I’m familiar with Felicia Day from her recurring role as Charlie Bradbury on the CW’s paranormal drama Supernatural, but the introduction to Day’s new memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), reveals several other identities for which Day is decidedly more famous. You could say she’s a pioneer in scripted web series; from 2007 to 2012 she wrote and starred in a popular YouTube series about gaming, The Guild, which her own web production company, Geek and Sundry, created. She’s also a self-proclaimed social media addict—with 2.5 million Twitter followers—and has been dubbed Queen of the Geeks, a title she accepts but doesn’t personally agree with.
In You’re Never Weird, Day frames her story as one of a fish out of water who made good, as in superstar-at-Comic-Con good. She grew up being uncomfortable around other people and spent most of her childhood in the company of her brother, with whom she didn’t have the best relationship. Their hippie parents, who were skeptical of the educational values in the deep South, where the family lived, homeschooled their children. Day describes breakthrough moments when the burgeoning internet helped her connect with others, but she was definitely unabashed about pursuing her various hobbies (mathematics, playing the violin and acting). As Day writes, “The heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am—unapologetically.”
From the title alone, I was prepared to love this book. One of the great things about the internet—despite the privacy issues, the endless distractions and the compare-and-despair culture of Facebook and other social networks—is that people who think they’re alone, different or weird in some way can find others who share and will encourage their interests. A ready listening ear (or screen) is waiting for the outsider whose own community offers no options for interaction. With all this in mind, I was shocked to find Day’s initial chapters underwhelming. She seems to breeze through all the obstacles in her life—and in the cutest narrative voice ever!
Day may have been homeschooled and awkward, but her book reveals that she earned perfect SAT scores, was admitted to the University of Texas at Austin at the age of 16, was a violin prodigy and held a first-chair spot in her college violin program while double majoring in mathematics and music. And her GPA was a 4.0 all four years. If she wasn’t a social star, she certainly wasn’t an outcast. It seems her core self was intact, and she had always been embraced by her family. So what did she overcome? Where was the angst?
Despite the sinking feeling in my gut, I persevered in reading Day’s story and learned she did indeed do something both spectacular and inspirational and surmounted many barriers to her success. Her book perfectly demonstrates how easy it is to judge someone else as having it all together; we look at people’s achievements and can see only how their past and their credentials must have predicated their future victories. Day subverts this with powerful honesty in her tales of trying to make it as an adult and how her confidence, quirkiness and stellar educational background initially failed her. In her humorous, uniquely breezy style (the title of this post is a quote from her book), Day tells painful stories about breaking into Hollywood and the toll it took on her; as a coping mechanism, she spiraled into an obsession with World of Warcraft, for example. She also relates her first attempts at script writing and discusses her decision to produce her own show after being hit with several rejections.
Day’s chipper tone and comic delivery belie the challenges of trying to change yourself to fit the mold of others, plus the doubt that accompanies that process despite your own wonderful accomplishments. But the eventual realization is that you can triumph on your own terms. In watching Day navigate that path, I found that You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) quickly changed from a quirky memoir to a heartwarming, inspirational reminder to unapologetically be who you are.
Photo courtesy of Christina Gandolfo