As a child I had many passions. Like. A lot. First and perhaps most important, I loved Pokemon above all measure. I watched the TV show(s). I owned and regularly played all of the games. My brother had this binder full of rare or otherwise valuable baseball cards he'd collected, and I had a matching binder for my Pokemon cards. When I was about seven years old, I quite literally got on my knees and begged my mom to drive me from southern New Jersey to New York for a Pokemon convention. We couldn't make it work.
I also loved SpongeBob SquarePants, which is how you know I was born in the late nineties and grew up in a house with a television and cable access. I would lie on my mom's bed (because she'd watch Judge Judy in the living room at the same time and my mother kind of had seniority) with a Capri-Sun juice pouch and a small bowl of Cheeto puff balls, and I'd watch and laugh and laugh, even when I'd seen an episode upward of ten times. This was before smartphones or tablets, I didn't have a laptop, and our only computer was absolutely carbon-dateable and also in the living room. So when I say I watched SpongeBob, I watched SpongeBob.
As I grew older, I loved more things like they belonged to me, like they were crafted specifically for a target audience of me. A Series of Unfortunate Events and then Harry Potter and then Avatar: The Last Airbender and then A Series of Unfortunate Events again and then more recently The Legend of Korra, on and on, books and shows and games.
I wasn't bullied. But I had some friends and family members ask me why I wanted to play Pokemon games all the time when I was nine or ten and should've been into different things. I was asked to please stop talking about Avatar on numerous occasions. No one cares how excited you are about the new season of SpongeBob, seven-year-old Mark.
So not only did I learn that it was wrong to love these things, I learned it was wrong to love.
This is such a wrong thing. Especially for children, for whom the world is bright and new. Kids see New York City at night and the towers scrape the stars out of the sky and into their eyes.
We tell them—kids, pre-teens, teens, each other, ourselves—it is wrong to love things, to be enthusiastic about something unironically. Fandoms are full of twelve-year-old girls who haven't heard real music yet. We tell them to hate, and to be loud about it. Life sucks, and then you die.
But what about making a space for yourself that doesn't suck? But what would happen if you let yourself think and feel about things the way you genuinely think and feel about them, not the way you're supposed to?
I'm of the firm belief that behind every cynical facade, there's someone who is ashamed of their own hobbies or passions or interests. And I'm not saying that being cynical is wrong, either—especially if the world does not exactly treat you equally. (I'm marginalized too, folks.) But there are so many things to be excited about, and "looking cool" is not one of them.
So this is something of a plea, dear reader: when the world feels like it's in love with hatred, anger, or outrage; when no one loves anything for fear that not everyone will love them; when you want to brand someone as lesser for the things or people that bring them joy—remember it doesn't have to be that way. Fall in love with yourself. This is a beautiful world, if you let it be.