Growing up, I was one of those kids that felt things deep down, who loved too quickly, who jumped in heart-first. Everything was important and dramatic and I just needed people to know how I felt, you know? Not everyone, of course, not even most people - just the ones I cared about. The people who mattered. The people who sometimes didn't realize how much this quiet kid in the background hung on their every word, or how much some small kindness had meant to her. Teachers, camp counselors, community leaders, even radio hosts; I had a lot of great role models in my life, and I loved them all.
At the same time I was also the quiet one. The one who desperately - desperately - wanted to grow up. The one who hung out with the mom during sleepovers, who sat with the adults and listened while they debated politics or religion. The careful one, the easily embarrassed one, terrified of being branded "silly" or immature.
So I would lock myself in my room, and I would write. I wrote journals, and I wrote letters. So many letters. I wrote to people who inspired me, to people I cared about, and to people I wanted to care about me. Fan mail, basically. Some to people I knew, others to celebrities who wrote or sang or said things I liked. I wrote to thank them, to tell them how amazing they were. I was a budding fangirl, eager, excited, and looking for heroes.
I remember this one letter, I must have written and re-written it - by hand - half a dozen times. Did I sound OK? Was it too much? Would they laugh? Ah, agonies. But I couldn't stop writing. I couldn't stop reaching out. I was addicted to telling people how much I cared.
Sometimes - many times, really - my letters received amazing responses. I acquired some pretty cool pen pals. Other times I got a teary-eyed hug, or a stammered thanks from the crotchety old guy at church with the beautiful voice. Sometimes there was nothing, sometimes there was too much. Sometimes I was misinterpreted, and I learned a few hard lessons about expressing admiration as a teenage girl.
I stopped writing fan letters after that. Which was good. I had a lot to learn, and a long way to go in both growing up and growing wiser.
Today I'm so much more self-assured than that terrified teen. I'm OK with being silly now. Heck, I even encourage it. I know and like who I am, and I don't need validation from my role models like I did then. I still want it, of course, but I don't need it. And you know what the best part is? The more confident I am in who I am, the more comfortable I am fangirling again. I'm freer complimenting people, especially strangers. If I like something someone did online, I comment and tell them so. When I take cosplay photos I've been known to gush. If I like your art or your shoes or that sarcastic thing you just said, odds are I'm going to tell you. And while I've always been on the reserved side, lately I've even found myself telling my friends I love them. That's right, I bust out the L word. I tell them I miss them if it's been a while, that I want to spend time together. I fangirl. I put myself out there.
I'll be honest, it's still scary sometimes. Some of my friends have been a little taken aback. Some don't say they love me back, and it's a little awkward, but then I have to laugh because that's totally OK. I just want them to know, you know? I want all the people I care about to know. After all these years, I want to fangirl whole-heartedly again.
Today I opened the latest batch of fan mail from our PO Box. There were letters and thank you cards and hand-drawn pictures from little ones. About halfway through the small stack I picked up this one envelope, and I was struck with this vivid, almost visceral memory of the time I wrote and rewrote that one fan letter, all those years ago. Inside this card there were words a lot like the ones I used to write, carefully inscribed in a handmade card this person knew I would love, decorated in my favorite colors. Everything about it spoke of care and consideration... and hope. Hope that this sounded OK. Hope that it wasn't too much. Hope that I wouldn't laugh or think it silly, but would somehow understand.
So from one fan to another: I do. I get it. And I'm humbled and lifted up and forever grateful for the words you trust me with. Whether it's a quick "thanks" or three pages of soul-spilling and secrets, I want you to know - all of you - that your words have unimaginable power. So be careful with them, and use them wisely, but use them. Write it, say it, text it, paint it in a picture. Tell people they matter. Tell them you appreciate that thing no one else noticed. Go ahead and fangirl a little. Get comfortable being unabashedly enthusiastic. It may feel silly at first, but I promise you - I promise you - people are starving for your approval. Starving for a word of validation. Starving for the encouragement they need to get through another day, another hour.
We're geeks, you and I. We're fangirls and fanboys. We're passionate and a little obsessive and gosh darn it, we care about things and we just want people to know.
So go tell them.