The summer before my junior year of high school, I found a crocheted black hat with cat ears while I walking around New York City. I immediately decided that I had to have it; what better excuse to wear cat ears to school? For me, this hat was a way for me to fly my geek flag proudly. In my first two years of high school, I had fallen into the “quirky girl” role in my group of friends. Could I reject that persona? I was an in-denial weeaboo and, while most of my friends were going to parties or watching TV, I was playing indie video games or watching John Waters films. I loved my friends, but there were always certain ways that we just didn’t get each other.
When I enrolled at Oberlin, I decided to live on the sci-fi-theme hall. I had heard from friends already attending that it was a great place to meet gamers and play Magic: The Gathering. In Sci-Fi Hall, I didn’t just meet fellow gamers. I became part of a community that deeply believed in being a community.
On the night before my first day of college classes, all of the freshmen and upperclassmen crowded into the Sci-Fi Hall lounge. We went around the room and introduced ourselves. Abby said she spoke German and enjoyed playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Kevin named himself a philosophy major and an Oberlin native, noting his obsession with Dungeons and Dragons. Mike told us about his love affair with the Dune series, and the group teased him for his triple major in biology, neuroscience, and philosophy. When it became my turn to talk, I felt overwhelmed by the genuine desire that these people had to get to know me. I said I liked anthropology and video games, and later I had a great conversation with Jeff, a visiting Sci-Fi alum, about the character Garrus from Mass Effect.
It is incredibly refreshing to be surrounded by people who will only call you weird and a geek as a compliment. I soon found myself saying whatever I wanted to say and not worrying about what other people thought of me. The friends I made on Sci-Fi Hall taught me that just being yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do. I felt at home with the people around me, and I developed a confidence in myself that I had never experienced before.
Although I’ve grown up a lot during my time at Oberlin, and have since ditched the cat-ears look, I’ve developed a nostalgia for the youthful attitude that Sci-Fi Hall inspires. I’m a dedicated student and academic, but I still find the time to play Pokemon and watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Some of the smartest people I have ever met are Sci-Fi Hallers. They are scientists, artists, theorists, athletes, musicians, and writers. They are also people who are comfortable in their own skin and know not to ever give up the kid in themselves.
Even as I move on with my life and leave the Sci-Fi Hall community for good next year, I will always value everything the community gave me. No matter who you are, Sci-Fi Hall will welcome you into their ranks. They will want to take you on raids of other theme halls. They will want to get to know you even better than you know yourself. That is what makes Sci-Fi Hall, and the people in it, so powerful.