I am cringe, but I am free

Life is too Short to Worry about if Strangers Think you’re Cool

Trigger warning for brief, non-explicit mention of suicidal ideation/depression

I am a twenty-year-old college girl, and I spend most of my internet time on Tumblr dot com, reblogging pictures of my favorite musicians. My older sister is really into Supernatural right now and she’s filling my dashboard with fan art of Jensen Ackles. But the year is not 2009 – rather, it’s 2023. 

My sister is thirty-three years old, she thinks I should be reblogging more Pete Wentz, and every day we go through our respective dashboards finding memes to show each other. Is it kind of lame that my sister is the same age as Christ when He died and is still using Tumblr? Maybe. But that would make it equally lame for me to have started using Tumblr just this year in order to indulge my hyper-fixation on music that came out before I was old enough to have auditory processing skills. 

I don’t really care, though, whether or not it’s lame, because it’s fun. I genuinely think that when God made me and my sister, it was with the ultimate goal of at some point, having us both be active Tumblr users at the same time. I’m having so much fun filling my sister’s feed with things she could not care less about, while she fills mine with gifsets from shows I’ve never seen. It’s also pretty funny for her to watch me discover for the first time old celebrity news that happened when she was my age. Did you know Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson were married? Neither did I, but my sister sure does. She watched it happen on Myspace in real-time.  

There aren’t a lot of people using Tumblr every day anymore and it’s definitely not the cultural hub it once was, but I don’t really care. The things we do for fun shouldn’t be dictated by what’s popular or marketable right now. Tumblr doesn’t even publicly display follower counts, which is practically unheard of by now. 

I’ve been having a lot of fun over the past few years letting myself get as violently invested in things as I want to. I got bullied a lot in middle school for being as passionate as I was about things like my favorite movies and music, but the older I get, the more I realize that shit just doesn’t matter. 

I’ve been seeing a lot of people online super excited about the current Taylor Swift tour, and even designing specific outfits for the shows they go to. It’s like the Met Gala for Swifties, and I’ve also seen a lot of people reacting to this negatively. They’re saying it’s stupid, or shallow, or a waste of time. And maybe it is. Maybe there is no deep philosophical purpose behind spending hours making a cute outfit – or maybe there is and we just want to ignore it because people like to look down on things women like, but that’s an article for another time – but it doesn’t matter either way. I don’t get why people are so against letting people enjoy things. The hordes of teenage girls in sequins going to these shows and singing their hearts out aren’t hurting anyone, and they’re having fun. Isn’t that all it should be about?

This past December, a band I really like, Lovejoy, was going to play a show in New York City. It was during dead week of the fall semester, and I had promised myself a year ago that if they ever played in the United States, I would go see them. So I took the time off work, scraped up my pennies and the flight voucher that had been sitting in my email since Covid, and I went to New York alone for two days just to see them – and it was awesome. I stood in the rain for five hours to get a good spot, put in a huge amount of effort and what a lot of people would consider a big waste of money, and I had the most fun I’ve had in years going to see my silly little boy band. 

Yeah, it’s kind of lame. I didn’t go to New York to visit the museums (although I did that, too) or attend a highbrow Broadway show – I did what girls everywhere are made fun of for every day, and I went to see pretty British musicians in Doc Martens play whiny songs about their ex-girlfriends. And it was great. It was cringe and lame and all those other things that are often a social death sentence, and it was the best decision I made all year. Going on that trip was one of the first times in months that I was genuine, bone-deep, and happy that I hadn’t killed myself earlier that year or any of the other times that felt like the best option. 

Listen; this past year was not my easiest and I spent the better half of 2022 going through multiple different kinds of treatment for severe depression, but I’m lucky and pleased to say that by now, I’m much better. This trip was the first thing I did really testing my own abilities once I was doing better, and I’m so glad I did. I did something just because I thought I would like it, and boy, did I. If you’ve struggled with depression at all, I’m sure you’ve had lots of people tell you that “it gets better.” And when you’re in the middle of the jello pool that is depression, that usually sounds trite and stupid and just generally unhelpful. But I kind of get it now. Nothing can last forever, good or bad – that’s just the nature of life. Time will continue to pass no matter what. 

And standing by myself in a room full of sweaty strangers, all screaming along the same words to the songs I’d been listening to that spring when I promised myself that I was going to get better and hear that album live, was the first time I really felt like it had worked. Things got better and I got better, and life is too short and miserable to not splurge on silly concert tickets. Money comes back around, but no matter how many hours I work, I can’t recreate the experience of standing in the rain for five hours with a bunch of total strangers who, by the end of the five hours, had become my friends. That was one of the best nights of my life and it was lame as hell and I don’t care one bit.

At the risk of sounding like a motivational poster, if I want you guys to take anything from this article, it’s that you shouldn’t be afraid to like things or obsess over TV shows or act like a “cringy” teenage girl. Go on impractical trips to see your favorite band this summer, spend hours on your outfits, and do things just because they’re fun. Get your Starbucks with seven separate drink modifications and so much sugar you can’t taste the coffee – just don’t forget to be polite and maybe tip the barista if you can. I became exponentially happier when I stopped basing my choices on what other people would think and started doing things just because I wanted to do them. I cringe, but I am free – and I hope you are, too.

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