How growing older in a world of make believe helped change my life

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Hey.  It’s been a long time since I’ve written here.  As I’m getting closer to my wedding, a lot of thoughts have been on my mind; mostly of events that lead to this point.  Knowing that a lot of those moments involved cosplay or conventions, I figured I’d share what’s in my noodle.  This may be sloppily written, as it is mostly stream of conscious stuff.

When I started cosplaying in 2006 (bruh), I was a 16 year old black girl in high school who wore Tripp pants, listened to Linkin Park and wore a Naruto headband.  I loaded up on art classes and extracurriculars to keep from doing sports, and I wasn’t a big fan of Spirit Week.  Needless to say; I wasn’t extremely popular.  I had a group of maybe five or six friends (all underclassmen) who sat with me in the stairwell reading manga and singing Japanese music at the top of our lungs.

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2edgy4u 16 year old Maki Roll

There were pretty much only six of us like us in the entire school.  We had an anime club and one day one of the members asked if we knew what Anime USA was.  I had no idea; but it sounded exciting.  He explained that it was basically a three day vacation dedicated to anime, Japanese music, and dressing up as your favorite characters.  Hearing that made me want to burst out singing “Asterisk” while running in a slow mo montage with my five other friends.  I immediately went home and begged my mom to take me, and finally she agreed to let me go on the last day of the con.  I had decided that I wanted to be Inuyasha (thankfully no pictures of this exist anymore) so we spent a weekend working on the costume together.  I used my allowance to buy all the materials, including a cheap wig, plastic sword and a “caveman” necklace from Party City.  Finally; I was ready.

The costume itself was amazing (my mom is a great seamstress), but my wig looked like a dead animal, and everything else was something to be desired.  It didn’t matter though. I was more excited in that moment than I could ever be embarrassed now.  I dragged my mom to the dealer’s room and panels.  A few people actually took pictures of me.  Finally I found a full group of Inuyasha cosplayers.  The Inuyasha in the group looked like she had stepped out of the anime.  Everything about her was perfect.  Me today

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Slightly bigger Maki Roll

would have been afraid to approach her even now, but guess what 16 year old me did?  Went right up to them and asked if I could take a picture with them.  They said sure, and that had been one of the coolest moments in my teenage life.  Finally I had found a group of people other than my friends, who loved the same things I did.  From then on; I tried to go to any conventions I could convince my mom to take me to.  We started getting rooms and she would bring crock pots of food and a cooler for my friends and I to eat throughout the weekend.  When I turned 18, she gave me a sewing machine and told me I was on my own.  Luckily I had picked up the basics through sewing with her, the rest I would learn by combing the internet of its limited resources.  I continued goings to cons without my mother (cramming myself into rooms with 7 or more people), and making costumes on my own.

When cosplay started becoming more and more mainstream, I found myself in this unspoken competition with everyone I knew. I wanted to make costumes more than I wanted to go to school. I wanted to go to cons more than I wanted money for food in college, and I would do anything to make those things happen. It was weird for sure; but it provided me with an escape from an extremely boring, mentally exhausting life.
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Friend from college, myself and Polychrome Dreams at Magfest

I started seeing cosplay become more accessible to people. It went from searching long threads on the one message board (shoutout to Cosplay.com) to having cosplay photographers chasing cosplayers around. It went from Cosworx and Amphigory IF you had a little extra money; to several competing wig stores. There are more tutorials, more resources and with that; more cosplayers making quicker come ups. Soon there were girls who had been doing this far less time than I had breezing past me in social media presence.

At first it didn’t bother me, and then it did. It really did. I felt as though my safe space within this all inclusive community was starting to feel like high school again. I found myself jealous, angry and at times; publicly rude. How dare these younger, prettier, more talented girls intrude on my safe zone.  Faced with my own fears of growing older, I became an outright asshole. For a long time I was depressed, and angry, and depressed and angry again. It was a

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We bought a house! – Photo By: AshB Images

combination of a toxic living environment and feelings of self doubt. Finally; my boyfriend decided that he wanted to be my husband, and we got engaged. Not long after that, we were house hunting. Suddenly trying to finish four or five costumes for a con turned into finishing two, maybe half assing a third if I felt like it. I enjoyed taking my time and making a cosplay build an adventure between my fiance and I (RIP Senketsu Fashion Week) rather than rushing them. I was scheduling wedding appointments instead of conventions. I began getting to what I wanted, when I felt like it and you know what? The people who have supported me from the start, continued to be there.

That’s when I realized that all of this is fleeting. In the grand scheme of things; we’re all just nerds who dress up and like to have fun. Whether we do it for the love of it, the challenge, hell; even the money, we are finding a piece of this hobby that makes us whole.  I found my best friends, the love of my life, self confidence, and self acceptance.  Those are the things I needed to make me whole.  Kudos to those who have been able to find the whole of themselves entirely in this hobby, but this journey has made me realize that is not me. Some days I like feeling like I run a well oiled business, other days I just want to throw on jeans and a t-shirt and go see a metal show with a friend. I understand that missing a con won’t destroy my popularity, because the people who really matter already know that there are far more important things. I now enjoy seeing younger cosplayers doing amazing things and I try to cheer them on and root for them as much as I can (I still don’t fuck with outright shady heux). I realize that I *am* getting older, and that is absolutely okay. What  I choose to do with this hobby for however long I choose to do it is on me. I could be the jaded girl who is creating unnecessary beef (as in; nothing related to homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, etc) with other cosplayers for attention, or I could use my platform to encourage and bring happiness to others, enjoy the things that I have gotten from this community, and continue building the real life that his hobby gave me the foundation for.
I choose the second ❤
I TOLD Y’ALL THAT WAS LONG AND FAKE DEEP AS HELL. NO SYMPY.  Seriously though; thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading and for coming along on my journey.  You all help make up the pieces of this community that make me who I am, and I appreciate that.

Photo Credits (in no particular order): AshB Images, Maze Studio, M9 Cosplay, KBV Photography & Cosplay, TheBigTog Photography, Daniel Lin Photography, Coolsteel27, Obscura Vista, Photosnxs.

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