Book Review: Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton
Geek confession time: I didn't watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not really. I've seen some episodes, but I never followed the show.
However, I am still a big fan of Wil Wheaton's.
Stand By Me was the first rated R movie that I was allowed to go to in theaters. This privilege was a big deal for me. As my sophomore year approached, I pleaded and pleaded with my parents to let me head over to the Ridgewood, New Jersey movie theater with a few friends. Going in, all I knew was that this movie was some kid adventure to see a dead body. I walked out of the theater feeling like Gordie's life was pretty similar to my own. And if he could figure out his path, then I could figure out mine.
I didn't think about Wil Wheaton again until he guest starred on The Big Bang Theory and appeared in The Guild. I was beside myself with laughter at his evil antics. And then he was narrating audiobooks and I read a few of his blog posts and then Tabletop exploded and blew my mind.
The more I saw Wil Wheaton on social media and at conventions, the more I wanted to learn a bit more about him. This guy seemed so genuinely well-balanced. Sadly, when I think of kid actors whose movie careers didn't take off, I don't usually conjure positive images. So how did this guy not only survive, but reinvent his career?
This memoir is a curated collection of blog posts that he narrates, explains, and gives context to from a more emotionally intelligent vantage point a few years after writing the original blog posts.
Sure, he tells some great stories about his childhood and about his family life with his two adopted sons. More importantly though, he lays out how much he struggled with the repercussions of his teenage decision to leave TNG.
As an actor who used to be a big deal, he found himself just famous enough that people have opinions about him, but not famous enough to make money with celebrity endorsements. He had to get inventive to pay the bills. He had to find new outlets for his creativity. He had to learn to cope with his own self-doubts.
And there's the heart of this book. Wil weaves blog posts from 2001-2002 into his tale of how he survived. He writes how an original blog post may not be a true reflection of every emotion he was feeling because those self-doubts were telling him to project a much more confident or positive attitude. He points out where he was lying or embellishing. He explains why his doubts had such a hold over him.
And I love his message. That message that it's okay to be honest about who you are. This lesson is a tough one for most of us. Reading about how an actor who used to be pretty famous copes with his own insecurities and finds a way to prosper is motivational and inspiring.
At least for me, but I am biased because I already have a high opinion of the guy. But I think even people who just know that Wil Wheaton is some Internet geek who likes board games could find this book motivational and inspiring.
Wil has talked publicly about how he's struggled with depression too. I was hoping that this memoir might have some of those struggles in there as well. But after reading these stories, I realized that this book was very much dedicated to fully answering the questions about how Wil dealt with his own ghost he named "Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake."
Even if you're not a huge fan of Wil Wheaton's, his treatment of regret and how he dealt with it is a universal tale that anyone can appreciate and relate to. He really is just a geek.