Good-bye, Mr. Spock

Hello, there! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a weirdo. You may recognize me as the quiet girl from school who always knew how to answer the teacher’s questions but never knew how to talk to other kids; or the strange kid on the bus that was reading actual, not assigned books instead of talking and laughing with everyone else like she was supposed to. Yup, that’s me. Some people thought I was elitist and didn’t talk because all you plebeians were beneath me. Some people thought I was a dweeb and therefore unworthy. Whatever they thought, very few made the effort.

I grew up in a small, insulated town in west Texas where terms like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome didn’t start getting used until the late 2000’s. That made life for someone like me, daughter of middle-class, social butterflies, that couldn’t carry on a conversation with a peer if her life depended on it, very difficult, confusing, and lonely.  I made friends, but they never lasted long. It seems I have a shelf life of about six months before people start losing patience with my “quirks” and just start thinking I’m an asshole.

I didn’t have real friends until I was about 8 years old and my parents gave me my very own television. This was way before digital and back when if you had the Disney channel, you must have been rich. I had a behemoth of a TV that took four grown men to lift, and had a screen about the size of my laptop. It got maybe 6 channels. One was WGN, home of Charles in Charge and Chicago baseball. That’s where I learned to be funny, and competitive. One was TBS, which brought Saved By the Bell reruns, which taught me how to be popular. Then, there was PBS. PBS taught me that I was not alone. PBS taught me that other people out there had theories on dinosaur extinction, microbiology, and most important, space.

Back then I was a bit too cynical for Doctor Who. I watched when it was on, but mostly scoffed at the melodrama and laughable sets. But day after day, no matter what, one man was there for me who seemed to make sense in a world full of fools. That man was Spock. As a child, I never felt like anyone understood me, and I didn’t understand them. It was like we were speaking a different language. They found me blunt, critical, and unfeeling. I found them confusing, flighty, and dishonest. Me and Spock, though, we were compatriots.

At last, I had found a visual example of what I had always struggled with. Spock told it like it was; he didn’t see why feelings needed to be involved; facts is facts. More importantly, while it did lead to occasional misunderstandings and TV hijinks, his companions accepted him, even loved him, for his “quirks”.

As time went on, I grew up and moved on to more “advanced” sci-fi, if you will. I left behind TOS and fell head first into TNG.  I got a bigger TV, a few more channels, but the roots had taken hold and I was solidly a sci-fi junkie by then. Like Spock on an alien world, I had learned that if I wanted to assimilate with the locals, I would have to down play certain attributes of myself and make efforts to “blend”.

I didn’t tell my “friends” at school about my real friends at home. I understood by that time that I was different, they wouldn’t understand, but that wasn’t their fault. Spock was how he was because his unique physiology made him so, just like mine had. He was born caught between two worlds, just like I was. He wasn’t totally human, or totally Vulcan. I wasn’t totally weird, or totally normal. We both had to walk a line, sometimes being more Vulcan than the Vulcans, more human than the humans, just to gain the acceptance of either.

I struggled for a long time with my identity in both of my worlds. I was taught from a very young age by all the wrong people that the most important thing in our society is to fit in, to be accepted, toe the line. I was never very successful. I would do ok for a while, but inevitably I would say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, and the whole thing would blow up and I never fully understood why. Eventually, I found my way back to Spock.

Spock struggled with his uniqueness many times throughout the course of the show, never knowing fully if he wanted to be human or Vulcan. Ultimately, he came to the realization that no matter his desire, he would never be anything other than what he was, and instead of a handicap, his heritage could be used to great advantage. It took me much longer than it took Spock to come to that realization but eventually, I came around.

I stopped being interested in fitting in, having a “group”, being the life of the party, or at least being invited to the party. Instead I started focusing on myself, the things I enjoyed, and what made me happy. Then, a very curious thing happened. Like Captain Kirk realizing his true feelings for his colleague, I began to make actual, true, real life friends. Friends that liked the same kinds of things I did. Friends that saw through my social gaffs and faux pas and didn’t care; I found some truly delightful weirdos.

These days, I don’t watch a lot of Star Trek, and at risk of igniting controversy, I find that I am much more of a Next Gen fan than TOS. I’m a grown up now, with a husband, children, and a group of friends (mostly internet friends). Twenty years ago, I never thought any of that was in the cards for me. I’m happy now in ways that seemed so foreign to me then. It may seem silly to give the credit to a television character, or the actor who played him so masterfully, but in so many ways, Spock, Mr. Leornard Nimoy, saved my life. At the very least, he showed me the way to a life that I am proud to be living.

At the risk of sounding remarkably cheesy, Mr. Nimoy, I have been, and always shall be, your friend, and you have been mine. Thank you and good-bye.