As nerds, we have a lot of loyalties to consider: fandoms, communities, jobs, ideas, goals, philosophies, interests, even friends. We take on responsibilities like leading a Meetup group, working on side projects, becoming TAs or planning monthly board game nights. We often tie our identities to these loyalties, calling ourselves Whovians, Trekkies, the startup guy. Even “nerd” is a word we use to identify ourselves that connotes some sense of loyalty to a particular lifestyle.
But what happens when our loyalty starts hurting us?
Don’t get me wrong — loyalty is one of my most closely held values. Sometimes, though, we end up in situations in which our devotion becomes dangerous, even if it’s just in little ways that add up to a greater weight on our beings. We have social groups that start perpetuating misguided ideas about relationships and what each person “owes” one another. Grading one more paper makes us want to poke our eyes out with a red pen. And sometimes we’re just over it, and continuing to participate in whatever “it” may be just seems unbearable.
What do we do then?
One solution is to try to change things. I used to rage when people quit groups I was a part of without even telling anyone that there was something they wanted to see happen differently. I dismissed them as quitters. Sometimes having the courage to shake things up can make everything better — just look at how much of a buzzword “disruptive” has become. But demanding and working for change can be exhausting and discouraging. Sometimes it feels even worse than the original situation, especially if you work your ass off with no result.
Another solution is to say you’ve had enough, and leave. The theme of my yoga classes for the last few months has been “let go of what doesn’t serve you.” I know the word “serve” seems a bit selfish; it really means let go of things that aren’t making you the person you want to be. Is partying every weekend making you miss prime hiking time? Stop drinking. Is there no room for growth at your job? Look for a new one. Are your relationships with your roommates making you hate everyone else, too? Time to find a new apartment.
If your loyalties are weighing you down, take a look at why you’re still there. Do you want to shake things up? Or is it a weight you’d rather just let go? Whichever route you choose, make sure you behave with respect and a bit of grace so you don’t burn a bridge — even if you’d rather just walk away with both middle fingers in the air.
Jess Ryan writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.