Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Bulbasaur at the Zoo: Dallas Fan Expo

I wouldn’t call myself a stranger to comic cons, more so I’ve always felt an outsider. I remember once going to a con, but not actually going in. My friends and I found this balcony that overwatched the lobby of the convention center, and we spent an afternoon just pointing out cosplays that we recognized. I felt the energy there was exciting, but I never felt like the experience was for someone like me who was slowly losing connection with his hobbies due to schooling.

When Spencer invited me to this Fan Expo 2022, I was hesitant to accept. I felt there were so many other people who would know how to enjoy it more than I would. I’m still sure of that, even after attending. I missed a lot simply due to naivety, even straightforward things such as the scheduled events I could attend. I figured it out as I went along, but by the time I felt I figured it out, it was time to go.

But I really don’t blame me. If I had to describe my experience in one word, it would be: overwhelmed.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it all. The costumes radiated creativity and passion. The vendor tables were fascinating and eclectic. The atmosphere was filled with love and community. Fan Expo did an amazing job at including a diverse amount of interests and fandoms. But because it was so much, I still felt like an outsider. That’s no one’s fault except for me. I think it’s because while I recognized most of the stuff, I somehow felt like everyone else liked it more than me – which doesn’t even make sense or even matter, I know. Even the kids running around with freshly bought plushies seemed to mock me for not being a good enough fan, when there really isn’t such a thing. But it’s just how I felt.

Thankfully, I learned how to enjoy myself by looking for that which was familiar. For example, one thing we all did together was go to a Pokémon trivia session. I still love Pokémon. I may not be as connected to the fandom anymore, but I’ve tracked it generally over the years. Thankfully, the session included questions mostly from Generation 1. I felt such pride at remembering random facts from the Pokémon franchise, tapping into my childhood dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer. Did I feel bad for sniping out a question from kids in the room and claiming a Pokémon card pack as a prize? Slightly, but hey, it’s not my fault that they’re only 6? And hey, even though I’m so much older, I still “wanna be the very best like no one ever was.” **cue the original Pokémon theme song**

"Jigglypuff, seen from above."

After moments like that, things didn’t seem as threatening. I listened to a couple of panels, even to fandoms that I wasn’t familiar with. I continued to admire the costumes and enjoyed observing a couple of the cosplay meet-ups. I realized that not everyone knew each other, that they had only just met there. This didn’t stop them from enjoying meeting each other and sharing in the joy of their shared interests. I also loved seeing the joy in the eyes of people in cosplay who were asked to pose for pictures. I had always admired cosplays from afar, but seeing up close what light fills the eyes of the people behind them makes me want to show appreciation more for their art.

To end my experience, I made a personal journey to find my favorite Pokémon – Bulbasaur, the Pokémon I was designated as when I played the very first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game. I had to dig through a sea of merchandise (thank goodness Bulbasaur is still a relatively popular Pokémon). I felt slightly guilty that I wasn’t really interested in looking for anything else. But it’s like the kid who LOVES penguins when they go to the zoo. They may enjoy seeing other things. But they still very much LOVE penguins. So for me, I’m looking for the Bulbasaurs at the zoo - becuase I still very much LOVE Bulbasaur. And people are allowed to love things without loving everything else. 

Overall, this experience taught me that comic con isn’t about some sort of “perfect” experience. Sometimes, it’s just about finding that one thing that’s meaningful to you. Not everything meant something to you there. But it’s there to help everyone find something.

I’m especially thankful for Spencer for not only encouraging me to go to this con, but also for staying with me through this entire thing. He was a light and a true anchor to me throughout this, I honestly don’t know how I would have fared without him. I hope to go again next year and let myself enjoy it all more.

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