I’m too old to be cool.

Hello, everyone. I come to you today with a deeply personal confession: my name is Joselyn, and I like things.

To many, this may seem like an odd sort of confession. After all, it is a fairly well-known fact that most people, by and large, like things. Indeed, it is the habit of liking things that fuels much of the economy, particularly in this continent. And so this may seem like a fairly mundane “confession”. Of course I like things. Who doesn’t like things? But let me tell you, the Me of 10 years ago would be absolutely mortified if she knew I was going to admit to liking things, and on the internet, of all places!

It’s not that I didn’t like things at that age. On the contrary, I lked many things, perhaps even more things than I would profess to liking nowadays. But perhaps some history is required to put all of this in context. Strap yourselves in, folks, because we’re about to take a trip down memory lane, unearthing some memories that I’ve gone to somewhat absurd lengths not to disturb for the past while. We’re going back to the point in my life I decided that “writing” was a thing I wanted to do, if not as a career than at least as a hobby for the rest of my life.

In my teens, I was WAY into the Digimon anime. I never really grew out of my fondness for cartoons and the like, and Digimon happened to hit the scene at right around the point in my life where the idea of vanishing from the corporeal world into a world of fantasy, danger, and monsters the size of skyscrapers shooting missiles at each other was of particular appeal to me. More than that, though, is that Digimon, while ostensibly a show about and for children, had a surprising amount of depth about its characters and their relationships with one another, showing me that a story can feature explosive action and meaningful character arcs side-by-side, to the exclusion of neither. I loved it.

And so it was, that I eventually began to write fanfiction. I will never forget the first piece I finished and published to Fanfiction.net. It was crap. Like, absolute trash. It was a fluff piece in which one character takes another character out on a date and is killed in a car accident, and then a year later the surviving half of the date meets the deceased half in a dream, tears are shared, emotions are felt, and people with diabetes reach for their insulin test kits. Saccharine tripe appealing to the lowest common denominator of romance stories with all the emotional depth of a shot glass filled with water. Room temperature water.

That terrible story consumed me.

While I was writing it, it was the first thing I thought about every morning when I woke up, and it was the last thing I thought about before going to sleep every night. I never put as much care and attention into anything I had ever done previously, and the finished product is something of which I was extremely proud. Sure, the content may have been adolescent in its emotional sensibilities, but I am proud to say that its mechanics, pacing, and narrative voice were quite competent for having been writing by a teenager. That fact, and the popularity among the fans of the couple depicted, entailed that it received rave reviews and earned me recognition from some of those whom I considered to be Fanfiction.net’s finest.

The problem was, of course, that I was no longer at an age where it was considered acceptable for me to like cartoons. And anime occupied a particularly nerdy subset of cartoons within the public consciousness, making my passion for Digimon even less acceptable. I couldn’t even find refuge among those among my peers who were into other anime, as Digimon wasn’t considered “serious” anime, particularly not the dubbed version with which I was most closely acquainted. For me, it was another in a long list of things I felt I wasn’t allowed to like, or should feel ashamed for liking, particularly to the degree that I do.

The issue was exacerbated further as I became a denizen of the internet, frequenting websites known for their snark when examining other parts of the internet. These places would make fun of the easy targets, of course; furries, juggalos, what have you, but they would also prey upon creators of bad fanfiction and fanart as well, and because the Internet has no tolerance for nuance, it wasn’t long before anyone who liked a thing that had bad fanfiction or fanart associated with would immediately be conflated with the bad stuff. Soon, everyone seemed to be in a race to care the least about anything, and demonstrating any kind of affinity or affection for anything – ANYTHING, even these communities – was liable for potential mockery.

In short, liking stuff wasn’t cool. And in many parts of the internet, it’s still not cool. And let me tell you, that translated VERY cleanly to real life. I couldn’t show you my Digimon fanfiction even if I wanted to, as I have since purged any trace of my Fanfiction.net account, and the original drafts disappeared 5 computers ago. Anything to prevent people from thinking I actually liked stuff.

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. I won’t specify exactly how old I am, so suffice it to say that I feel as though I have reached an age where my liking things makes them less cool with younger folks by association, solely because of my age. And it’s taken me this long to realize: I’m too old to give a shit about what other people do that makes them happy, as long as nobody’s getting hurt.

That’s not to say that I like everything, or that I don’t dislike anything, but I resent the attitude that every person who likes a thing automatically embodies the worst qualities of that thing and the people who like that thing. Yes, the Twilight Saga reads like some one wrote out a nonsensical dream about vampires without any filter between dream-world logic and real-world logic. So fucking what? I’ve got better things to do than congratulate myself for liking literature that I have arbitrarily deemed superior by no one’s rubric but my own.

Now, that isn’t to say that we can’t think critically about the things we consume or that there isn’t room for criticism of these things. By all means, criticize and scrutinize to your heart’s content. Write scathing reviews, make analytical youtube videos, rip it to shreds via podcast, speak critically about the larger social ills to which it contributes! That’s all good stuff that should continue to happen indefinitely. Just do so with the understanding that at the end of the day, people can like/dislike whatever they want to like/dislike, and they’re not wrong for doing so.

Fan art and fan fiction are how artists and writers cut their teeth in the craft. Yes, a very large percentage of it is not very good. But so what? They get people creating, working, and developing the skills necessary to one day BE very good, all the while allowing them to explore the favourite aspects of the things they love and that resonate with them.

I’ve made allusions recently to having gotten back into writing prose. What you may not know is that I’m doing so via fanfiction. In a world where Transformers movies continue to gross hundreds of millions of dollars domestically, I refuse to be embarrassed by that.

Oh, and if any of you respond to what I’m saying with a reminder that many fanfiction writers and fan artists choose to create smut, I direct you to this fantastic bit of slam poetry (tw: rape).

~Joselyn