Don’t forget to be awesome
I did something unusual that made me feel like an adult recently: I made an email signature.
I felt my over-thought sign off succinctly described who I am and what I do. But the most important part of my signature is the last five words at the bottom. To me, “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome” [DFTBA] has a simple denotation with an endless supply of connotations.
These connotations stem from young adult author John Green. John, along with his brother Hank, started the Brotherhood 2.0 project in 2007, during which the two ceased text-based communications for an entire year. They didn’t text, instant message, or email; they communicated solely through necessary phone calls and their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers.
During this year of video posting, the Greens established such a heavy following that they continued to post videos once they resumed text communications. Though they have done countless videos in their six years of vlogging, this year marked John’s first utterance of the hometown phrase that has become their trademark.
Since then, the phrase has permeated throughout the community of “nerdfighters,” fans of the Vlogbrothers videos, because it represents how we as the community of Nerdfighteria carry ourselves online and in real life. It represents a lifestyle of promoting that which is awesome and decreasing “world suck,” the collective group of things that are not awesome.
The beauty of the acronym DFTBA lies in its versatility; it means something different to every person who uses it. In the various drafts of this editorial, I’ve had at least fifteen minor existential crises trying to figure out what DFTBA embodies in me. There’s a lot to it — way more than five words, twenty-one letters and an apostrophe can cover.
Initially, I was going to address the lifestyle of learning and understanding that comes with the timeshare you stake in Nerdfighteria. We learn, and we love to learn. We are the embodiment of academia’s essence.
But there’s also the aspect of just being you, no matter the situation. Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame once said, “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” In its truest essence, the phrase “Don’t forget to be awesome” encourages nerdfighters—or at least this one—to embrace the gifts intangible that we can give to other people.
From the acceptance we preach in Nerdfighteria to the ways we help each other, both big and small, the good we do and the gifts we give all come from the same source: our truest selves.
We are not perfect in Nerdfighteria; no community or person is idyllic in any sense. Regardless, I want to be the neighbor Mr. Rogers would have wanted me to be. Though I cannot generalize for sure, I have to believe there are other nerdfighters who think the same way.
When it comes down to it, the essence of Nerdfighteria, and, thus, the essence of DFTBA, is to give these gifts in hopes of being a better person and making the world around us better. Whether we do something as big as donating to charities or something as small as helping a friend with a couple extra dollars, we do something to make sure that the world we leave is somehow in the black, even if for that solitary moment before it goes back in the red.
Looking at today’s political and cultural climate, finding the good this world can provide verges on impossible at times. The news philosophy of “If I bleeds, it leads” makes it hard to see a shine through the coals. One deep look at the world around us, though, and we will find those gems of awesome. Sometimes, we just need reminders that there are diamonds out there. For me, these reminders can be as simple as the last line of an email signature:
“As always, best wishes, and don’t forget to be awesome.”