A phrase I’ve had in mind a lot: first it came up on Ever17, then during Remember11 (which we are now playing) and now on Code: Realize / Guardian of Rebirth (which I am currently playing too.) Visual novels really like that sort of self reflection, it seems (no spoilers for these games in the comments, please.)
But no, really: who am I?
Am I still a furry? Honestly, I don’t know.
Am I still a Little? What does that even mean to me anymore?
Is it my description of these things that matters? Or is it someone else’s, the fandom’s at large?
Every once in a while, I ask Christopher to unlock the internet on my phone for something, and even more rarely, I sneak into Twitter. These days, I remember less and less people’s account usernames to look at. So I can’t see much of the furry and babyfur discourse any more, even if I try.
But I always see just a little, and it always leaves me shaking my head in bewilderment, and often disappointment as well.
I “became a furry” about two years after joining FA. Before this, I was simply someone who drew anthro characters, quite repelled by the NSFW aspects of the fandom, having never once attended a furry con, and not a part of the babyfur or Little communities at all. With my squirrel-elf “fursona”, I was an outsider happy to be among furries and welcomed by them, but I did not feel like one of them. I never felt, when showing my art to others, like it was being in any way pigeonholed or seen as strange. What identified me wasn’t a fandom, it was my own characters and stories and other interests.
To me, being a furry means you embrace the community, describe yourself as a furry to others; it’s a bit between a lifestyle and a hobby, too casual for the former term, too intertwined with every aspect of one’s life for the latter. About two years in, I’d attended one convention and one life-changing meet, most of my close friends were furries, I talked mostly to furries every day, my work was furries/babyfurs, and my future plans generally involved the fandom in some way or other. I’d found “home”, my people, and I was proud, very proud to say “I’m a furry” and did so all the time.
These days… I mean, I have no shame in my furry ties. I still feel like the fandom is a big part of my life, even if there’s a permanent undercurrent of disconnect and even sadness for me. But it’s like, at some point, somehow, when furry and babyfur absorbed me, something else happened too.
Before, if you asked me, “who are you?” I would have said: I’m someone who likes to draw animals and fantasy (primarily fantasy.) I like to read –a LOT. I like playing WoW. I love working with pen and ink and colored pencils. I like to write. I love history. Most of my free time goes to working on my books.
By the time the fandom absorbed me enough, the most important and quick answer to that question would have been “I’m a furry”. By then, a lot about me had changed, but it changed too slowly for me to notice.
I began to read less and less, down to almost nothing, despite still buying books regularly. I stopped writing almost completely, often frozen by fear of writing “the wrong thing” in the eyes of the fandom. Video games? Ok –what’s popular on Twitter, what screencaps would mean my friends engage with me more? My traditional art supplies lay untouched for years… oils, acrylics, pyrography tools, Prismacolors… It’s all about how fast can I draw this as good as possible, digitally –ok, it’s done, now I can take another commission to buy some useless colorful crap to give meaning to my existence and post a photo of it so I get a few comments on it.
What happened? No, seriously. What happened to me?
There was a time when being a furry made my life feel rich and happy, and when being a littlefur (or at least little-adjacent) made me feel like I could really, truly be myself for the first time ever. But even that managed to spoil other things for me: I no longer feel comfortable showing my art to just anyone, because of the assumptions people make if you draw baby animals almost exclusively. I could not fully enjoy joining the Lolita fashion community, because of the unrelenting hate which that community shows towards Littles, even Littles who are respectful of the EGL community and keep things separate, so I left that behind too.
I never knew when I became a furry (which happened as I began to draw for babyfurs) that while it would grant me wonderful experiences and many valuable friendships, it would come at a pretty big price, of my old personality, of how I interacted with others, and most of all, how it would impact my artwork.
Other than the recent sketches for shinies, I haven’t sketched traditionally in two years. I haven’t inked traditionally in… I actually do not remember. Colored pencils? I think… 6-7 years?
What happened? How do I fix this? Do I want to fix this? I used to feel so lonely. As a furry, I am no longer lonely. But I also feel stuck, stagnant, in a way that was there beyond the pandemic. I remember sitting with Mwako watching the fursuit parade last Megaplex and he sounded so jaded about conventions and the convention experience as a whole. And my response to him was to express disappointment that he felt this way, but in a way, I was talking to myself rather than to him. Because I felt the same as he did, deep inside, but to say it out loud in agreement would have been to admit it, and I wasn’t ready.
And I’m not sure I’m ready now.
I’m not trying to force myself away from furry. I’m not even sure where I’m going with this post, which really was more going towards the fact that I need to make taking commissions a rarity, keep them artistic freedom, likely stop doing commercial work altogether (yes, really) and listen to my husband when he tells me I will never have as good a chance as this one to work on my books. This is it.
Most of my piled-on commissions are from buying nonsense. It’s been an awful year, of loneliness and disappointment, of severing toxic ties and recovering from ties broken by others. Toys, teddy bears, cute clothes, these are things that all help to distract me, but also keep me away from what really matters, really makes me who I am, which is, and always has been, my writing.
Maybe it’s also that I’m afraid the more writing I put out there the more it becomes clear it’s not very good, or it’s problematic, or whatever, and I don’t care about the latter other than the stress it can bring, and the former is just like art: if I don’t do it more IT WILL NOT GET BETTER. So it’s a vicious cycle, I’m the only one forcing myself to spin my wheels in place. I keep longing for something I could easily have.
When it comes down to it, I think what I want is for furry to no longer be the thing that comes first to my own mind when I think “who am I?”
I want my friends to keep the same important place that they hold in my heart, but I want the fandom and its opinion to go way, WAY down in importance to me. I want to just be an artist again. Not a furry artist. Not a babyfur artist. Not a digital artist. Just an artist. I want my world to feel bigger, to have more possibilities again. The fandom made it feel bigger once, and it helped me rediscover myself as a person, but at some point, it began to retract –and to constrict me, to trap me. I have felt trapped for a long time.
Right now, I’m concentrating on clearing my queue. Thankfully, you guys have been so receptive of my artistic freedom pieces. Because you have been, I can see myself continuing to take commissions, regardless of what else I decide to do.
But if I want to balance my life a little, I think that in addition to taking less slots, I’m going to be upping my rates. Perhaps significantly.
As always, these long posts are ways to help me figure out where to go from a given place. At the end of writing the post, I feel a little more clarity of mind.
Please don’t think that I regret my experiences in the fandom. I’m not sure what moving away from it would even mean… I’m not leaving FA. I’ll still take commissions. If someone says “are you a furry?” I’m not going to say no.
Let’s just say I’m in a weird place, and those of you with good memories will surely remember journals similar this one being posted months or even a year or two earlier. My desire to pull away from this part of my life grows stronger every time I write something like this, so I consider it all part of the process, even if it comes across as “oh, she’s going on about this again.”
Hopefully I get a little closer to wherever I’m going with each deep dive into self-reflection.