness for a really long time. Luckily, my high school was as against-the-status-quo as they come. We had an anime club, and now I hear that they have a brony club and pokemon club too. There may even be more.

    Also, GO TO COLLEGE. As well as furthering my education, I have discovered SO many more geeks! My geekiness has grown exponentially. ;)

    As far as the bullying, I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm going to be a teacher, and we recently watched a video that was about how kids kept having to switch schools because the school refused to do anything about the bullying. So just know that you're not alone!

    Oh, and when I get nervous/anxious about a disagreement with others, I stutter too.

  33. Sending out big cyber-hugs to Obadoba!

    I suffer from intense anxiety & depression and went through similar bullying in elementary school. My parents ended up pulling me out & homeschooled me - which was such a blessing!

    It really, truly does get better though! Finding your own community is such a marvelous thing - there is a bigger world out there :)

  34. Yay for The Guild! Everyone needs to watch that webseries because Felicia Day.

  35. Thank you so much for this post, I was bullied a lot in school so this story really speaks to me. Although my high school years weren't too bad (there was some teasing, but it wasn't all day every day) because I went to an arts high school where the majority of the students were in some form of art from dance to music. In Grades one through eight though I was horrendously bullied by quite a few kids in my school and it was an awful experience. I love that video by The Guild, an awesome song for geeks everywhere, thank you so much for sharing it.

    I recently re-discovered an amazing band that I wanted to share with you and your readers, although I'm sure there are a few of them who are fans of them already. Rush is a Canadian band who formed in the early `70's in Toronto, ON. I have linked a few youtube videos below for you to have a sample of their music, but the short version is that they are huge geeks and their music reflects this. I've linked two of their songs (with a couple of videos to choose from for each) the first is Subdivisions which I like to consider the geek anthem and well worth the listen, I recommend the lyrics video first as the lead singer, Geddy Lee, can be a bit hard to understand sometimes. The band consists of Geddy Lee, lead vocals, bass and keyboard, Alex Lifeson, backup vocals and guitar, and finally Neil Peart, Lyrics, drums and percussion. Some of their songs are better than others, most of the early stuff is amazing but it's all worth a listen as they are amazing musicians. If you want to learn more about their story you can watch the documentary "Rush:Beyond the Lighted Stage", but I warn you it's a bit sad near the middle so you will cry. This is also relevant (sorry for the ramble) because Neil Peart is an extreme introvert, he doesn't even really do meet and greets with the other two guys because he just can't take that many people. Well, I hope you enjoy them and that I can introduce some more people to some new music. :D

    Subdivisions official video, it's in low quality, but worth the watch to see the guys and some of Toronto. :D

    Subdivisions with lyrics.

    Rivendell, great geek song all about Tolkien's Rivendell from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. :D

    Rivendell with scenes from Fellowship of the Ring, very lovely even if it's in low res.

    Here's their official website, which is decked out in Steampuck splendor right now for their Clockwork Angels tour. Check it out, you can buy all their albums on iTunes


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