A very natural progression of events led me to cosplay. I was the kid that didn’t feel like she could be herself. I tried ceaselessly to be as emotionless as possible, to be something to everyone with no regard to what I wanted or enjoyed. After a while, I turned inward. I turned to books, television, anime, anything that would be my escape from reality. Anything that would help me hide from my own awkwardness, let me be the hero for a while. I admired Poison Ivy and Catwoman for what I thought was their strength (it took me almost twenty years to realize that sex appeal isn’t necessarily strength), I wanted to be Liriel because she could protect herself and her loved ones, I adored Jessica Rabbit for the attention she commanded. It’s been a lifetime for me, teasing apart what it is to be a woman, a strong woman, and what it is to be objectified, but that’s another post for another day. My escapism aided me in my quest to deny my emotions as I could express them through the characters I hid in. As such, I developed an affinity for mediums that many people write off (like cartoons). I also learned that one day a year, I could actually BE that character! While I was that character, I could express how I felt safely, without judgement, without backlash. I could be strong, I could be sexy, I could be more myself than I ever felt.
In high school I started to get in touch with my emotions again. I started to write about how I felt, I started to try and trust people with my thoughts and feelings. As you can imagine, being in high school, trying to trust people backfired miserably. In my dreams where I find myself back in high school, I invariable try to commit suicide and wind up a sentient puddle of a person below the highest rooftop. That is my personal version of hell. I did get something out of the experience, though, and that was a realization that I loved art. Also, I didn’t suck at it.
In college, I experienced a freedom I had never had before. I could take classes I was interested in, I could make my own schedule, and I could hang out with people who were like me. Who didn’t think I was a freak and who had similar emotional histories to mine. I also ran out of wall space. As awesome as art is, you can only hang so much of it up, and there’s only so much storage space.
My first day at Dragon Con was definitely the best day of my life up until that point. There they were, tens of thousands of people. People just exactly like me. People who didn’t look at me strangely. People who got excited for the same things I did. People dressed in cosplay. Cosplay. This wonderful, magical, wearable art. A display of skill and affection that naturally lends itself to emotional expression. I had never felt more real. I don’t think there was an experience in my life more rich or more fulfilling than that moment when I realized that there is nothing wrong with me. Nothing. There is nothing wrong with loving what you love and being who you are. All of the messages I had received my whole life about how a person should be or should not be just fell away, leaving behind a sense of peace and love that I sincerely hope every single person has a chance to experience in his or her life.
I started cosplay as a form of self expression, and as a way to continue to create artistically without cluttering my walls (and evading the sense of self importance that comes with that). I no longer feel emotionally stifled, which is the amazing thing about finding someone who can see you for who you are and love you just the same. I do, however, experience surges of anxiety around expressing emotions. I suppose that’s what happens when you learn to anticipate negative consequences for expressing yourself in a way others don’t agree with. Consequently, I also have a great deal of anxiety around finishing projects. I fully believed I was a total screw up, and now I’m not sure if I screw things up because it’s in my nature or because the thought is so deep in my head it’s become a core belief. I start projects knowing full well I have the resources to finish them, and then at some point I hit a brick wall.
That brick wall looks something like this:
Hey, I’m doing pretty well! This is coming along quite nicely! I hope I don’t mess this up. Well, I’m going to mess it up. I have no idea what I’m doing. You know, this really just can’t turn out well. How could it? You have no idea what you’re doing. Everyone will see. They’ll all know you’re incompetent. You can’t even do x right. You never could. Look at all those times you failed, where you just weren’t good enough. All those times you were proud and then someone had to point out how bad you suck. All those times you worked so hard and thought you did so well, you failed. You will never be good enough.
You get the point. Those are the thoughts, but it doesn’t cover the feeling. It’s like there’s bees buzzing in my chest, like I’ve been hit with electricity and it’s pouring through my body but it’s got nowhere to go. I’ve got nowhere to go. It usually ends with me laying on my sofa, staring at the ceiling, wallowing in a whirlwind of emotions and not knowing how to get rid of them.
This time, I pushed through the wall. I rushed through the last few steps. I messed them up, sure, but not in a way that’s noticeable. I may have broken my sewing machine (again) but that can be fixed. I pushed through the painful and confusing emotions and I finished the thing. My first ever sewn cosplay. Sewing has a lot of emotional stuff tied up in it for me, so this really is a huge accomplishment.
Having not ever pushed through like this before (as is evidenced by the state of my office) I had no idea what to expect next.
I was unbelievably excited. I was elated. I DID IT! And it doesn’t look half bad!
Wait, what if other people can actually see the flaws? I mean, I’m just a novice, I bet others can see right through me.
Well, it doesn’t matter because it’s my first and I DID IT!
But what if no one recognizes me? What if people think I’m weird. People always think I’m weird.
They’ll be in cosplay too, so they can’t think I’m too weird! Also, it doesn’t really matter. You did this for you.
I had weird mood swings from super excited to terrified all day. I was awkward, I was weird, and most importantly, I was me.