I Wasn’t Prepared for This

Like Twilight Sparkle in The Crystal Empire, I wasn’t prepared for this.

Earlier today, all I thought I’d be doing this weekend was a bit of gaming, perhaps ‘chasing’ myself out to the furry meet-up at IHOP on Saturday, and some laundry. Then just after 1:00 I got a text. From my landlord.

My little family – myself and four roommates, and our dogs – have lived in the same house for the past 9 years. Well, not all of us, but two of us consistently have. So it is with no small amount of sadness that I took the news: My landlord is moving back to Maine, and as part of his plans he’s selling the house. He sent us a 30-day notice today (perfectly legal, as we’ve been on a month-to-month lease for several years now).

Now I’m in panic mode. This place has been home for so long that, even though it’s beaten up, it’s still home. I don’t want to go.

More than that, well – I’m not certain what to do. I love my roommates to death but I almost wonder if this isn’t a chance for me to get out on my own, perhaps have my own place for the very first time ever. I don’t want to abandon them, but I also sometimes feel like I’m a little tied down to them to get on with my own life. Then again, friendship is magic. I’m just not sure what to do.

A couple of weeks ago – just a week or so before I first watched Twilight head off to the Crystal Empire to take on King Sombra – I had felt like change was coming. I figured that particular change was coming out as a brony, making an oath to myself to start getting out of the house, and to start getting in better shape. But apparently the world wasn’t satisfied with that. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for this. Now I just have to breathe, and remember that it will all work out in the end.

Why ever did I wait to become a brony?

My inaugural post. Hopefully this blog will not fall by the wayside like so many other hobbies\pastimes I’ve had. I think this one will stick. Why?

I’m a brony.

Yes, I said it. I’m 34 years old, I’m a guy (who happens to be gay – irrelevant!), and I’m a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s getting easier to say or type every time I do it.

Now this should not come as a surprise to me. After all, I’ve always loved animation – even today I’ll get up early on Saturday mornings occasionally to watch cartoons. I’ve been a member – er, lurker – of the furry fandom for years.  I’m a table-top gamer, a computer gamer, a video gamer.  I go to the renaissance fair, I love show tunes and British humor. I’m a member of so many ‘geek’ cliques that being a brony should not in any way, shape, or form shock me.

So why the heck did it take me so long to admit it to myself and others? I’m not sure. I guess it’s because even though my brain knows that what I love is no reason to feel shame, my heart still harbors some of that high school angst and fear of judgment. Despite the fact that I know that not everyone will like me, that not everyone will approve of my pastimes, and that therefore their approval (or disapproval) is irrelevant, some deep part of my brain still is just a child, sitting in class with his head down and fearing that everyone is going to laugh at him.

And why the heck is it so important to understand why it took me so long to admit it? Because I realize now, had I admitted it and started watching the damn show a while ago, I could have been a happier person all this time, and could have been further on the road to changing my life into something more positive.

Change, you say? What does a damn cartoon have to do with life-altering realizations? A cartoon – even one about magical ponies – should not be such a catalyst. Yet even though it seems silly, even to me, that’s one of the only things to which I can attribute the changes I’m now seeking to make in my life. I feel open again – alive, happy, and hopeful for the future. Maybe if I go back a bit further it will make sense.

A few months ago, sometime just before Christmas, I shut down. My heart closed off. Oh, I still smiled and went through the motions, and apparently I’m fairly good at playacting happiness because my close friends and family did not seem to realize that I was so far down. Emotionally, I felt like I was smooshed into an overstuffed snow suit; I felt like a little kid with his arms and legs sticking straight out in an X shape because his down-filled parka, while warm, was not only insulating him from feeling anything and from even moving around successfully.  Nothing really seemed to touch me; nothing really seemed to get past the insulating numbness that wrapped around me.

Except, of course, the depression. I suffer from clinical depression, and the medication I take only helps so much. And that was able to claw all the way down to my heart, even if I couldn’t feel anything positive. I pondered suicide a few times – not something new, but not a thought that I’d had recently, and never in as detailed a way as I was envisioning it during that period. Oh – and since that fear of being judged by others was already inside, it kept poking me occasionally.

And then came ponies.

While off work for the holidays, I ran out of things to watch on Netflix. Based on some of the other shows I watched, Friendship is Magic came up on the suggestion list. It’d actually been on there for awhile, but I avoided it. I suppose the most likely reason is because I thought I was already part of too many ‘outsider’ cliques already. That fear of being judged by others was already safe in its nest inside me, and despite knowing that joining yet another ‘geek culture’ would not net me any external pain or harm, that fear kept me from giving the show a try. But at this point – maybe it was the magic of the holidays piercing through my shell – I clicked on it anyway.

I loved it.  I enjoyed it just as much as I always had known I would. I watched the first three or four episodes and probably would have kept watching, but the world interrupted. I don’t even remember what it was, but it was a minor stress annoying enough that I didn’t go back to continue watching until sometime in January, when I took time off for my birthday.

Between my birthday and late March I watched all three complete seasons of the show, and then hungry for more I found all the episodes from season 4 on Daily Motion, and I watched those too. And as I watched, something clicked inside, something changed. I felt good. Happy. I felt like even though there’s no real sign of magic in the real world (the real world sucks quite often, as you the reader probably knows), maybe if I looked hard enough I could find it – or if I changed myself, I could help put a little magic back into the world.

Now, the feeling started building; I felt like I was on the cusp of something important but was still waiting for something.

It was when I viewed an episode called Filli Vanilli that it finally spilled over. Now, three things you need to know for this to make sense: First, I suffer from fairly bad social anxiety and had become somewhat of a shut-in except for my habitual outings to a game every once in awhile; I’m good with people that I know, and in one-on-one settings, but in large groups I just freeze and my stomach churns. Second, despite that anxiety I love to sing in front of audiences, and (I’m told) am pretty good at it; since I had entered self-imposed exile, and had been enfolded in emotional bubble wrap, I had lost my voice (not literally – just lost passion the to sing). Third, one of the main characters of Friendship is Magic, Fluttershy, has a wonderful voice, is a kind-hearted pony, and suffers from social anxiety and oft-overpowering shyness.

Yet as I watched the episode, Fluttershy overcame her shyness to an extent. She sang! Yes, at first she did it from behind a curtain, but eventually she started taking baby steps to overcome her fear. I realized, as I watched, that in many ways, this caricature of shyness was in fact more outgoing than I was! Yes, she was shy, but she put herself out there, even before this episode, and now she was throwing herself against one of her greatest fears – slowly, maybe, but she was striking at it nonetheless.

I was more of an introvert than an animated character who was scripted to be a backwards wallflower.

Ouch.

Enough was enough. It was time to change. The dam inside me burst. I think that I smiled, honestly, more during that day and the next, and the next, than I had in the past two months. I felt honestly happy, hopeful, and more importantly, I felt empowered! Who cares, I thought, if it took something like My Little Pony, as long as it effects real change in me?

And so that’s where I am now. I’ve put myself out there – online for now, but only as a means to an end (that end being to get out of the house and start finding myself again). I’ve put myself out there physically as well, by starting a diet and exercise program (I’ve walked more for the purposes of exercise in the past three days than I have in probably the past three years). I’ve started making plans with friends and family to go out to karaoke next week. I’ve RSVP’ed to a ‘geek convention’ at Arizona State University, where the local Bronies of Phoenix group will be participating; I’ve joined their group, and other brony groups. I plan on going to a furry meet-up at IHOP this Saturday night. I’ve even stretched my creativity by starting this blog, and by picking up a new creative outlet (drawing); I freehand sketched how I pictured myself as a pony (Timid Clef’s the name!) based on an avatar from the Hasbro site, scanned it in to my computer, and then using Paint.NET outlined it (by hand, with my mouse – owwie!) and then to color it in using fill and paintbrush.

I’ve started to sing again. And it’s all because I’m a brony, and because of those colorful ponies who teach that friendship is magic. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Timid Clef first try colored