nerd camp.

Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went to nerd camp. It's a nice self-deprecating way of explaining Governor's School to those who don't already know about it. The long version is that GS is a six-week summer program for rising high school juniors and seniors, specifically the nerdy ones. Students stay at one of two college campuses where they attend classes. It was started as a way of giving students additional training to give the U.S. of A. an edge in the Cold War. While I was there, we speculated that the only reason to continue such a program after the fall of the Soviet Union was to breed a race of superbabies. But then again, we were seventeen years old, away from home, and surrounded by other nerds for the first time, so what we were thinking about doing was different than what the General Assembly of North Carolina wanted us there for.

Basically: nerd camp.

I hung out at the fish pond, which was a little landscaped area with benches and a tiny pool of water. There were no fish, but there were weirdos. I was not a weirdo, but I sure wanted to be, seeing as how I had never quite mastered being normal. I saw some kids with freaky haircuts and all-black clothes hanging out there, and so I sat there, too, reading a book, eavesdropping until there was an opening in the conversation for me to make a good joke. I was glad to find that they were pretty much just people and didn't mind that I was a square. At some point, I realized that having orange hair doesn't make you a cool person unless you are already a cool person, but by then I had met some actual cool people there, too. I don't know how or why these people started hanging out at the fish pond. Probably a silly reason just like rebellion or trying not to be a square. We were all trying to be something, rather than just being. We rejected labels by trying on new ones.

At GS, you have an area of concentration, creatively called Area I. That was the standard pick up line of the summer, too: Hey, what's your Area I? Not that you asked, but mine was Math. There were also Areas II and III, which were seminar classes, with discussions about ethics or philosophy. It was all to challenge us, first by making us think hard and then telling us there was no right answer.

Aside from all that, there were seminars, guest speakers, and performances, all outlined on weekly schedules printed on neon copier paper. Most of the them were optional, but during the opening assembly, we were told that you get out what you put in. Some of the performances were by students who had Area Is in the arts (visual art, music, dance). They were neat, and frequently bizarre to a left-brained individual as myself. It's possible that those classes were weird to those students, too, like my 3-dimensional geometry classes.

I don't remember a lot of things I went to, and I'm sure I've forgotten most of what I learned (except for the math, all of which I learned again in college). I don't think the point was to remember particular things. Some people say the point was to give us a questioning mind - trust nothing, question everything - but the spirit there was more light-hearted than that. They weren't trying to indoctrinate us so much as to disabuse us of the idea that we already knew everything. Hey, kid, shut your cocky mouth for a second and look at what is out there. The world is big and crazy.

Also, I met Josh there, next to the fish pond. So maybe that superbaby thing was more right than we knew.

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