Lying to Myself, Finding True Love, And Getting Older and Weirder

September 18, 2013 | Posted by rissvandal

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A lot of people tell you to follow your passion and pursue the things you love. But what if you can’t actually figure out what the heck that is?

I pondered that question a couple months ago while searching for pictures of “bad” prom dresses for a Dos and Don’ts of Prom article I was assigned to write while interning for a stylist in NY (ooh, doesn’t that sound all fancy?). When the article was done I went back and removed my name from the byline, preferring it just be credited to some enigmatic ghost blogger, as opposed to me. I’m the girl who’s supposed to be the almighty cheerleader of alternative fashion, and firmly believes that fashion “don’ts” dont actually exist. Afterward I pushed my computer aside and took a moment to ask myself What are you doing? Like seriously, what are you doing?

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The internship was supposed to result in a job offer at the end. And thank goodness–I’d quit my staff writer position with Gothic Beauty Magazine and put my own blog on hold so I could spend all my time writing trend pieces about hat storage and maternity-wear. But since it seemed like it was finally going to pay off and land me at the bottom of the fashion industry food chain, I was like, living the dream, right? RIGHT?! Well yeah, I was living the dream. Not my dream, but definitely someone’s…

To backtrack a moment, when I was a little girl running around in costumes, not surprisingly, it was considered cute. As I got older, outside of punk shows or goth clubs, I was constantly seen as weird, but no biggie. But around my mid 20s, when I still kept dressing like every day was some combination of a Tim Burton festival and Comic Con, suddenly I started getting asked all these weird, weighted questions that didn’t seem to just refer to my clothes, but also the work I did, the way I spent my time, and really just me in general. My two favoritesĀ  are “When are you going to grow up?” and “What do you intend to get out of all this?” And by the way, I still have no idea what this is.

While I could have just said something like I do this for happiness, people expected more. I live in a small city and there are many things that people just don’t “get.” A lot of people in my life found the need to explain to me that if I intended to carry the “crazy ways” of my youth (i.e. dressing “crazy”, being active in subcultures) into adulthood, I better have some sort of endgame attached, or else that just made me some old weirdo. And when I heard that enough times, it got to me and I believed it. If I was going to spend all my free time crafting costumes, taking photos, styling goth kids, writing about alternative fashion, it clearly wasn’t enough to just do that in and of itself. I needed some tangible, impressive, “adult” goal with a ring of professionalism attached to it, and clearly, that goal was going to be to snag a job in mainstream fashion.

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To say “I’m working toward a job in fashion” made sense and was enough to satisfy inquirers. Not to mention, it made me feel like my life had a little more direction, and direction feels good, or at least it did for a little while until my hypothetical goal started transforming into an attainable reality. And while I love fashion as art and self-transformation, I never really gave a crap about forecasting trends or preaching fashion rules, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise. Hell, even while working for Gothic Beauty, which I truly thought would be my ultimate dream, in the end even that didn’t feel right. In other words, I finally started making progress in a field based entirely upon what I love, but it didn’t make me happy. Like, not at all. And so I’d stepped down from my magazine position, quit my internship, and couldn’t even really care about this blog anymore since I wasn’t even sure if I liked fashion as much as I thought I did. And when something like that happens, it’s actually pretty scary because you’re suddenly left empty-handed thinking now what?

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After some sort of existential crisis that ended in me concluding that settling and dissatisfaction was the inevitability of adulthood, then came the anime con. Like a ray of sunshine in a dark pit of despair, an anime convention changed my life. And I straight up know it sounds silly, and you either get it or you don’t, but I think it was only hours in when I turned to one of my friends and said “Yeah, I’m not gunna be the same when we get home.”

And though I already did a write-up on the convention, I never took the time to elaborate on how it affected me. I think it was sometime after I’d just watched a gothic lolita fashion show, bumped into a dude in the parking lot who was committed to spending the entire day in full character as the Oxi-Clean guy, and had just changed into my Sakura Kasugano outfit that I really took the time to take it all in. 90% of the people were in costume, and while there definitely were some people there with the agenda of making a name for themselves in the cosplay community, many more people were simply there because they loved it. They loved making their costumes, they loved the characters they were portraying, and the loved the opportunity to spend a day in costume play with other people as excited as they were. And that’s when IĀ  realized why everything I’d been working on up to that point fell flat. While I love clothing and the artistry of fashion, where my true passion lies is in the performance and theatrics it allows, and the entire subculture that surrounds cosplay.

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I discovered anime and cosplay when I was a little kid, so it’s not like I didn’t realize a venue for it existed, but until this year I never had the courage to really be an active part of it. Most of the friends I had when I was younger lost interest in that stuff, I knew it was gunna make me lose some major cool kid points with a lot of people I know, and most importantly, dude, I’m 27 years old (oh snap, I just outed myself). And while I’m young in a lot of contexts, 27 is a weird age to suddenly realize that costumes and anime conventions are your true love, considering it’s an age that comes attached to a lot of existential crises and harrowing conversations about the meaning of “adulthood.”

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So when one of my aunts saw my pics from the anime convention and said “Have fun with this now, because it’s not going to be cute anymore a couple years from now,” I just smirked and nodded, knowing full well that if there’s something I love I won’t give up on it for the life of me. And I’m not sharing all this because suddenly the blog is going to change into something entirely different, but it is going to change. It’s going to be a lot more random and silly and me because nowhere in the back of my head will I be thinking “well, I need to include some NYFW coverage so people know I’m up on my fashion news” or “I should probably reel in my slang in case I want to include this on my resume for a more professional fashion writing gig.” This is 100% going to just be a labor of love, with no agenda attached, and it’ll still be all about alt fashion…but also about cosplay and my life and stuff that will likely earn me way more nerdo points that fashion cool kid points.

And to everyone who supports my antics–whether you came up to me to say “oh my gosh, I loved your last costume,” or you messaged me to tell me about your own self-consciousness dressing like a “weirdo” in a town of people who just don’t “get” it, or if you’re just one of my friends that enjoys acting like every day is Halloween along with me–thank you. You lovely people are why I’m not miserable and why I didn’t sell all my wigs on eBay so I could buy more chic career dresses and why I realized, no matter how fancy it sounds, to have my life endgame be to score some mainstream fashion gig is effing idiotic.

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So is that to say I no longer have some sort of life goal, some sort of endgame? Yes and no. That anime convention opened up a floodgate of excitement and inspiration I haven’t had in years and it literally has, in some ways, changed the direction of my life. I can’t actually explain what it is I’m talking about just yet, because it’s currently a work in progress, but this absolutely adorable picture my brother drew does serve as some sort of teaser. And I wouldn’t call what I’m currently working toward an endgame by any means, but I’d say it’s a step in a positive direction, making sure that in my bloggy life, my personal life, and my professional life I remain true to me.

Anyhow, damn this post was long. Did you actually read it all? I’d love to hear comments or feedback you have. Feel free to sound off below or on Facebook ^_^

11 Responses to Lying to Myself, Finding True Love, And Getting Older and Weirder

  1. Bump of Chicano says:

    Yer auntie was right: Cute don’t age well.

  2. Carlos says:

    I enjoyed your blog post. It was encouraging and fun to read. Live Out Loud!

  3. You don’t look 27! Have you seen betsey johnson!? She’s crazy, awesome, and clearly doesn’t care to dress her age. Being out there is way more fun anyway. So please don’t stop being you.

    • rissvandal says:

      I am familiar with Betsey Johnson :) I love her work and personal style, and I have to say she’s definitely an inspiration when it comes to being true to yourself at any age. Thanks!

  4. VJ says:

    you’re so brave and wonderful!! cute gets better with age.

  5. Russellsaurus says:

    I just read this whole post. Pretty inspiring, I likes it. I can definitely identify. Keep being you Sakuraaaa!




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