Captain’s Log, Isolation Day 156. The crew of Starship “No, I’m Zelda” is puttering along just fine. There have been a lot of changes to our routine this summer, even in just the last month. Creative productivity has been at an all time high, while functional productivity has been stagnant. We are going to perish under this mountain of unfolded laundry, but we’re going to look 16th century fabulous when it happens. End log.
I clearly remember sitting in the middle of my studio floor four months ago, having an all-encompassing breakdown because I was overwhelmed with costume projects that I wanted to work on during quarantine. We were only a few weeks into lockdown, events were being canceled what seemed like every couple of hours, and there was still a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to emerge for fall conventions. Content creators and vendors who’d already embraced diversified offerings, digital goods, and live-streaming models were seeing a sharp uptick in engagement. Some people (me) were inundated with the opportunity to access classes, tutorials, and products that seemed previously unavailable. Those people (definitely me) immediately gobbled up the access, splurging on trials and event reminders as if the internet was going to drop at any second.
Last week, I found myself in a similar, but less dire situation. I sat in my studio staring at my very organized, very full project board, individual project spreadsheets, shipping emails, calendar, bank account, and piles of packages wondering how I’d ended up with even more on my plate and less of an idea on where to start. In following a crapton of new accounts across social media, I’d dug myself into a Pit of Possibility wherein my makes were not limited by deadlines, only by my studio space, and I refused to accept that I needed to calm the AF down and give my worktable a break. I saw trends in historical costuming [fashion] that I’d previously ignored since my con schedule traditionally dictated what I’d be sewing, and group costumes only ever happened for me by coincidence. Through CoCoVid, I realized in a tangible way that I wanted to make an outfit for all of the eras just in case I’d be able to leave the house again, and I wanted to be ready for invitations from all of my new buddies. Speaking of self-imposed peer pressure…I have a lot of new “friends”.
With the nonsensical increase to my IG follower count (<1,500 to >10K in 2.5 months), I’ve been both motivated by support and crippled by Imposter Syndrome. Until very recently, anytime I received a compliment on a project, I felt like I was going to puke. That’s not an exaggeration. My heart would beat too fast, I would start shaking, and if I thought about it for too long, I would get a headache. Despite (or probably because of) being a performer of sorts for almost 30 years, attention largely feels wrong for me. Attention means danger when you’re constantly worried about people’s intentions, and that’s not focusing on the negative, that’s a history of being let down and letting people take advantage. But, I digress. This didn’t just happen in face-to-face encounters when a visitor to my convention table would ask for a photo or a ren faire cast member would pull me over to chat about farthingales. This happened anytime a random internet stranger would give a thumbs up on my newest backyard photoshoot post. I don’t pretend to understand The Algorithm, I just put up a picture when I have something to share and hope that it brings a happy thought to someone else’s day. Every, “OMG, I’m in awe of your skills” made me look around to see where the cameras were hiding. And don’t get me started on the DMs.
But in the last month, I’ve acclimated to the rainbow-glitter energy, taking the digital high fives like a well-adjusted champ. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting allies, chatting with craft crushes, and being a slightly more active participant in the costuming community. Y’all…I comment on YouTube videos now. ಠ_ಠ I have never felt so heartened or so free to talk shop with people who give a shite about the benefits of mockups. I am surrounded [virtually] by amazing humans, and I feel like I belong in the conversation. Now, every response or comment that I give on social media has still been deleted and re-written a handful of times before posting, but that’s normal for me. I am terrified of my words being misunderstood, so I plan each word carefully and use an overabundance of emojis. In the midst of a fabric hoard that constantly churns out historical-esque princesses and supers I haven’t found a humble way to say, “I’m good at what I do. I’m smart and beautiful. I deserve to be proud. I am here to help you, too” because it feels wrong. I smile and nod and wait for the other shoe to drop, or for someone with legitimacy to come along and tell the others that I’m talking out of my ascot. Luckily, I also know these feelings are normal and that many of us have been there.
Bonus Text Block: I’ve said some super weird, “Wait…what?” shite in person, then immediately clammed up and run away like the faffing coward that I am. It’s because I get too excited to play in costume with people and can’t stop the awkwardness that comes out of my over-smiling mouth. It’s like I completely blackout during a conversation and when I come to, I’ve overshared my welcome. It’s not the word vomit that bothers me–my IRL friends know what’s up. No, it’s the idea that this really cool person is going to walk away because I fracked up the preamble. (Note: I’m also shite at mixing metaphors.) I promise I’m a totally normal human (/wink), with normal human fears (/sideeye), and normal human train wreck tendencies (/guffaws). I’m working on it.
Don’t be racist. Wear a mask.