How Fandom Changed My Life

I’ve pretty much been a “fangirl” all my life, and thinking back, there are things that I would have done differently, but also things I wouldn’t change for the world. For those of you who wonder if participating in fandom is a waste of time or not, I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I want to show you how it has changed my life for better and for worse. With that, I hope you can turn your hobby into a productive and positive learning experience.

This post is inspired by a post with the same theme on Femsplain.

What I wish I could have done differently

Before launching into all the magical ways that fandom has made my life better and shaped me into the person I am today, I want to talk about the things I wish I could have done differently. I don’t regret many things, but I think losing control of how I spent my time and becoming unable to focus are the two things I wish I could have known how to handle better.

I know a lot of you understand the honeymoon stage of fandom — when you fall really hard for something suddenly and can’t stop thinking, reading and talking about it for a lengthy period of time. That happened to me with One Direction in the beginning of my sophomore year of college. It was September 2011.

I did really badly in most of my classes that year and struggled to keep up. On top of that, I made a myriad of bad choices that left me suffocating. It was no mystery to me why it happened. I was enrolled in a really competitive school and everybody there worked extremely hard. I simply wasn’t keeping up. I knew I shouldn’t be watching twitcams the night before my accounting final, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I lost control of how I spent my time, lost control of myself.

I spent the next 2 years making up for the mistakes I made in my sophomore year. I’ve since graduated and am doing fine now, but I really wish I could have achieved more and worked harder. My low GPA in my sophomore year prevented me from pursuing a minor in linguistics because I had to focus all my energy on raising my GPA. I regarded pursuing a subject I was interested in as a distraction. Thinking back, I realize that there’s no better time to keep your head down and focus on self-improvement than your college years. I really should have spent that time more wisely and tried as many things as I could. I wish I could have gotten more out of my degree.

What I wouldn’t change for the world

I spend a lot of time thinking about the things I wish I could have done differently, but I’m also grateful for the things my anxious fannish personality enabled me to learn and achieve.

Learning to write, and write well

I’ve been this way for as long as I could remember. English isn’t my native tongue, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. A large part of that is thanks to writing fiction—both my own original stories and fanfiction. The desire to write good stories motivated me to master writing at the age of 12. I remember studying fiction books carefully to reference the way authors write dialogue to make sure I was doing it correctly.

Of course, I also went to an English school where all my classes were taught by expatriate (and white) teachers, so for all those ESL kids out there, just to let you know, my English isn’t self-taught and I’m not some kind of language genius. I grew up surrounded mostly by people who spoke English as a first language so naturally I got into that groove as well. Today, I regard English as my primary language, and it’s the only one I can write properly in.

I write professionally now for the company I work for in San Francisco, and for that, I have fanfiction to thank.

Learning Photoshop and creating an enormous portfolio of graphics… edits, GIFs, all that jazz

This has got to be the best skill I’ve acquired from being a fan of anything at all on Tumblr. One day in January 2012, I buckled down and studied a tutorial on how to make GIFs. Since then, I’ve created a couple thousand graphics and learned skills like coloring black and white images and creating photo manipulations (like photoshopping two unrelated people together convincingly). This skill really comes in handy a lot and not to mention looks pretty cool on my resume. I’ve since created tutorials and taught GIF-making to groups of people, but this is definitely a skill you have to hone on your own and motivate yourself to learn, especially when it comes to making GIFs that play at the right speed and look good.

I don’t have much time to make original graphics anymore, but looking back at my gigantic portfolio of work, I definitely have zero regrets (it also helped me ace my graphic design for non-majors class, and I’ve been told I could do graphic design professionally by my professor for real, but I don’t know yet).

Making friends from all over the world

When it comes to fandom, I’ve done it all, from frequenting fan forums to chilling on LiveJournal to Tumblr (which I still frequent). Through the years I’ve had the chance to talk to lots of people from around the world, but on Tumblr more recently, I’ve been able to make true friends and actually fly to different places I wouldn’t otherwise have flown to.

For example, two years ago, I made a two week long trip down the west coast of North America, starting from Vancouver and eventually landing in San Diego. I made three stops on this trip: Vancouver, SF Bay Area, and San Diego. In all three of these stops, I stayed with friends I made on Tumblr thanks to my activities as a part of the One Direction fandom. These were all people I’d never met before but I trusted to put a roof over my head and give me a tour of their hometown.

Then, a little over a year ago, I spent a summer in New York City working at an ad agency. That summer, I went to see a One Direction concert with a friend from Brooklyn who I also met on Tumblr. I have more stories of meeting real life Tumblr friends, of course, but the point I’m trying to get across is that this is something I couldn’t have done if I wasn’t the way I was, and I definitely don’t regret it.

Was it worth it?

Short answer: yes.

I think it’s pretty crazy that you become who you are today from a culmination of all the things you have experienced and encountered. I think my history in fandom is a part of who I am today and the fact that there’s even one thing that I wouldn’t change for the world makes it worth it in the face of all the things that I wish I could have done differently.

I’ve grown from an awkward middle schooler at 12 to a working marketing professional at 22 and I still enjoy social media, blogging and graphic design. I’ve gotten too busy to do a lot of the things I did in college and high school now, but todayI’m happy that I’m out there truly living and I think that’s what makes it all worth it.

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