A decent amount of my identity is as the mother of geeklings (a bit like the mother of dragons, but with less fire. Usually.). I’ve realized, though, that if you primarily know me online, you might think that I only have one geekling. I talk about my daughter a lot. She’s the kind of person who really puts herself out there. She helped start a game group at her school where she’s one of the GMs. She wrote an editorial for her school paper on sexism in geek culture. She doesn’t mind when I post pictures of her cosplay and LARP adventures. She’s happy to film little videos about games I’ve worked on. She’s a natural born performer and will be Nori the dwarf in her school’s production of The Hobbit. She has strong opinions, and she’s not afraid to share them with you. In fact, she’s frequently looking for an outlet for all the stuff she’d like to say.
But, for argument’s sake, let’s say there’s another geekling in our house—one who doesn’t like people to take photos of him, and REALLY doesn’t like them posted on the internet (although you may catch a glimpse of face behind tousled curls or peering out from under a hat in some pictures with other people). One who would rather I didn’t talk about him all that much. One who rarely speaks up in public and would prefer I didn’t share too much either. In respecting this hypothetical child’s wishes, he might start to seem invisible.
This gets me thinking a bit about the quiet ones. (Note: I’m not talking about people who are systematically quieted because of gender, race, orientation, socio-economic status, or anything else along those lines—that’s a whole different discussion that’s well covered elsewhere by others with more experience and knowledge than I. For this situation I mean people who are quiet by personality and/or choice.)
There’s the saying that “still waters run deep” and in some ways it applies. The fact that the quiet ones aren’t speaking loudly doesn’t mean that they have nothing worth saying. In fact, hypothetically, this quiet child in my house often has very insightful things to say. He might have noticed on his own that you can draw some parallels between racism in our world and the treatment of the mutants in the first X-Men movie. He may have very strong views about the gendering of toys, even though he’s unlikely to write an editorial about it.
He may also be very creative in his own way, channeling it toward inventions using every day office supplies or computer programs he hopes to write someday. Although musical like his sister, you’d be more likely to find him playing rhythm guitar in a rock band at school than acting in a play or singing a solo.
He’s a deep thinker, a problem solver, a truly empathetic person who can put himself in other people’s shoes better than most adults I know, let alone people his own age. He may be less flashy than many, and I think that means that people often overlook or underestimate him. And I fear it sometimes seems like I do that, because I’m trying to respect his wish for privacy.
It’s a hard line to walk. Being a private and/or reserved person in a world of social media where people very publicly share the minutia of their lives can be really hard. I’m not nearly as reserved as my hypothetical child that I’m not really talking about, but I can understand how he feels. Not everyone does things that are easily publicly celebrated, but that doesn’t necessarily make those things less important or useful. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their own success, or even letting others talk about their success. Not everyone has the desire to be in the spotlight, to share the things they do.
So I want to take a moment in praise of the quiet ones. A moment to appreciate the people who add to our lives, to our gaming community, in subtle ways. Our world is richer because of them.