Featured photo: Sayaka dressed as Nausicaa at Otakon posing with a Kiki (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

I’m a nerd.

Specifically, an Asian nerd. But it wasn’t always this way.

A few weekends ago, I bought a wig and an outfit, made some accessories and went to my first anime convention. And it was awesome.

As a child, I grew up surrounded by Japanese culture within the safety of my home. I consumed tons of Studio Ghibli films (Nausicaa is my favorite) and watched countless Japanese TV shows.

But on the outside, at school, and eventually at work, I never talked about it.

In fact, I actively avoided people who shared those interests for the longest time because of my own internalized racism. I thought people who liked those things were weird, strange, nerds.

But I was one too!

I didn’t watch anime (except for Sailor Moon and Pokemon because come on). I didn’t play video games. I didn’t read manga.

In the last decade I’ve worked to decode and unlearn those toxic, internalized racist notions. And a few weekends ago, I shed a new layer.

Walking around Otakon in Washington DC’s huge convention center, I was surrounded by thousands of nerds dressed up as characters I adored. There goes Viper and Killjoy from Valorant and there’s Yor and Loid from Spy x Family!

When I saw ones I admired, I ran after them to ask to take photos. Others stopped me for photos, too.

It seemed like every single person at the convention felt comfortable in who they were. What they were wearing. What they loved. They were nerds, and they loved it. They were proud, even!

It’s one of the few times I’ve ever been in a space that so fully embraced a specific part of my culture in a way that made me feel seen and comfortable too. Like it was okay to like those things.

So yeah, I’m a nerd and I’m going to continue doing nerd things.

I’ve finally started watching anime in the last five years (send me recommendations!), I play video games (maybe too much?) and I’m going to cons now. 

And at 31, it’s nice to continue growing.

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