It’s very freeing, being out from under the yoke of your oppressor. To find out exactly who you are without anyone else telling you who to be. You find new things you didn’t know you enjoyed, because nobody else enjoyed them, or wanted to try them. You find out who your real friends are and who only wants you around to control you.
2016 was a monumental year for me because I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know a few years ago when I was undergoing some psychological abuse. For example, I’ve always been quiet, shy, and kept to myself for the most part, but what I didn’t know was that some of that shyness might have actually been a mild form of social anxiety. Last year I spent a great deal of time learning how to handle my anxiety in ways that didn’t always include prescription drugs.
One of the ways I found that helps keep the anxiety down is, not surprisingly, working out, which for me included POP Pilates and yoga. I’m still trying to find a good balance of each in order to maximize their feel-good effects, but I can’t imagine getting up every morning and not doing at least one or the other or both before I start the rest of my day. The instructors for both are highly energetic and upbeat, and agree that we should love ourselves as we are and not compare ourselves to anyone else, that we are all on our own journeys. That mentality really resonated with me personally, having had pretty low self esteem my entire life, and it lifted me up to see the good in myself that I couldn’t see before. It also helped me to achieve certain goals that I thought were beyond me, like being able to hold certain yoga poses or get through an entire Pilates workout without stopping to catch my breath. Little victories like that were huge accomplishments for me.
Writing is a close second to helping keep the anxiety down and while I didn’t do as much of it last year as I would have liked, this year I plan to incorporate daily writing sessions on select days so as to make writing a habit again. I’m actually writing this during one of those sessions. I’m a writer at heart and am always carrying around a notebook, just in case inspiration strikes me, and I’ve found that when I’m really upset or anxious, writing out everything that’s running through my head calms me down, not only because it empties an already busy mind, but because it also validates what I’m feeling at a particular moment. Sometimes I don’t know what’s upsetting me until I write down whatever I’m thinking about. Sometimes what upsets me most is my current place in life. I’m not where I thought I would be at this point, and I have to remind myself that that’s ok. All things considered, I’m doing just fine where I am. I have a job, a car that runs with no problems, a roof over my head, enough food to eat, and a support system that’s there to help me when I need it most. And that’s all that matters right now.
One of the last things I learned about myself is that, to truly be free, you just have to do what makes you happy, not what everyone else wants. Just let your nerd flag fly high and those who matter will encourage you and be right there with you, supporting you. At the end of 2015 I did a test run of my first cosplay ever. I was so nervous no one would know who I was, but I walked with as much confidence as I could muster, and it went over so well that I did it again a month later for a concert based around the video game franchise my character was from. And even though it was not a “professional” level of cosplaying (none of my items were handmade), I still had a couple people ask for pictures. That was one of the greatest feelings in the world. At the end of 2016, I did a different cosplay, also low maintenance with the only handmade item being the skirt, and went to a concert for a different gaming franchise. Once there, while we were waiting for the show, the three of us were asked multiple times for photos and one woman even put us on a live stream video to Mexico. I can’t even begin to explain the elation I felt personally for that kind of attention. I have a great respect for those who take immense amounts of time to make their own costumes, and I hope to someday learn to do it myself, but being in costume for me was one of the most freeing things I could’ve ever done. It gave me confidence I didn’t know I could have and it helped me relax enough to carry on a conversation with a stranger, which I don’t typically do. What I’ve found is that most cosplayers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and they are always willing to share how they made their costumes, or where they got their inspiration, and they can be supportive even if you’ve never met. Just being part of this group means a lot to me.
With a lot of help from my best friend, without whom I don’t know where I would be now, I started to see the toxic people in my life and am now trying to rid myself of them, even though it will be very difficult. But after having so much time to myself and discovering my worth and what makes me happy, I can now distinguish those who put strain on my mental well-being and make me want to hide the important parts of myself, like being a cosplayer and a closet anime lover, and find those who share in my enthusiasm for what I love most.