The book series I reference at the beginning of this entry is the Covenant With the Vampire series by Jeanne Kalogridis, a trilogy that serves as backstory to Dracula. I'm not the superfan I was back then, but I'd still recommend her books to anyone who likes the original Dracula.
I should probably be mortified to admit this, but I can still get that fannishly excited about a story I'm really, really into--be it a book, TV show, movie, manga or comic series, whatever. And relatable characters have always been the most important factor for me in whether I connect with a story. Back then there was the extra layer of helping to alleviate some of my loneliness: I barely had any real friends, but feeling emotionally connected with characters in books helped me feel less completely alone in the world. On the other hand, knowing that imaginary characters were the closest thing I had to friends could also make me feel that much more lonely and depressed when I was in a self-hating mood. But losing myself in stories I loved was one of the healthier coping mechanisms I had, and one of the ones I'm glad I've held onto. When I need it, it still works for me.
"Enigma Boy" comes up again in this entry, much to my current-day chagrin. I'm pretty sure the fear was plain old fear of rejection and making a fool of myself, though I guess I can't say with absolute certainty that it wasn't more than that. Full disclosure: I've done a 180 with the whole "hopeless romantic" thing in the last 10 years, in that I would have called myself one when I was in high school, and barely consider myself at all romantic (at least in the love sense) today. I find it hard not to write off high-school-Vale's feelings in crush entries, because I just so don't think that way anymore. So if my commentary on that stuff seems a bit cynical, that's why. I'll try to keep the snarkier cynicism at bay as much as I can. I don't want to alienate anyone--but I do reserve the right to make fun of myself at least some of the time. I mean, ten years from now I'll probably be laughing at a bunch of the shit I've got up to in my 20s, you know?
One thing that I can still get all starry-eyed romantic about is wanderlust. I still feel like that sometimes--like I want to just jump in my car, start driving, and figure out where I'm going whenever I happen to get there. I haven't managed a cross-continental road trip yet, but I would still love for that someday to come. Who knows, maybe I'll eventually set aside some time to make it happen. I kind of love that that's a possibility now.
"Nihao" means "hello" in Mandarin Chinese.