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Go ahead and judge me

Andy Ziccarelli | Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Here is a cold, hard truth about college: everyone judges. People judge others while walking on the quad, while eating in the dining hall, while studying and while sitting in class. In fact, someone is probably judging you right now as you’re sitting and reading this. Most of the time, snap judgments are based on petty, superficial things like what you’re wearing, or a really short quote that someone overheard out of context. Now, a lot of the time, those snap judgments are right (isn’t that the best when you finally meet someone who is exactly like you pictured in your mind?), but sometimes they’re not. Obviously, we can’t stop this from happening, as there is no way that you could truly get to know everyone that you come in contact with. It’s just not possible. But the fact that people will always be making silent decisions about personality and character frightens some, and that causes them to act or dress differently than they normally would.

For a while, as a freshman, I was one of those people. I was terrified of what people thought of me and, because of that, I was extremely careful with how I acted and tried not to let my true quirky, engineer self come out. Things changed, though, one day as I sat in my 8:30 a.m. Physics I class taught by the goofiest, most painfully awkward professor I’ve ever had. Somewhere in between his terrible physics puns (that only I laughed at), I looked to my left and to my right and realized that I was the only one in my row that was even awake. And not only was I awake, I was thoroughly engaged. I thought what we were learning was awesome. And at that point, I realized that it was worthless to try and fight who I really was and to try and obscure it from other people.

In hindsight, there were obvious signs that I could never be anything but an engineer. More specifically, I am a huge structures nerd. Buildings are awesome. While most middle schoolers bought the new college football video game every year, picked the best team and worked for countless hours searching through the playbook for the few plays that were completely unstoppable, I did something different. I would go to the team selection screen and choose the “preview stadium” option. That would take you to a mode where the camera would be stationed at midfield and you could move and rotate all the way around the virtual stadium, just looking at the cool things like how big the press boxes were, how many scoreboards there were and whether or not there were double decked stands in the end zone or on the sideline (those were the best). I would spend hours on the game not even playing it, just looking around at the all of the different styles of stadiums. Naturally, I picked favorites (Penn State and Texas A&M, in case you were wondering). But it’s no wonder why I always got destroyed when I decided to challenge my friends in an actual game. I was too busy being a nerd to practice.

And now that that little nugget is out for all of campus to read, I might as well own up to everything that people would judge me for. I have never read the Harry Potter books. I actually love cold weather. Jon and Kate Plus 8 is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. I’ve never left the country and, frankly, don’t have any desire to. Oh, and I love Kelly Clarkson and would totally go to one of her concerts if it wasn’t really creepy to go alone as a 21-year-old male.

Look, everyone here is a nerd in some way or another. This is Notre Dame. But that doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. I may be a structures nerd, but other people may be finance nerds, or music nerds or philosophy nerds. Whatever people find that sparks their interest and drives them to learn as much as they can about it (even outside of class) is a good thing. Being quirky is even better. People’s slight little tweaks and habits are what keep us from all being cut out of the exact same mold. You would be foolish to try and obscure your quirks from the world. Face it, people are going to judge you whether you want them to or not. But at least, when they do, make sure that it’s the real you.

Andy Ziccarelli is a senior majoring in civil engineering. He welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at aziccare@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.