This morning, whilst I lay in bed, pondering the truly horrifying thought of having to get up, I ended up browsing Twitter. There, I spotted a frankly brilliant blog post by Lauren Laverne, on the life lessons she gained from musicals. My first thought was "OH MY GOD, I could have written this!" And then I grumbled to myself about how I tend to either have ALL THE IDEAS for blogs, or literally none at all.
And then it struck me that there's another genre that taught me a whole heap of valuable life lessons. Nerdy TV shows.
Yes, I am a nerd and proud of it. And so, here's my little list of life-lessons, gained from an entire existence spent watching nerdy TV shows. In reverse order, because I like to save the best for last...
Knightmare taught me the importance of being CLEAR when talking to people...
My love of slightly nerdy TV shows goes right back to my childhood. Many hours were spent, sitting in front of the telly, watching a group of kids try to guide a friend through a maze of relatively terrible CGI. And when I wasn't watching Knightmare, I was playing it, by wrapping a scarf around my face (or pulling a big hat down over it) and asking my friends: "WHERE AM I?!" Don't judge me...
But in all seriousness, it was that show that made me realise - very early on in life - the importance of clarity, when talking to others. Okay, in reality, a muddled instruction probably isn't going to result in your mate being eaten by a monster, or falling to their doom, but it is important to make sure that what you say to people is easily understood. Yes: simple, clear intructions are important in certain practical situations. But more than that, have a think about how many misunderstandings and subsequent arguments could be avoided if we just chose our words more carefully?! Our words have the power to affect other people enormously, so we should be choosing them wisely.
I can trace my belief in trying to always be clear in my meaning, either through the spoken word or the written - right back to Knightmare.
The X-Files taught me that it's okay to allow someone else their beliefs, regardless of whether or not you share them...
There were many reasons that I wanted to be Dana Scully, when I was younger. Snogging David Duchovny was high on the list. But I was impressed by almost everything about her. She was strong, she was brave, she was intelligent and she held onto her beliefs - or, in certain cases, lack of them - with an iron grip. It may have been ridiculously frustrating to watch Scully encounter aliens and monsters and yet somehow stubbornly refuse to believe in either, but hey, at least she was consistent.
And yet, as the series went on and Dana continued to grow as a character, we saw - more and more - that she was able to accept (however begrudgingly) Mulder's greater willingness to believe in the paranormal and, crucially, we saw that she was able to love and accept him, despite not ever entirely sharing his belief system.
In short, Dana Scully taught me that we don't have to have beliefs - religious, moral or political - in common with someone, in order to get along with them, or even love them. Everyone is entitled to believe - or disbelive - in anything they want. Our job isn't to adapt our own belief system so that it matches theirs. It's simply to accept that person, regardless of differences. Which leads me nicely on to my next point...
Red Dwarf taught me that unlikely friendships can form between people who would otherwise never give one another the time of day...
Okay, let's be real: the characters in Red Dwarf kind of hate each other. There's no disputing that. But, in a bizarre way, they kind of love each other, too. And that's what makes this show so good. Lister may spend half his life bitching about Rimmer, but when Rimmer's in danger, his crewmate usually comes through for him. Rimmer himself may be a spectacular coward, but even he has proven himself to be able to muster up some kind of defence for his unlikely buddies, over the years.
Thrown together, with no option but to work as a unit, the "boys from the Dwarf" are quite literally, the most unlikely friends in the universe. And for the most part, they might shudder at the thought of even being referred to as "friends." But, whenever they get themselves into trouble, they're capable of working together as a team to defeat a common enemy. They're able to support one another when it counts.
To me, watching this as a kid, it was a valuable lesson in accepting that you don't have to be best friends with everyone, in order to be able to work together. And just as importantly - if not more so - it taught me that we shouldn't just surround ourselves with carbon copies of who we are. If we can learn to accept that not everyone is going to be 100% on our wavelength, and if we're prepared to get to know those people anyway, it can lead to unexpected friendships - and a greater understanding of others, too.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer taught me that your friends are the family you choose for yourself...
I truly feel that there's something amazing about having a close circle of friends around you. Nothing cemented this belief more (aside from Friends) than Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
In every situation Buffy finds herself in, she has an incredible support network behind her, in the form of her friends. Willing to put their lives in danger in order to protect their friend, the Scoobies prove their dedication time and time again. And it goes way beyond fighting demons, too. When Buffy needs emotional support, her friends are there. And vice versa. There's an incredible level of closeness between the Scooby Gang, especially the three core members, Buffy, Willow and Xander. Yes, they fall out, yes, they disagree, yes, they sometimes keep things from one another. But in the end, they come through for each other when it matters the most.
After (SPOILER) Buffy's mum dies, her friends truly become family to Buffy and her sister, Dawn, with Willow and Tara moving in to the family home and Giles assisting with practical issues, such as money. Indeed, in a lot of ways, after Buffy's dad disappears from the scene, Giles acts as a father figure to the slayer.
Watching this in my teens was pretty amazing, to me. I was from a military family; I had spent my entire childhood moving around from place to place and had never had that one, consistent group of friends that I could rely on. But Buffy made me believe that I'd find them, someday. And when I finally did, I cherished them all the more.
Good friends - best friends - love you unconditionally, not because they feel a compulsion to do so out of family loyalty, but because they choose to. They come to you as strangers and end up being like family. Sometimes closer.
Buffy also taught me that sometimes, you can find the strength to support the people you love through unspeakable things.
Okay, so none of my friends have - thankfully - turned into evil witches and started flaying people alive, or trying to end the world. But when (SPOILER) Willow does that in Buffy, Xander manages to stop her in her tracks - and save the world in the process - just by reminding her that he loves her and is willing to help her get through the pain she's feeling as a result of (SPOILER) the loss of her beloved girlfriend, Tara. When it would have been really easy to hate Willow, and when being unable to forgive her for her actions would be completely understandable, Xander (and later, the rest of the gang) realises that her behaviour has come from a place of complete and utter grief and that what she needs is to be supported and loved. I can barely watch that scene without going a little misty-eyed...
Obviously, in reality, there are times when you have no choice but to walk away from someone - please remember that if you're being harmed physically or emotionally in real life, it's not your responsibility to "fix" the person hurting you - but Buffy teaches us that when the people we love behave in a manner that's out-of-character, rather than simply giving up on them right away, we should find out what's causing the difference in their behaviour and try to work out how (and if) we can help them through it. That was always an incredibly powerful message to my youthful ears and it's one I try to stick by, today.
It also goes hand in hand with...
Doctor Who taught me that you don't just give up on things/people who are important to you, nor do you shy away from doing the right thing.
So, I said I was writing this blog in reverse order and I very much am, because my top two nerdy TV shows will always be Buffy and Doctor Who, with the latter in first place. My abusive ex once said to me that "everything you'll ever need to know about life and love can be learnt from Star Wars." Well, I feel that way about Doctor Who. I'm a nerd. Deal with it.
Doctor Who has taught me never to give up when something is truly important. You need only look at how long Amelia Pond waited for her "Raggedy Man," or how long Rory was prepared to wait for the grown-up Amy Pond (literally thousands of years), to know that this is a show that encourages you to do the very opposite of throwing in the towel.
Having the guts to stand up and say when something is wrong, to vocally defend those in need and to keep reaching for a dream even when it seems out of reach are all things I passionately believe in. And you can learn all of those lessons from Doctor Who.
In every episode - no matter how fantastical the plot line - that integral message shines through. The Doctor himself, for the most part at least, possesses a belief that things will be okay in the end. That nothing is insurmountable. There is no evil that cannot be countered when you have the right team around you and good will triumph in the end.
Even the Doctor's ability to regnerate could be seen as an example of this unshakeable belief in not giving up. He "dies," only to start over again. We all have moments where we feel like our dreams are "dying," or that we're not going to win in a certain situation. But we can always change the way we're doing things, or alter our outlook, rather than give up altogether.
And probably the most valuable life lesson of all...
Doctor Who taught me that EVERYONE is important.
The Doctor frequently travels with humans. Regular, everyday people, with pretty normal lives. And he never fails to let them know how spectacular they are capable of being.
It's not just his regular travelling companions, either. The Doctor takes great pains to ensure that nobody - however insignificant they believe themselves to be - ever walks away from an interaction with him without knowing how important they really are.
And isn't that the greatest life lesson we could learn from a nerdy TV show?! Everyone out there in the world - no matter who they are, where they're from and what they believe in - is important. And should be made to feel as such.
If we keep that in mind, we begin to realise that we all deserve to be taken seriously. To be cared about. Respected. Nobody on this planet is unimportant and therefore nobody should be made to feel that they are.
In fact, every single other lesson nerdy TV taught me over the years leads up to this one. If we remember that everyone is equally important, then we think harder about the way we speak to people. We consider that we don't have to share beliefs with everyone, but we have to respect everyone's rights to their own views. We start to understand that even if we seemingly have nothing in common with someone, that doesn't mean we can't work alongside them and try to get along. And those people we choose to keep closest to us become people whose importance we don't want to ever forget. We stand by them and we hope they'll do the same for us. We learn not to give up on those people unless we have no other option. We learn that we - and they - should stand up for what is right and vocally defend those who can't defend themselves.
Because we are ALL important. Every single one of us.
So, thank you to my favourite TV shows, for teaching me so much.
Long may we learn from the things we love.