January 30, 2023

Save the Net Books

Blogazine on Books, Arts, and Music

You don’t have to outgrow fandom

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Last summer, when I turned 25, I reflected on being a quarter of a century old – what has changed and stayed the same in my life. The answer was: a lot has changed. I live far from the city I grew up in and it’s been years since I’ve visited. I am married. I have worked in my current job longer than it took me to study my bachelor’s degree. And after coming to myself as an adult during the pandemic, I feel a sense of the heaviness of life that I didn’t have before.

But although I’ve gotten older and my life has changed in many ways, my hobbies as a whole haven’t changed. Fandom in particular is still a big part of my life – something I didn’t expect.

One of my early memories is of my parents watching The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King DVD at home. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t at least familiar with Tolkien’s work. We moved from my hometown when I was young and I found solace in reading The Hobbit – hoping that, like Bilbo, I might adapt to a new and strange environment. As I said goodbye to old friends and met new ones, the fictional characters and worlds I found in shows like Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes and Discworld offered a sense of familiarity.

I’m not a teenager anymore. I understand myself better than I did when I was young, and I’ve found ways to deal with insecurity that I didn’t know then. However, fan base is still a strong part of my life. I spend my free time listening to Tolkien podcasts and reading books or articles that analyze his work. My husband indulges me in re-watching Star Trek even though he has little interest in it. And one of my most anticipated parts of 2023 is the continuation of the story of Aziraphale and Crowley in Season 2 of Good Omens.

Sometimes I’ve caught myself feeling guilty about it, like thinking about fictional worlds is somehow frivolous or selfish. Was there something immature about me that I hadn’t outgrown when many of my friends had (or at least seemed to)? Then I found a paper that addressed similar issues.

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This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch explores author Tabitha Carvan’s realization as a new parent that as people age, they are often expected to give up interests that are considered “silly” or “unimportant.” As a teenager, she loved boy bands. But she felt that part of growing up involved discarding interests that served no purpose or helping others in any way.

Until, decades later, she developed a new passion: this time for British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. At first she was ashamed of it. Watching BBC Sherlock and Marvel movies served no greater purpose. It just made her happy, and she wasn’t even sure why.

As adults, we are often pressured to find a hobby that will benefit others in some way. Learning to knit or code, for example, produces something that others can use. But, as Carvan writes, hobbies that do little but bring happiness still create something valuable—happiness.

Although our interests differ – I was more of a Martin Freeman fan than a Benedict Cumberbatch fan when I watched BBC Sherlock – her memoir shaped the way I looked at hobbies I used to think were silly. Sure, listening to my Tolkien podcasts doesn’t bring anything useful to others or a transferable work skill (unless trying to understand the Silmarillion is a skill), but they bring me joy and comfort when life is tough. And I think that’s something that everyone deserves.

In a way, it’s like a geekier version of the line from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”: “You don’t have to walk a hundred miles on your knees across the desert to repent. You just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Whether it’s re-reading old favorites, making art for art’s sake, or just appreciating moments for what they are, I hope we all find time for simple pleasures. They are among the best parts of life.