Last week I attended a viewing of a friend and fellow Weber State student who I’d known since the sixth grade. That guy loved sports, particularly the Denver Broncos. So much so that he was dressed in his favorite orange jersey, and the family requested that mourners wear blue and orange (the Broncos’ colors) or sports jerseys in his honor.

Now, I know the bare minimum about sports and I frankly don’t see the draw of being a hardcore sports fan. But it didn’t matter. It was something  he had loved that had meant a lot. So I found an orange sweater and matched it with a dark blue scarf and wished I could have done more.

What does this have to do with geeky? Well, it got me thinking. I give my sports fan friends a hard time. I think it’s silly to be excited to watch other people run around and make me feel bad for being unable to jog a mile without gasping. The intense rivalries between fans seems illogical (BYU and U of U fans, I’m looking at you). But I know that a lot of people out there would and have given me an even harder time for liking the geeky things I do.

How often do we look down on others for loving stuff we don’t, either because we like something different or we just don’t understand?

Many of my friends and family know I love cosplaying. I spend a lot of time, effort and money on recreating costumes of fictional characters. Recently, I crafted a full custom armor set for the Mandalorian Mercs, one of the official international “Star Wars” costuming clubs based on a culture known for bounty hunters (think Jango and Boba Fett). It was a goal I’ve had for years, and it took a lot of skills I didn’t know I had and many long (long) nights and days. And I loved every moment.

A great part of the club, besides looking awesome and being part of a fandom I’ve enjoyed since forever, is that we’re invited to participate in charity events with our costumes. For Salt Lake Comic Con, local members built a jail cell and had people put bounties on their friends by donating whatever dollar amount they felt like. It was fun for everyone involved, and we ended up bringing in a nice sum for our chosen charity.

But my favorite part? Seeing how excited people got when they saw us. Especially the kids. Lots of the events we’re invited to are specifically for kids. We team up sometimes with other costuming clubs, both “Star Wars” and others, to bring something a little special to a kid or group of kids who are having a rough time. Even when I’m in costumes from other fandoms, I see how excited others are at seeing me dressed as a favorite character. It makes people happy.

And just as important, it makes me happy. These characters are my favorites, too, and I get to meet and talk to a lot of great people. But when I started wearing costumes to conventions in my first year of college, I was embarrassed to let my roommates and family know. It was like I was doing something shameful. I wasn’t.

Barring anything illegal, you should never be embarrassed to openly love the things you love. For many, that’s sports. It means dressing the family in matching jerseys and painting your face and car with your team’s colors. For others, it’s dressing up in costumes. Drawing cartoons all over class notes. Wearing geeky shirts. Reading comics on the bus. Playing Pokemon during lunch break. Hosting parties to watch the “Breaking Bad” series finale.

It’s about not letting other people tell you what you should and shouldn’t enjoy. It’s about finding that part of life that fills you up with a happiness you can’t find anywhere else. Because honestly? Life is short. Sometimes, it really sucks. And when it does, when it’s miserable, when it’s heartbreaking, you need something to fall back on. Something that reminds you things aren’t always so bad.

I know what I love. I’m not ashamed to celebrate it. And I’ve learned the equally difficult lesson of respecting other people’s rights to do and feel the same about what they love. Even if I don’t understand it, I’m happy they’ve found that special something.

And hey, who knows? Maybe we could teach each other to love something new.

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