This was all inevitable. Wee little Jacks had no idea what lay in store for her when her friend Austin first showed her his Pokémon deck in third grade, or when her mom bought her a six-pack of Nancy Drew novels in fourth grade, or when she discovered the incredible show that was Avatar: The Last Airbender in fifth grade. She had no idea.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve craved stimulation. I have periods where I retreat into my mind and immerse myself in thoughts, theories, stories, anything I can think of for hours on end. When I was younger, I always played pretend. Class was an absolute snore for me, so I would pass time by imagining that my favorite characters were sitting along with me, distracting me from my responsibilities. My fodder for such fantasies came from cartoons, books, movies. Playing dress up was a staple.
From early on in my grade school career I was exposed to media that I would fall in love with. Pokémon was the most prevalent example. Xiaolin Showdown was next, then Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, then the masterpiece that was Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Fun fact: My first ever fanart was of Zuko and Katara kissing. I uploaded it to my old DeviantArt account.) It was basically all downhill from there. I was in so deep by the time sixth grade rolled around that when I made friends—spoiler alert, they were huge nerds as well—six of us actually made a mash-up movie of Avater and Star Wars with my dad’s ancient cassette video camera. Yeah. Complete with shitty twelve-year-old-made costumes. It was baaaaad. Luckily, that raw footage is buried deep somewhere in my family’s storage unit. But I digress.
For many of my close friends, and for me, fandom has always been a formative part of life, though it took me a while to realize just how big of an impact it could have on my own. I spent the majority of eight grade dueling my friend Macy at Yu-Gi-Oh and powering through the Inuyasha dub at my friend Sarah’s house. Those two were the real culprits that finally pushed me into the wide world of anime…and then, through the mystical powers of the internet, I discovered HamaCon. My first anime convention.
From the moment my fifteen-year-old self walked through the double doors of that Holiday Inn in Huntsville, Alabama, I felt acceptance. Everywhere I looked, people were in costume, talking about fandom. I had known about these gatherings for years, but I’d always thought they were inaccessible. To finally be at one for the first time…was breathtaking. People came up and asked for pictures with me, of me in my costume—a China-bought rendition of Alois Trancy from Kuroshitsuji.
The next day, I debuted my first hand-made costume—Ukraine from Axis Powers: Hetalia.
Not as many people asked for my picture that day. But when I found out that there was a Hetalia panel being held, I was ecstatic. I arrived late (as per usual), but the moment I stepped through the door, I was greeted by an abrupt shout of ‘Big Seester!’, and the next thing I know, a Russia cosplayer is sweeping me up in a big ol’ bear hug and tugging me to the front of the room toward the other nations. (Remember, I’d never met any of these people before.) That’s how I got dragged into a Q&A cosplay panel on the second day of my first convention. Thus began my journey into cosplay, conventions, and social groups that would become my primary hobby, my escape, and my creative outlet for many years to come.
I’ve definitely made a lot of friends at HamaCon. The venue has changed and grown over the past five years, but every time I go, I continue to feel at home and welcome. And each time I go, I always leave with more friends.
Hell, I’ve probably made more friends at conventions than I have in any other aspect of my life. And most of those friends have become such an important part of my life that I don’t know what I’d do without them. <3
Even though I’ve somewhat moved on to other shows and video games, I’ve remained tied to so many branches of the different fandom communities, despite many of the friends I made moving onto interests vastly removed from mine. Needing out with other people who share your interests is one of the best feelings in the world, to me.
Fandom has allowed me to experience so many wonderful things, and has led me to discover shows and games and movies that have literally changed my life.
I’ve met the majority of my best friends through conventions or the internet, I’ve traveled to so many cool places and met so many amazing people. I’ve even made it into a video that Rooster Teeth filmed! It’s honestly some of the most fun I’ve had in my life. Period.
Everyone has different experiences with fandom as a whole, and with specific fandoms within the fandom culture. Fandomception? For me, specific fandoms have so powerfully impacted my life, how I look at myself, and me as a person, that I honestly can’t tell you where I would be if those fandoms were absent.
Nancy Drew made me ask questions, taught me to look at things from a different perspective when I get stuck. Adam Lambert helped me come to terms with my sexuality, and realize my passion for theatre. Hetalia introduced me to some really, really solid and wonderful friends. Supernatural made me realize that life is worth living, even when things get really ugly. Marvel, interestingly, helped me come to terms with my self-worth issues, and though it hasn’t solved them, it definitely still helps. RWBY gave me badass girls who help me overcome life’s little struggles. Dragon Age allows me to escape totally and completely from the world, to immerse myself in the complex lore and history of the Thedas and its races. Rooster Teeth as a company gives me hope that I too can succeed and do great things in life, but it reminds me that patience, determination, and hard work are essential. Along with a healthy dose of humor.
I’ve grown a lot since that first Nancy Drew book, that first anime convention, that first episode of Yu-Gi-Oh. A lot of things in my life have changed, as life is wont to do. Fandom has remained a comfort and a constant during the past ten years of my life. Without fandom, I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I definitely wouldn’t be spilling my soul to you, audience, on this geekery blog. But I am so, so thankful that I am, that I’m here experiencing life so richly, so geekily. So thanks, fandom. You’ve given me a life worth living.