Now I'm twenty-four and in a state of near-constant neurotic paralysis due to my utter conviction that I know precisely nothing. I'm OK with that. In fact I'm kind of enjoying it. (The person I am now is a person who didn't exist five years ago. That's terrifying and liberating all in one hit. Who will I be in another five years? No one knows. How exciting.)
I know a lot of the people who come to this blog now come from a link on one of my old sites (hello there). I am also still friends or fond acquaintances with a lot of people I met through the blogging community back in the day, and it's fantastic to see the achingly cool people they have grown into (Sary. Allison. Just to name two incredibly awesome people). I look back with a slightly creeper-ish sense of pride on the days when we were all strange teenage bloggers together.
OK. Fangirl moment over. *pulls self together with great effort* What was I saying? Ah yes. I know a lot of you reading this right now are here because of Ye Olde Goth Blogging Days, and I almost feel as though I owe you some sort of explanation as to why this:
I'm not going to lie, I do look back at old photos of myself and think dang, I used to look so much cooler, but the thing is, I do so with a little smile and the quiet knowledge that, well, that was then. And whilst I'm glad I did it, it's not a reflection of who I am any more. I still think of myself as 'alternative', just in a gentler, nerdier sort of way. I no longer feel like I need my appearance to shout, "I AM DIFFERENT." I suppose because I no longer need my appearance to say anything at all to other people. It's just me. I just am.
[Hopefully unnecessary disclaimer: I don't speak for other alt people! I'm not saying that people dress up in their various subcultural ways to proclaim how different they are. I'm saying that, in part, I did. This post explains and expresses no one's thoughts or motivations other than my own.]
As I've recently mentioned, being an 'ex-Goth' is something I consider an important part of my identity. After all, Goth culture was something that consumed me for a six-year period of my life. It played a large part in shaping who I am and how I look at things today; it's not something to be shrugged off. I find it strange now when I realise that I actually have friends who never saw me with long black hair and a multitude of facial piercings, as though I'm a puzzle and they haven't got all the pieces. (But of course, I didn't witness their developmental years either, so I guess it works both ways.)
So. What changed?
- I'm lazy. Not only that, but I don't want to put so much effort into thinking about my appearance. My version of Goth culture centred heavily on fashion and make-up, and I found I was no longer enjoying anything - I was outside myself, watching myself take part, monitoring how I looked at all times, and it wasn't good for me. I needed desperately to take a step back and evaluate what I wanted to be doing with my time, where I wanted my energy to go. And once I'd taken that step, I couldn't - and still can't - bring myself to focus so heavily on my looks again.
- It wasn't fun any more. Blogging and being a Goth went hand in hand for me, and when one took a hit the other did too. On the one hand, I got some criticism. This is par for the course as a blogger - people are not always going to agree with you, and had I been thicker-skinned I could potentially have a) continued regardless or b) learned something, but my self-image was so tied up with blogging that I felt under attack. On the other hand, people were recognising me out and about at clubs and festivals, and whilst this was incredibly exciting at the time, I did come to realise that I'd rather be under the radar.
- I wanted to be able to develop as a person. For example, one thing I was heavily criticised for was my music taste. That's fine - my music taste is pretty awful and I won't deny it, but because I was so obsessed with being a Goth, I felt like I had to start listening to the 'right' music. Obviously, this then led to me feeling like I was squashing my own personality. (I might have stayed a Goth longer if I hadn't become so obsessed with the culture. It was my entire identity. It was all I wanted to be. If parts of me didn't fit, I squashed them, stomped them or simply made excuses for them, and in the long run that doesn't work. You can't just cut off bits of yourself like an ugly sister hacking off toes to fit into a glass shoe.)
- As soon as I started to look outside Goth for clues as to who I was and where I fit, I found myself dredging up more and more things from my pre-Goth past and from the world around me that were more 'me' than the narrow self-definition I had tried so hard to shoehorn myself into. So once I was out, as it were, I couldn't squeeze myself back in. It just wasn't 'me' any more. For some people, there's no squeezing and no squashing - which was how I knew that for me, it was time to move on. You can't force yourself to be a Goth once it stops being something that speaks to you!
- I stopped being able to pretend that the things that annoyed me in mainstream culture (drug use, body shaming, bullying) didn't happen in the Goth scene. I had thought of Goth as some sort of perfect haven and when I realised it wasn't I felt disillusioned. Again, my own fault.
To be shameless and quote myself, from a previous blogging incarnation, "Of course, those aspects of me that drew me to dark culture still remain and are still celebrated - I am an avid bookworm with a particular fondness for dark faerie tales; I adore dark fashion; I have an enduring fondness for fantasy art, particularly with darker aspects... etc, etc, etc.
"For me, the trouble with belonging to a specific subculture is that I felt I had to live up to other people's expectations of what a proper Goth should be if I wanted to 'earn' the label, which after a while felt limiting and uncomfortable. I learned that I prefer a more fluid, general descriptor like 'alternative', because there were things outside even the most vague boundaries of dark fashion drawing my attention, and I didn't want to just shut off the side of myself that wanted to (for example) wear florals and no make-up.
"Long-time readers will know that crimping personal tastes to fit labels is certainly not what I'm about and never will be. I was reminded of those slightly awkward adolescent years when I tried to buy the 'right' clothes to impress the 'right' people, and something inside me rebelled against the idea of reliving a time when I didn't feel good enough to be accepted for who I was. I liked having the freedom to experiment with fashion, the quirkier the better, and experience different styles and genres of music without feeling like a fraud for calling myself a Goth."