I learned a very important lesson from a volunteer supervisor with the convention I volunteer at most. She said something like this: “We’re dealing with those affected with different kinds of inner pain, loss, and brokenness. All with various levels of need in their lives. It’s our role to serve them in any way we can.”
At the heart of fandom is the need to be part of a group that accepts you fully. A group that you can turn to and who will accept you with open arms and a smile. A community that listens when you talk, even if you like different things. Whether you’re a Fortnite player, a Supernatural junkie, a Magic: the Gathering enthusiast, or a Twilight Imperium fan, these fandoms provide opportunities for meaningful connection. And thanks to social media, finding your fandom family isn’t hampered by distance. One year at a convention, I distinctly remember a mother say that she didn’t know how to help her son fit in until he found Magic: the Gathering and joined a fan group. There he found the acceptance he needed as well as relief for his loving mother. Fandom is freedom for people to be themselves and an opportunity to communicate with those who may or may not be like themselves. Fandom is no longer feeling alienated because what you love is labeled as nerdy, geeky, or weird.While no one is infallible, having one tribe (or many), both near and far, is important in not only accepting yourself but also your place in the world around you.
I had only gone to one convention before I recognized that what I was feeling I had needed for a long time. When I was in sixth grade, a friend told me I was too old to play with My Little Ponies. With that one comment, I felt my life begin to change course. I found myself attempting to fit into what were supposed to be my interests according to those around me. I did that instead of balancing their interests with mine. I still remember that sting of disappointment—a feeling that stayed with me until I entered college. At college I was unknown and finally felt I could fully be myself. I stopped merely going with the flow of the world around me and began taking an active role.
Whether you’re connected to a Christian community or among other nerds, geeks, or gamers: I want you to know that there is a group out there for you. Whether you call them a community, a tribe, or a “fandom family”—these are the folks that will always listen to you. You can find these people not just in the outside world, but in some churches as well. Acceptance begins with searching, and in the vast world of media, finding this “fandom family” is easier than ever.
Going online is the simplest way. Search for your fandoms (because very few have just one) and you will find several groups throughout social media, podcasts, and articles. The best thing about the web is that it allows you room to gauge your comfort level, deciding how you want to interact with others. You can also search to find conventions and meet-ups that interest you or, if no local groups can be found, there are resources to start your own. The library is a wonderful place to meet—as are coffee shops or local restaurants.
Finding your tribe is essential. Once you find them, engage with them as often as possible. But while it’s tempting to always do what is fun to you, finding a balance between your fandom family and your local family, whatever form that takes, is important. While no one is infallible, having one tribe (or many), both near and far, is important in not only accepting yourself but also your place in the world around you. Whether it’s with your fandom community, friends, relatives or church family, the sky’s the limit when you love your tribe, seeing what you can all contribute to the world if you celebrate what you have in common as well as your differences. So reach out and change your single player to multiplayer: your tribe is waiting.
Find her on Twitter @SuzanneToon143.