Illustration by Gabrielle Conlon

Illustration by Gabrielle Conlon

Loneliness sucks. Understatement of the year? Perhaps, but I’m letting my inner poet take the day off. So much art has been dedicated to loneliness, so I’m not going to wax poetic about the soul sucking emptiness of loneliness, though I could easily do so all day.

No, I’m keeping it short and succinct; loneliness sucks. You know it, I know it, we all know it. So, what is one to do when loneliness has set up camp and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon? Well there are plenty of things you can do, but when my anxiety was sky high, I found comfort in an unexpected place; the fictional world.
The 2-D family, as I’m coining it for the sake of this article, is any group of fictional characters that have snuck their way into your heart. When you see a picture of any one of them, your heart does a little “!!!” because that’s just how much you love them. They bring you happiness (along with a whole bunch of other feelings) and you can’t help but root for them the same way you root for the people you love in “real life.” At this point in the article, either you’re nodding emphatically or you’re asking yourself, “Do people really get that invested in fictional characters? They’re not even real.” And to that I say, open your mind just a little. They aren’t real the way you and I are, but they’re real in that they are relatable, painfully human, and the same as us. And when I say they’re human, I’m referring to the fact that they experience emotions the same way we do.

Relatability is key, and that’s one of the reasons why representation in the media is so important. It’s self affirming in the best of ways. It’s a shout out from creators to consumers that hey, your story is worth telling, just like everyone else’s. Not only is it worth telling, but it’s a narrative you aren’t alone in. You aren’t alone. Even when it feels like you are, you aren’t, because there are countless other people out there, watching those same characters and thinking to themselves, “They’re just like me.”

I’ve found that the characters I end up being drawn to are the ones who are deeply flawed. Not only can I relate to their struggles, but as the story progresses, they grow and grow and grow and there is such a message of hope. If they can do it, maybe I can to. They’re not giving up, so neither will I.

I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over the hypocrisy of the harmful words I direct at myself. I think these things about myself, but the second I even think of aiming them at someone else, I’m immediately horrified. I would never! How could I say such cruel things to someone? And yet I direct them at myself day in and day out without a second thought. This idea can be transferred to fictional characters as well. Think of any fictional character you love, now think of all their imperfections. These “flaws” don’t lessen your love for the character, in fact it’s the opposite; their imperfections are what give them depth and character. So the next time you go to think something mean at yourself, picture yourself as a fictional character. And all those viewers out there watching your show, why they’d love you! They’d love the way you don’t give up even when times get tough, and in your moments of weakness, they’d empathize so deeply with you, because they too have had their share of hard times. We find each other in our shared imperfections, regardless of whether we are made of pixels or cells.