Turns out that if you isolate me for long enough, I’ll go back to watching anime and writing fanfiction.
This is not the lockdown glow-up I envisioned, but I’ve come to understand that this has been good for me nonetheless. I realised that I don’t have to perform my interests for other people, and I want to unpack why, with the amount of free time during the lockdowns, people like me have returned to interests they had abandoned.
So, a little bit about me: I was a massive fan of anime. I watched it since I was a kid, but it became a big fixation for me when I was around twelve. I’m not saying that it was less popular to be a fan back then, but usually I was the only person around who liked it so much. Because of that, and because I didn’t really have the time for it anymore once exams hit my life, I stopped watching it altogether. And the same thing happened with fanfiction. I was that early teen who wrote hundreds of pages of (not the best but at least it was fun) fanfiction, but eventually I was discouraged out of it.
Essentially, there wasn’t enough time, and I couldn’t convert my interests into a form of social capital. In my eyes, they had become useless. What was the point in writing fanfiction if I didn’t want to become a writer? And why spend time watching anime when I could use that time for something more ‘productive’? Especially with the latter, I developed an obsession with not wasting time. During college, I hardly watched any movies or TV shows. Anything that was not related to by studies was a waste of time and I told myself I would regret doing it once A-Level results came out. As it turns out, I would come to regret spending so much time working. I’d reached the point where I could only relax when I was sleeping.
So, when I suddenly had all this free time on my hands with the lockdown, and I didn’t feel the pressure to perform my hobbies (because there’s nobody around for me to perform them to) – I went back to them. And others have done the exact same thing.
It’s interesting to see that in times of crisis, people will return to something that used to bring them comfort, like a childhood TV show or book series. It shows that a lot of interests have been abandoned due to a lack of time.
The thing about working at a bookstore is that I can get a rough idea of people’s reading habits, and customers bought tonnes of books when the first lockdown was imminent. I found it quite touching to see people who normally don’t read come in and pick out a couple of books. It made me realise just how much we limit ourselves to fit our mould of productivity.
The other thing is social pressure and the need to perform out interests for other people. If you think about it, it’s one of the bases of social interaction – bonding over interests we have in common. So it can be hard to cling on to something that you can’t share, especially with the amount of things we feel we should share on social media.
In that sense, cringe culture was another catalyst involved when I abandoned those interests, because who wants to hear about a crossover fanfiction? But I’ve come to understand that everything is cringy if someone wants to make fun of it. You can have a very popular and mainstream hobby, and someone will say that you’re generic. Or, you can be really good at something crafty, and someone may still point out your flaws. A very dedicated person will find the tiniest thing to ridicule, so you might as well have fun doing whatever you want!
Back to me, I’ve struggled with going back to fanfiction for years, because I felt the pressure to be good at it, and I was only able to have fun again after eliminating the idea of an ideal reader. It can be hard to have fun when thinking that some imaginary reader hates what you’ve written – again, it was the idea of having to perform for people. I was only able to have fun again when I made writing something that I only do for myself.
So in short, isolation has done me good! I haven’t been this excited to watch things in ages, and I can briefly pretend I’m a thirteen-year-old whose biggest concern is getting the food tech ingredients together. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen when the virus is over. Will I keep those interests, or will I let them go again? As I’ve already put up anime posters on my wall, I hope the latter will be true.