Celebrate Fandom features stories from guest contributors about how fandom has changed their lives for the better. Whether it was because of another fanperson, or a specific fan experience, we want to share the ways that fandom can enrich our lives.
Today’s story was submitted by Sarah/@SarahAh30. If you have questions or comments for her feel free to leave them in the replies below, and we’ll forward them on.
I often see people on twitter or Facebook saying how a book, a song, or something a celebrity has said has changed their life. For me it wasn’t a book, a song, or wise words, it was the mere concept of Fandom and it didn’t just change my life, it saved it.
From as young as I can remember I have sought out escapes from the harsh realities of real life. I didn’t have the idyllic childhood; my teens were hell, and my adult life hasn’t been much better. The one constant I have always had were my Fandoms.
As young as five years old, I needed an escape and that came in the form of “The Pony Club.” My friends and I would meet after school with our My Little Ponies and trade stickers, make up elaborate fantasy lands where we were best friends with the ponies, and be typical little girls. At that young age I found a group of like-minded people who cared about what I was saying and thought the same way as I did. For a few hours every day I could forget about about home and why I didn’t want to be there.
Over the years The Pony Club grew in number and progressed from My Little Pony to Jem and the Holograms, then onto Pokemon, and eventually at the age of eleven, boybands. After a brief period of New Kids on the Block, a UK-based boyband called Take That hit the scene and a whole new fandom opened up to me. From the ages of eleven to fifteen those five Manchester boys were my life. They brought me new friends, new music, and a new way of life. From 1991 to 1996 I spent my days talking about the boys and my nights babysitting to pay for concert tickets.
The UK music scene was so different back then; there were so many boybands on the scene that you couldn’t go to a club on an all-ages night without seeing a new one. With my babysitting money in my pocket and parents that didn’t care what I was up to, I became a professional fangirl. Although, Take That were my main band of choice, I couldn’t say no to a bunch of cute boys singing harmonies. Over those years I went to numerous club nights and road shows. As much fun as it was being on first names terms with security and band members alike, it was the friends I made along the way that meant the most to me. They didn’t know Sarah from Sutton, they just knew Sarah the Fangirl, and I could close the door on my real life for a while.
As with all things in life though, we grow up. I got married and divorced within the space of a year and found myself a single mum. It was time to put childish things aside, and I left Fandom behind me. During this time I lost touch with 99% of my friends as none of them agreed with my marriage and after it fell apart, I couldn’t handle the “I told you so”s.
I had an horrific pregnancy which almost killed me and my son, and I sunk into post-natal depression. Just as I dragged myself out of that hell, I almost died and had to have a minor – which turned into major – surgery, which knocked me off my feet for a year. But, just as I was about to give up on life, my brother bought me my first computer. He set me up with an MSN profile and taught me the basics. I never thought I would get on with it.
At that time there was a TV show called The Tribe running in the UK, so, bored one day I typed it into a search engine and found the show’s website which included message boards. After weeks of trawling the boards, I took the plunge and posted something myself. From that one message I met someone who helped turn my life around – an amazing Dutch girl who became my rock and talked me through the dark times. We emailed, we IM’d, we spoke on the phone, and we wrote to each other via snail mail. That one random girl in Holland stopped me from handing my son over to someone else’s care and taking my life more than once. And I met her all because we were both fans of a not-all-that-great (in hindsight) TV show.
Unfortunately, due to real life we lost touch. I just about managed to keep my head above water, but by 2009 I was sinking. I got thrown a lifeline, though, from the one person in my family I get along with the least, my sister-in-law. She had just read the Twilight Saga, but I had refused to read it. As a BtVS girl through and through, I didn’t want to read about vamps that sparkled. One Sunday, after the family had been here for hours and I hadn’t said a word, she threw Twilight at me and told me to try at least one chapter. I devoured all four books in five days and re-read them again straight away. Unbeknownst to me, someone at work had seen me reading them and mentioned it to a girl in one of our other offices. She sent me an email with a fanfic attached. I had never heard of fan fic and devoured it. From the link at the top of the page I found FFn and a whole new fandom. Via Twi I created a twitter account and met my two best friends, my fic idol, and a whole bunch of friends from all over the world that constantly pull me from the dark pit that is always there trying to pull me under.
Through a random email from someone I work with, but have never met, I found a whole fandom of people that, over the past few years, have stepped outside the Fandom personas from which we first met and into real life friends. Our Fandoms have moved on, but at the click of a button someone is always there for me and vice versa. If I’m having a bad day with my Trichotillomania, I know who to turn to. If I’m having a bad day with my kid, I have a plethora of ladies to whinge with. If I want extol the virtues of Louis Tomlinson’s bum, then like-minded people are just a click away.
We are scattered worldwide and may have never met (and may never meet), but because of the mere concept of Fandom, I have an amazing group of friends that are always there. I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of the UK and EU based Fandom peeps I talk to online, and in two months I get to meet two of my favorite US tweeps.
So to Mich, Jen, Maris, Penny, Robin, Jen, Ashley, Brie, Emma, Angela, Heidi, Mathie, Maggie, Hoochie Momma, and, to some extent, Icy. You may never know it but in some small way, at some point in time, just because we liked the same book or boyband, you have not only saved me, but enriched my life. Thank you, and those of you I haven’t met yet, I hope to someday soon.
Now if One Direction would just stop trying to kill me on a daily basis, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, I’m talking to you! I have enough life issues to deal with without having to deal with your faces daily!
If you’d like to share how fandom has made your life better, you can let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.