A High School Secret

Space Marines
(James H.)– I had one great fear in high school, something I kept locked away from everyone, terrified that if they ever found out, they’d never treat me the same way. It was a secret I was completely ashamed of, something I was convinced made me unlovable. I hid my secret deep in desk drawers, in magazines under my mattress, in deleted internet histories.

Yes, you guessed correctly. In high school I was terrified that people would find out how much I loved the tabletop miniature war-game, Warhammer 40,000.

Sure, everyone has some “nerdy” hobby. Some of us are really into anime. Others, knitting. A select few, masturbating wildly onto Organic Chemistry lecture slides. But Warhammer isn’t like that. It’s not your typical nerdy hobby. It’s a fucking nerd supernova. And like a supernova, Warhammer 40,000 obliterates everything in its path (your social life).

It’s not a board game. You don’t buy a premade box of figures and just get to playing around the kitchen table on family game night. No. Warhammer 40,000 is a lifestyle. You buy boxes of unassembled warriors. You build them. You paint them. You fabricate an elaborate backstory for your army – my Eldar (space elves) hailed from the floating craftworld of Iyanden, ravaged by the constant threat of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Kraken. I was particularly proud of my Fire Dragon Aspect Warriors, and when my older brother told me that my paint job sucked, I stole a private moment on the balcony to have myself a little cry. This is the same brother who once publically described my army as “homosexuals in space.” Again, barely suppressed tears. I was that emotionally invested.

But don’t worry, it’s not like this is an expensive hobby. Oh wait, these aren’t toy soldiers. They’re “tabletop miniatures.” AKA they are probably the reason we had to sell our house. Putting a complete army together – glue, paints, clippers, scenery, supplemental rulebooks, “HQ,” “elite,” “troop”, “fast attack,” and “heavy support” figures – costs literally hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

But finally, all your hard work pays off. You get your mom to surreptitiously drop you off at the local hobby shop so you can spend a Saturday afternoon engaged in an elaborate dick measuring ritual with fellow males aged twelve to forty-five. On a good day your greatest triumph is watching a human child emotionally self-destruct when their Space Marine Land Raider suffers a “Vehicle Destroyed” dice roll by a Tau XV88 Battlesuit’s Twin-linked Railgun system. But what’s the point of revealing all of this? (I mean, aside from my clear desire never to have sex again).

Recently I’ve been thinking about having useless, nerdy hobbies – things that exist in a world totally separate from our normal academic, extracurricular, and even social lives. I wish for the life of me that instead of dicking around on Facebook for two hours, or trying to force myself to do something “intellectually stimulating” in lieu of Netflix, that I could just sit at my desk and build some Warhammer guys again. If I had hundreds of dollars of disposable income, maybe I would.

Robbie's Text

Addiction is still a daily struggle for my older brother.

I guess what I’m saying is that a lot of us could benefit from having some productive, but ultimately unimportant hobbies. Like learning origami, or whittling, or building little toy soldiers. I’m tired of responding to the inevitable “what to do you like to do in your free time?” question with the same jumble of pathetic non-responses. I get bored listening to myself at Japanese language table every week. “Do you have weekend plans Hildebrand-san? Yes, sensei, I plan to sleep lololol! Oh Hildebrand-san you are just too much to handle, girlfriend!”

It’s so easy to get caught up performing the part of Amherst overachiever. You work your ass off all week and spend the weekends plowing through application after paper after email, only to baptize yourself in Keystone for the week to come. Give yourself a work-free, extracurricular-free, sub-free, internet-free Saturday, and what would you do? For my part, I don’t know if I can answer that anymore. I like to read, but I don’t really feel like I have anything that makes me particularly interesting these days. Like so many of us, I use my class year, my major, and my extracurriculars to present myself to other people, but what good is that? Really, who cares?

I’m ready for a paradigm shift. I’m ready to start conversations without saying I’m a sophomore or that I’m pre-med or that I super duper can’t wait to study abroad.  These days, I’d much rather talk about protecting the galaxy from the forces of Chaos.