How ‘Lost’ helped me find myself

On September 22, 2004, Flight Oceanic 815 crashed on a magical island, and it’s only maybe a little too dramatic to say this crash impacted my own life as much as it did the plane’s passengers.

That’s right guys. It’s been eleven years since Lost first aired, which means it’s been a little over ten years since I saw my first episode (“The Moth”). I was a few months away from the unfortunate period of human existence that is middle school when my brother and I happened across my parents watching the show. We spent the rest of the summer catching up on the series together, and the next five years watching each new episode live with dessert in front of the TV. By season six, keeping up with the plot-holed madness that Lost became was a chore for the rest of my family, but I never stopped viewing it with the same fascination I had during that first episode.

My friends and I sometimes talk about our lives in terms of the phases we’ve gone through. Our fashion phases or music phases or relationship phases. But I often see my life through the lens of my various fictional obsessions. While other books and TV shows have captured my heart and taken up too much space in my brain, Lost has remained my constant. It’s had an affect on me that, at ten years old, I had no idea a TV show could possibly have.

In middle school, I was a classic shy and self conscious kid. If I wasn’t with my close group of friends, I inverted into myself. I listened to conversations buzzing around me at my locker or my desk before class, wishing I could join but too afraid to try. In eighth grade, however, I began to hear some guys throw around familiar names the day before or after a new episode premiered. I remember turning towards them as talk of Sawyer or Locke or The Numbers took place, until one day my desire to take part in the conversation overpowered my fear of being judged or unwanted. 

In high school, I continued to talk Lost and eventually post on Facebook about the show to an extent that was both annoying and—in hind sight—super embarrassing. But that’s the thing, I allowed myself to reach a point worth being embarrassed over. I usually tried so hard to avoid drawing negative attention to myself, but my need to share thoughts and opinions about the show allowed me to let loose a little. I wasn’t “over” my shyness, but I managed to put myself out there in a way I never had before.

By season five, my Lost addiction largely centered around the badass queen that was Juliet Burke. My love for the character quickly transformed into a love for the actress, and I started looking up every movie Elizabeth Mitchell was in. When I stumbled upon the 1998 film Gia, where she plays the girlfriend of fashion-model Gia, I watched the scene of her and Angelina Jolie making out repeatedly. As I continued to watch all of the roles Elizabeth Mitchell has ever played (watch Frequency, I beg you) I found myself not only thinking about how much I loved her characters or her acting or her personality or her laugh, but how gorgeous I found her as well.

For my sixteenth birthday, my gag-gift from a friend was a collage of Elizabeth Mitchell pictures. She joked about using the most sensual pictures she could find. A few years later, when I told that same friend I thought I was bisexual, her immediate response was, “I’m not surprised, your obsession with Juliet was pretty intense.”

I hadn’t fully connected the dots before then, but she was right. Elizabeth Mitchell was the first female I was really consciously attracted to, and she remains my number one celebrity crush to this day. I totally credit her role in Lost to helping me recognize my bisexuality, and I thank Lost for blessing us with the character of Juliet.

Of course, when the show decided to (spoilers) kill my favorite character off, I was pretty devastated. Shortly after the heartbreaking season five finale, however, I discovered fanfiction. After a few days of exploring that strange world, I unsurprisingly found myself in the Lost fandom, where I was immersed in the stories of fellow fans who refused to believe Juliet’s fate.

The Lost fandom was big enough to have multiple new stories a day, but small enough that you could get to know the authors. Despite the stereotypes of bad writing that goes hand-in-hand with fanfiction, I discovered unbelievably talented writers (some of whom became published authors). I suddenly had this amazing, supportive community of people bonded by our mutual ‘shipping of Sawyer and Juliet. There were people whose writing I worshipped, and it was thrilling to see those writers be just as excited about my story updates as I was about theirs. Together we filled the holes Lost left us with, and in a way it was more satisfying to write and read other diehard fans’ answers than to have the show provide us with them.

Lost, in a lot of ways, got me through my awkward teenage years. It carried me through middle school, helped me figure out my sexuality, has been there for me to binge watch with chocolate and lose myself in after bad breakups, and gave me a cast of amazing, complex, and flawed characters to not only enjoy watching and writing about, but to bond with other fans over and model my own characters on. Say what you will about fandoms and TV obsessions, but I think it’s pretty amazing that a fictional world can provide all of that.

So happy Lostiversary, guys. Eat some peanut butter, listen to some Geronimo Jackson, and celebrate your fandom/obsession to your hearts content.

(Image via ABC)


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