Our adventures escaping the real world
Tekst: Nadine van Rietschoten
Beeld: Masja Willekins
A recurring struggle in my youth is that I found real life incredibly boring. A lot of us probably remember getting to the age where you realise you’re never getting your Hogwarts letter. Well me, I never really got over that realisation. The tiny Belgian town I grew up in, had incredibly bad public transport connections, as well as a complete absence of a cycling culture. On top of that, our house was surrounded by a small forest and there were no neighbours nearby. It made me feel closed off from the world. I didn’t like my town or the people in it. I felt stuck. But I found a remedy; life was boring, until I met fanfiction.
I have always been very susceptible to losing myself in fiction. As a child, I would pull all nighters to finish books and would always dream about the latest movie I’d seen. To escape from the boredom of life, I was heavily reliant on stories. But when I wasn’t able to read a book or watch a show or anime, I still couldn’t escape the grip that fiction had on me. I don’t really remember the first time fanfiction and I met, but it felt like the most natural thing to do. Our love was a slow build; I took my time to get to know her.
One day after school, I stumbled upon a site called quizlet. It was meant for creating and taking quizzes, but I quickly noticed something else happening. It was here that my first dance with fanfiction took place. I read endless stories written by other people like me, who didn’t completely live in the real world. It was through this that fanfiction and I started to get to know eachother better. She taught me how to write and in return I gifted her with endless stories. My character defeated Voldemort together with Harry Potter. My character was the most powerful vampire anyone in the Twilight universe had ever seen. My character was an incredibly skilled ninja. Fanfiction even connected me with other people; my new friends and I would write her stories together. I didn’t want to think about any of the difficulties I had in my own life, so creating and solving fictional problems, with a magical twist, made me feel powerful.
At some point, fanfiction and I outgrew each other. When I started to enjoy the real world more, my incredible need to escape gradually went away. Crushes on fictional characters became crushes on real people. Daydreaming about what would happen next in an anime turned into dreaming about things I wanted to do in my own future. Even though we don’t speak anymore, fanfiction and I have a history I would never wish to change. She got me through some really difficult times, and helped me escape to better worlds when I couldn’t find any joy in the one I lived in. She helped me grow into the person I have become, and for that, I am eternally grateful.