I had just moved in with my boyfriend when the pandemic hit. It wasn’t some romantic decision. He had been crashing with me as he tried to save money, and then he just decided that he liked this situation, so we moved into a new place. I had an anxious attachment style, so I loved the forced cohabitation.
Suddenly, we were all sent home from work to continue on our laptops. My friends returned to their home countries, as they didn’t want to pay extortionate rent to squat in a tiny Amsterdam flat. I was living with my boyfriend, which was wonderful for my nervous attachment, but allowed the issues in our relationship to boil steadily to a peak.
I was lonelier than ever. Looking back, I can see that the loneliness had already started to brew years before. I lost my father in 2018 and pushed away a lot of people in my grief. My depression had worsened, and I struggled to enjoy nightlife as I used to, which proved to be an issue as alcohol was the cement in many of my friendships. I started working after university while many of my friends continued studying, which led to different lifestyles and a growing divide.
I was so lonely and trapped in a home with someone I loved and hated, depending on the time of day.
I had always liked Taylor Swift, and the majority of my senior year had been spent listening to 1989. After that, I was quiet about my love for Taylor, as it was deemed uncool. I went along with the world’s misogyny, and I missed Taylor dearly. But with Lover, I found my way back to her. And then she gave the world a gift when we needed it most, she released Folklore and Evermore at the crux of the pandemic.
My world had become so small, my days so empty except for work, and yet I had Taylor’s voice with me. She took me to new places, she gave words to the feelings I could barely contain. She was there with me.
I began exploring the Swiftie universe more, reading articles and watching TikToks, and something funny happened along the way; I became a little less lonely.
I felt understood by people I knew only through a screen name. A TikTok about depressed people listening to Taylor Swift would make me chuckle, as other people must feel the same way I do. I could focus on Taylor, or even just focus on her fans, and feel less like one person sitting in a tiny Dutch house, and more like a community.
I’m the Taylor Swift expert of my friend group. I’m asked to speak on behalf of her for any controversy. When an album is announced, I get half a dozen messages checking I’ve heard. Of course, I’ve heard, I have every notification set for my bestie, Taylor.
I had always been an avid reader, and I found my way back to this during the pandemic. I was the typical cliche of a teenage reader who lost that love at university.
My boyfriend was less of a reader, but he had one book series that had always meant a lot to him as a teenager. He begged me to try this series and I was initially hesitant. I hadn’t read young adult novels since I was a teenager myself. But I had always been interested in Greek mythology, and I was desperate for a connection between us, so I read his tattered copies.
I never would have expected that I would love this book series so much. That after I read the five books in the series, I’d read the spin-off series of five books, and then another spin-off of five books. That I’d be counting down the days until the series adaptation of the books comes out.
I loved these books so much that I convinced one of my friends to read them as well. I had barely seen her since the pandemic started, but we tried to keep in touch through messaging. She loved the series too, and soon we’d be spending hours discussing the characters and situations. A book series written for middle graders would prove to be a point of connection for two 24-year-old women.
I was put on the Percy Jackson algorithm on my social media, and I found more people my age talking about this book series. I could send these to my equally fan girl friend and laugh along with her. Once again, I felt like part of something bigger.
I moved on to read more fantasy books, and what I loved more than anything was the community they created. There are entire forums and websites dedicated to discussing Sarah J Maas's novels and looking for clues. I love the connections these readers make, ones that I never noticed, and I’m not even sure that Sarah intended. Books become more than the 300 pages that comprise them - or 600 pages in Sarah’s case- they become endless stories, legends and possibilities.
I discovered fanfiction for the first time and I wish I could’ve found this as a teenager. I think I would’ve loved writing stories about Twilight or Harry Potter for fellow fans. All of these people take the same source material and see endless possibilities in it. They all support each other and cheer one another on. They’ve made friends without needing names or addresses, just passion.
Becoming a fan girl made me feel less lonely. I stopped just existing as who I am in the day-to-day and became more than that. I became a collection of all of these possibilities. If my friends don’t like the music that I do, that’s okay, as thousands of people online do. If my friends don’t want to discuss which Greek god would be their parent, that’s okay, as thousands of people online do.
I stopped existing only as myself and became a collection of my passions.
Being a fan girl isn’t just about the things I happened to love, but opening myself up to become over-enthusiastic about things. I have always been told that I was ‘too much’ and now I stop tampering that down, and instead embrace that obsessive nature. I allow myself to fall in love with books, songs, films and characters. I allow myself to read everything that exists on a subject and become my own expert in it. I seek out opinions on a piece of media to know all the different perspectives that exist.
I became a fan girl, and it’s made me feel like I’m part of something bigger.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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