When one goes into a fandom, there are many things that can be found. Friends, coworkers, colleagues, in the most unlikely and strange of places. All wearing exotic and wild faces. Some of them bearing names just as intriguing as the expressions and weapons they carry. Some of these people can be incredibly intimidating to the newcomer in a fandom, the first-timer at a convention, a younger fan in the face of a mass of crowds with knowledge far beyond their years. What one commonly doesn’t consider however, in the world of cosplay and conventions and fandom, is that these fleeting moments, these grand gatherings that happen once or twice a year or the text before one’s eyes can link them to something far more. Emotional support, a secondary family, a kindred spirit in the heart of crisis.
I cannot think of where I would be without the people I have met through my nerd-dom. I often wonder how people who don’t entrench themselves in fandoms function on a daily basis. How they connect and bond. Strange, perhaps, and showing the bridge between the different sub-cultures but in all those years spent in the school system loosely bonded by shared activities, fleeting interests and a mandatory demand of the state, I only speak to perhaps two of the countless faces I’d grown up with since childhood since graduation. Yet one segment of my life has remaind constant. A small little cluster of friends I knew seven hundred miles away in Maine. A girl I was in love with, though I only saw her face a grand total of three or four times before I moved halfway across the country to be with her.
Speaking with cosplayers and others in the worlds of fandom I hear similiar stories every con, on sites like Facebook and Tumblr. When someone’s family life has gone awry, or already was, they escaped into the invisible arms of those beyond a screen for their emotional support and comfort. Faces far away who knew so much more. A girl with depression and suicidal tendencies that finds support and stability in the group gained through a Tumblr roleplay blog. A cosplayer who came to realized he was not strange but apart of the transgender community by the support of those who urged him to cosplay and dress how it was he really felt. To live how it was he was meant to live. Fandoms bringing together those who have no one else around them that help each other through financial crisis, deaths of loved ones, and just when someone needs a hand to hold and tell them it’s going to be okay. To even overcome the negative connotation of a physical disability. Signal boosts on Tumblr spread like wildfire in fandom tags if someone believes a suicide may be taking place.
Fandoms can be so much more than people realize. Giving people who may not otherwise have a support network a virtually unlimited access to like-minded individuals who beneath the geekiness can be a kindred spirit waiting to happen. I recall a story that happened very recently, just the same night as writing of this article. I’d gone into a mental breakdown after my fiance had just gotten to sleep after a rough night. It was five in the morning, I’d slept a grand total of one hour from the night’s emotional escapades and had work in two hours. I couldn’t sleep. My mind was whirling with revelations of very, very painful notions of something going on in my personal life. I was an emotional wreck and needed someone, anyone, to talk to.
My first thought was to grab my laptop and hit up AIM. No one was on. Understandable, it was an ungodly hour. Skype yielded much the same. Yet there were two places that never truly sleep. Tumblr and Omegle. Logging into my roleplay blog I set up a message asking if there was an ear awake to lend. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, I pulled up a tab and jumped on Omegle. This was a very far cry from what my pride would normally ever allow but desperate times called for desperate measures. Desperate I was, with work in two hours and a shift I really should not miss. Plugging ‘thorki’ and ‘thunderfrost’ into the tags, common terms for a pairing in the Avengers fandom, I searched and after a few dead connections was brought to a like-minded soul. Within those minutes, checking back to Tumblr, I had six asks in my askbox.
I poured my bleeding heart out.
I cried on their virtual shoulders and rambled things to them I would never say to a face I just met on the street. Anonymity was perhaps something that would lend to such an act but on Tumblr I currently carry about 341 followers and those who responded have been watching me for some time. What made me feel safe, secure, rambling to these people and letting out all my anger and frustration and hurt was the fact of how we were meeting, how we’d met and connected over time. Through fandom. Through a link that, without it, I would never have met the amazing people that talked me down and helped me come to terms, even a little bit, with that I struggled with.
People underestimate the power of a fandom. How charitable and caring those within them can be. They fight and squabble amongst themselves and each other but in the end, there is always a network there in place to catch those who are falling. Even for those who are complete strangers. A few strange little words exotic as the names and faces that carry them can be the difference between life and death. Can make a big difference in the life of someone who would otherwise not have anything. In my life, who would never have found true love, a job I love, and a career I am eager to pursue if I didn’t have those I met through my nerd-dom and conventions to hold onto and keep me strong.
Thank you, every single one of you. Don’t forget to thank those who keep you strong every day as well.