Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Finding Harmony: The Pursuit to Become the Perfect Nerd

Harmony Huskinson didn’t have the average childhood.

The product of an elementary teacher who taught her how to be a “grammar nerd,” and an exploration geologist who sparked her love of all things science, she had to worry about things other children wouldn’t dream of.

“I was embedded in a house full of amethysts and fossils,” she said. “I couldn’t slam my bedroom door or I’d knock over the minerals in the mineral room next door.”

Unique rocks were a staple in the Huskinson house – her father’s study of geology allowed her to be the kid with the coolest sleepover show-and-tell: glow-in-the-dark rocks.

It also made Huskinson perfect for an internship at National Geographic

The self-proclaimed nerd from Kingman, Ariz. has gotten her fair share of science action since starting at the magazine in Washington, D.C. On her first day, she was assigned a story on the earliest ancestor of birds, a dino-bird – an appropriate article for someone who collects plastic dinosaurs.

The anthropologist Huskinson interviewed thanked her for her work after he received some praise from fellow researchers.

“He was super stoked,” Huskinson said. “He really validated what I’m doing. It was really good to hear that what I’m doing is making an impact despite my lack of experience.”

Huskinson’s natural curiosity led her to journalism, but she didn’t always think she would write about science.

“I thought I was going to be one of those hard-hitting reporters that reports on the president, but then I found out honestly that is boring,” Huskinson said. “Freshman year I wrote features for The State Press student newspaper and got to go in-depth, got to be creative, bring my quirk on to everything. Features are what I love.”

Huskinson found several ways to flex her creative side while studying at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s worked at The State Press newspaper, State Press Magazine, Phoenix Magazine and The Arizona Republic. She credits her small hometown for her creativity.

“Small towns have their own personalities and ways of dealing with the world. People in big cities don’t understand until they’re in a small town and don’t have access to anything to do except a rickety bowling alley and Walmart,” Huskinson said. “It made me creative. I had to come up with what I wanted to do.”

But some of Huskinson’s eccentricity may just be part of who she is.

Huskinson’s best friend since seventh grade, Modjeska Hutchings, said Huskinson isn't afraid of what people think.

“Harmony is definitely different. She always says what’s on her mind,” Hutchings said. “She does whatever she feels is right at the time – she’s a pretty fearless person.”

Fear wasn’t an issue for Huskinson when she walked into her magazine journalism class every day toting a different toy dinosaur and placing it on her desk.

“It took me a while to notice that she did that,” said Huskinson’s former professor and editor-in-chief at Virgo Publishing, Michelle Beaver. “The class learned that she has different characters for each dinosaur, they all live together, they have different ways of relating to each other.”

Despite her quirks, Huskinson said she’s not the perfect nerd.   

“It’s hard being around actual nerds who know what they’re talking about and can out-nerd me so easily,” Huskinson said. “But you will never meet a group more accepting than nerds. They don’t care what you look like, they don’t care what you’re in to, they don’t care what you’re wearing. That almost makes me want to tear up because people are so unaccepting of others.”

Huskinson wants to explore the “nerd culture” of Phoenix for her senior thesis, but first, she hopes to bring together the scientific nerd and pop culture nerd in a piece for National Geographic this summer.

“The love of my life is just being a nerd,” Huskinson said. “But I’m not as good of a nerd as some people, like I don’t even like Star Wars.”

Written by Kristin Canning, Wartburg College, SELF
Edited by Taryn Finley, Howard University, ESSENCE Magazine

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