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The Worst Cosplayer

My one goal in life is to win a 1st place in the Masters category of the only cosplay contest I’ve ever competed in. It’s the sole reason this blog has been silent for several months: I simply don’t have the time to focus on writing.

The main problem I have in regards to this goal is I’m an overachiever and a procrastinator. Much like having depression and anxiety, these are two opposite traits that don’t work well together.

I picked Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn as my cosplay, which is the most detailed and complicated thing I could have chosen. It has all manner of things I’m either not incredibly skilled at or haven’t done at all: making patterns from complete scratch, hand stitching, decorative stitching, weaving, wood work, prop building, LEDs, complicated wig building and styling, tons of fur and leather or faux leather, etc.

The overachiever in me enjoys the challenge. The procrastinator in me combined with my anxiety and depression puts off this challenge or makes progress rather slow until I realize its two months before the convention and I don’t have anything completely finished.

There were also a series of stressors that only made things much worse: the overturning of Roe, sudden car issues, garden plans that weren’t executed until a month after everything was supposed to be in the ground (my other dream is to sell pickles at the farmer’s market once we achieve my other dream of owning a house so we can garden there instead of the community garden), the cats being more hyper than usual during the night while I’m trying to get rest, the annual summer fundraiser at work, a transphobic Christian group dividing the community…not to mention the usual nightmares I have about Kim, my egg donor, and the stressful nature of working retail. 

There were a lot of issues with building this cosplay. I must have made at least half a dozen patterns, each with their own minor adjustments, for the complicated, leather skirt panels with decorative stitching before I finally figured out one that looked right. I had tested several eyelets with leather lace until I found one that worked, but the leather lace did not fit with the eyelets when I made the actual piece—by the way, there were almost 100 eyelets on that particular piece and my hands hurt for days after punching out all the holes and crimping the eyelets with special pliers. I went through several methods of punching holes into faux leather—ruining several types of hole punches and a wooden mallet—before finally figuring out late in the building process that a Dremel with one of the carving tips actually worked. The wood beads were a nightmare: it took several hours over the course of a few weeks to sand them into shape with a Dremel whenever the weather was nice, dye them, and seal them only to end up having sand off the coloring and redo them when I fucked up after realizing Mod Podge didn’t work that great as a sealant despite it having worked beautifully when I tested it. Adding to all this, I had started construction later than I probably should have thinking I was going to lose enough weight to justify waiting, but lost only about five pounds.

Not surprisingly, by the time the Monday before the convention rolled around, I only had a few things finished while the rest was in various states of progress. It was my day off and I had another whole day off before the convention so I believed if I crunched I could get it done. I went to my hour therapy session, hashed things out about the cosplay with the therapist, and left with the determination that I could complete this cosplay by Friday. After all, I had done it before and I could do it again.

Then everything went all wrong.

Dyed my alternative to the leather lace I had intended to thread through the eyelets and the dye didn’t take despite using a whole bottle and specifically buying dye formulated for synthetics. I spent half an hour trying to grind holes into faux leather skirt panels and barely made a dent in the 2000+ holes I had to do. It was too hot to glue foam outside so I tried doing it inside and realized my room wasn’t ventilated enough when the glue gave me severe headaches. It went like this for twelve hours and nothing ever got fully completed. The longer it went on, the harder it was to convince myself to keep going. I was exhausted and miserable. I wanted to give up, but I felt like I’d be a failure if I did.  

And I just started sobbing—a full-on, blubbering, cut-through-the-bone breakdown.  

At some point during all this, my husband came to talk to me.

“If you feel like you can get this done by Friday, then go for it. Do you feel like you can get it done by then?”

“…at this point, I feel like if I had the rest of the week off I’d be cutting it close at best.”

“Then why don’t you put this off until next year instead of driving yourself further into insanity?”

“Because…I don’t want to be a failure. And I’m not getting any younger. I’m a fucking 35 year old trying to cosplay as a 19 year old.”

“Sam…what you’re doing is worthy of a 1st place prize.” I think that was the first time he ever acknowledged my dream of winning a first place prize for cosplay. “I feel like if you try to get this done before Friday then you’ll be rushing it and making mistakes…is there anything you’re doing to cut corners now?”

The bow. I wasn’t making the bow I had intended to make for a lack of time. I had wanted to see if I could make it a somewhat functional bow that drew back properly, but couldn’t figure it out and scratched the idea.

“But if you had an extra 52 weeks, you could add all those little details and make something that will wow the judges.”

He was right. It sucked hearing it, but he was right.

Things didn’t magically get better once I stopped trying to build a cosplay before Friday. I still felt like a failure. I still felt like exhausted, hot garbage from sleep depriving myself the past two months trying to build this thing. I still had nightmares about Kim that night—the reoccurring one involving the pathway behind my childhood home leading down to the little stream where I would go to destress and dreaming my little nature sanctuary was completely underwater.

Through this cosplay, I realized I have some unresolved issues because of Kim I didn’t realize I had.

  1. I’m scared of getting older because I feel like I missed out on so much during my younger years because of that vile woman. As my step-mom once said, “You had to grow up too fast.” At the same time, I feel like there’s certain things I won’t be able to do once I am older—one being cosplaying as young adults. Also, I’m at the age Kim was when she started being a really shitty parent and she became more unhinged and callous as time went on so I worry the same will happen to me.   
  2. As she always compared me to my seemingly perfect Golden Child brother, I always had this feeling like I had to be perfect. Instead of being perfect, though, I ended up being a bit of an underachiever because if I couldn’t do something right or on time I would give up. So the idea of putting a big project on the back burner makes me feel like I’m screwing up like I did in my youth and I don’t want to be that person that feels like everyone is waiting for you to screw up like you always do.  
  3. When I was planning on going to my very first convention with my friends and was making my first convention cosplay (Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service), she made fun of me for it because she thought it was childish for a grown adult to be going to an anime convention. And it stung. She did apologize for it later (one of the few times she actually did apologize for anything she did), but the damage was done and it stuck. I don’t have this cosplay goal because of her, but maybe a small part of me feels that if I accomplish this particular goal it would be kind of a “Fuck you” for giving me shit about something I was excited about.

I may not be going as Aloy this year like I wanted, but at least I’ll be going to the convention for the first time since 2019 and I’ll have a great time anyways. At least I won’t frantically be trying to complete a cosplay in the hotel room the night before the cosplay contest.

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