There are many things that I am supposed to be doing these last few months that I have not been. Most immediately I am supposed to be sleeping. I don’t do that all that much these days. I began this blog, and then it certainly seems like I abandoned it, though the only reason I haven’t written is because being the “meat” in the sandwich generation has become very literally all encompassing in recent months. While beginning dissertation, my mother has been hospitalized twice for both physical and psychiatric issues which have also required me to spend every waking moment cleaning out her hoarder house to make it safe for her to go back to and eventually move out of (it’s a long story), and my three year old is potty training, is a genius that requires constant intellectual stimulation, and is preparing to begin preschool in the next few weeks. I have been, and continue to be, an emotional mess trying to manage everything. The part of my schooling process that I’ve been most looking forward to – a dissertation written about fandom – has begun without me even being able to focus on anything but family problems. Frustrating and distressing are adjectives that do not even begin to cover the range of emotions I’ve been feeling.
Despite being overwhelmed with family issues, I do still have many topics I want to write about here. I just have been so emotionally compromised that I stay up and distract myself from reality until I’m ready to drop so that I ensure I don’t have time for racing thoughts before sleep. One of the topics I eventually want to explore is the phenomenon of the sandwich generation. My husband wasn’t aware of the term, and wanted to learn more about it. As I’m experiencing it, I’d also like to explore it in more depth. When I’m ready. I’d also like to begin discussion of the experiences I’ve had in preparing my research plan for writing a dissertation on science fiction fandom involvement, as it is certainly not a traditional topic, and I’ve already run into several interesting situations that I think it would be fun to share.
But in this entry, I want to focus on what is at the heart of this blog: fandom. Communities surrounding a passion for a piece of pop culture. I grew up thinking that fandom and parasocial relationships (oh yeah, explaining the difference is another entry I want to write up at some point) were silly. As an adult, I see now that they are powerful and very literally saved my life. In good times, fandom relationships have enriched my life. I’ve created lifelong friends within fandoms, and enjoyed so many good times. In bad times, parasocial relationships – the individual relationship one has with that piece of pop culture – have been an escape and a safe haven to shield me from reality for awhile. The power in that cannot be overstated. We can’t live our lives running or escaping, but sometimes… just sometimes… we need help treading water for awhile so that we can recharge. TV, books, film… these have done that for me. And I will be forever thankful.
I’ve accrued a fair amount of fandoms now, though it’s rare that I pick up a new one. It’s very rare for something to grab me by the soul and pull me in, much less make me want to connect with others to process it because it was so powerful. Over the years I’ve come to realize that different fandoms and parasocial relationships each bring something unique to my life, both at the time I find them and then as I continue on. New Kids on the Block is my first fandom which I discovered in my youth. Their message was that of positivity… seeing the good… which was exactly what I needed when I was a teen in very, very dark and traumatic times. I continue to listen to their music when I need an infusion of positivity, with the Hangin’ Tough album being reserved for the darkest of times where the most light is needed. The last words of the first side of that cassette tape are, “I love you, girl.” I know because I listened to it every single night for years, needing to hear that message. Well, I love you too guys. Now and forever. The Outlander books are books I’ve been reading and rereading for more than 15 years. I go to them when I need a friend, as I’ve spent so much time with Claire and Jamie that they feel like old friends, and I bonded over Outlander with one of my oldest friends. Harry Potter is where I go when I want some childlike innocence, because no matter how dark things get at Hogwarts, there is innocence that I sometimes need. Karen Marie Moning’s books carry the message that Hope Strengthens, Fear Kills, which has also gotten me through many challenging life phases, helping me fight against despair. Her books are good for when I need sexual energy and reawakening, as well, as her characters are real and flawed, but damn powerful in their sexuality none the less. Janet Evanovich books I’ve read and continue to read when I desperately need completely ridiculous humor, and have laughed until I’ve literally sobbed when I’ve turned to her books in times of trouble. A safer outlet of emotion that way. Within the past few years I discovered Doctor Who (and David Tennant), which would take one, if not multiple entries all on its own to describe the impact that show, that actor, and that fandom has had on my life. Suffice it to say that one of my big take aways from that show is tattooed on my wrist: Allons-y. When I discovered Doctor Who I was living 99% for others, doing very little of what I wanted. My tattoo helps me remember to LIVE. Travel, find adventure, discover. And also the message of positivity. While yes, humans are probably the worst monsters in the universe, there is always light and good and something awesome coming, even if there’s some horrible crap to get through before you get to it. So very powerful. And then my most recent show and fandom: Arrow. I didn’t expect to love Arrow. I figured it would be kind of cheesy, and I would just put it on in the background on the few days off from my parents’ issues this week while I distracted myself with stupid ioS games to make sure no racing thoughts could get through. And then somewhere along the line the story grabbed me by the heart. These normal people – just… typical people. Pulled out of their comfort zone, forced through terrible times and nightmarish experiences. And their take away from those experiences is to fight for good. To fight their inner darkness. To fight negativity, to fight for what’s right. And the message that a group of individuals who have banded together – even if those individuals are damaged and each fighting their own inner battles – is stronger than those individuals trying to handle everything on their own… that even superheroes have to learn to lean on others and ask for help… that message is beyond powerful. Especially at this incredibly heartbreaking time in my life where I have felt so isolated in so many ways, feeling that it fell to only me to carry this massive burden on my own. And while I can’t cry over my own pain right now, because there is a very real possibility that if I started I’d never be able to stop, I can most certainly sympathize with and cry for those characters’ pain. An emotional outlet that is safe, but therapeutic. And when I’m ready to begin socializing again… using social media, and connecting with the outside world, finding others to chat with the show about, to process everything from the profound messages that the show makes about the world and how human beings handle pain, to the relationship tragedies and traumas, to Stephen Amell’s air pull-ups (because trust me when I tell you those need to be talked about… holy GOD…but I digress… *fans self*), I will have that distraction and escape as well.
I grew up thinking that fandom and parasocial relationships were silly. As an adult, I now know that they save me. Every day. And I will be forever thankful to all of those fandoms – NKOTB, Fever, Outlander, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and now Arrow – because I wouldn’t be me… and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do… without all of them doing what they do. And I have to think that I’m probably not alone in that.