This is going to be a long one, folks. And to save you time, it's also going to revolve heavily around that PBS Celtic group I like. So, if you're not interested in them, come back tomorrow and I'll have something different! :)
To some of you, I'm just going to apologize now. I've waited a few months to write what I'm about to say. I was never sure if there would be a right time to tell it, and I'm not really sure if now is the right time to tell it, either. I know it might make you mad at me or just sad. I know where your love lies. And, to be honest, it makes me sad, too. This is my story. I do not claim impartiality and I'm not asking anyone to feel the same way I do. I'm just asking to be able to tell it, and hope that you can understand.
I've been a fan for a very very long time, part of that early set of old pubbers. I say that not to set ourselves apart (the dichotomy between fan sets makes me just a trifle insane... you buy merchandise of any kind, you're a fan, end of story), but just to illustrate that I've had a lot of time to care. I care that George spends so much time away from his wife and daughter. I care whether Paul has a successful first solo tour or not. I care how Damian does on The Glee Project. I care that Keith's CD has been "about to be released" for an obscene number of moons. And I care that Ryan has apparently lost his mind.
I first saw CT in early 2008. February, maybe? Early March? I know it was before St Patrick's Day, but can't remember how far ahead of the holiday. We flipped channels somewhere in the middle of Heartland, and I was enthralled by those black coats and the voices coming from them. I didn't have a favorite that day, but I was particularly taken with the theatricality of That's A Woman... so my favorites initially vacillated between Paul and Ryan. It was when I discovered the group's chatroom that I quickly picked a favorite. Ryan was just nice... He came across as just a bit naive, humble, nerdily funny, and mostly, kind. He was someone I felt I could feel good about supporting. And I threw myself into it. For three years. Why? Talent, sure... nice guy, sure... but mostly because he told me we were friends and I wanted to see him succeed.
For me, things started feeling off a little over a year ago. Maybe it's inevitable when you have people telling you that you walk on water every single day of your life. But the naive and the humble seemed to be replaced by "just a bit too much cocky." I would have been better off if I had just cut ties then, but I didn't. I suppose the more time you devote to something, the harder it is to let go and negate all that investment. Instead, I kept supporting, but was just frustrated most of the time that he wasn't the person I remembered him being... that I wanted him to still be. A summer of recording ensued, followed by his CD's release and a fall tour where he just seemed a bit off personally.
And then began The Twitter Spring. Oh mylanta. So many times I would open up my Twitter feed and just stare in puzzlement and disbelief. The questions swirled through the fanbase... are they or aren't they? I didn't much care about the answer, but I DID care about the untruths and what he was doing to the public perception of his character. And I freely admit that I was really mad at him for destroying it. Three years of work and he decides to take a machete to the very thing that attracts so many of his fans.
I took a break. It was more drama than I wanted to deal with, so I gave CT up for Lent. I don't actually celebrate Lent, to be honest. But it seemed a convenient excuse that wouldn't be much questioned. By the time I came back, I knew I was done. There was not one quality left that resembled the Ryan I once knew. And I was done. So I closed the fansite I ran on Facebook, put my memories away, and just watched for awhile.
A few days later, he quit CT and claimed he wanted to be out of the public eye. Global wailing ensued, and what followed was possibly one of the funniest attempts to stay out of the public eye I've ever seen. It's hard for people to forget you when you keep popping back up, and I rather suspect that was the point. I've watched spite and cruelty, absurd levels of passive aggression. I've watched him hurt people that have loved him and have done so very much to help him along his way, and I just wonder "Who is this person who has taken over his body?" And the thing is, I don't know. I don't know if this is new and the result of some mysterious personality transplant... I don't know if this is who he always was, and I just was duped by a good acting job. All of my memories are tainted with doubt, and it makes me so so very sad. I'm sad to have lost those memories to dishonesty. I'm sad to have lost the once-deep respect I had for him. I'm sad to realize that I have damaged friendships over something that was not worth it.
I know you will want to defend him... because we're superfans, and that's what we do. I'm on my fourth year of this, so I understand it. I'm not angry anymore... Most of me isn't even hurt anymore. Mostly I'm just filled with sorrow over the way things have gone, so much sorrow.
Ryan once told me that he didn't think he could do anything to fall out with me.
I wish you had been right, sir. I truly do.