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Over the years, I have explored many different concepts, genres and styles. In that time, I have developed very strong connections to a wide array of subcultures and philosophies. For this reason, I have sometimes been referred to – by well-meaning people, as an eclectic. Though I can see the conceptual value of the eclectic label, the foundation of this concept, and the ways it is used make it inappropriate to describe how I experience the things I find valuable or desirable. Whereas an eclectic often takes from a variety of different things – often incorporating them into an often chaotic mess of influences and a syncretic incorporates an array of influences into a careful and ordered whole, I do neither of these things.

I call my approach shapeshifting because it best describes the way I approach things as a shapeshifter – especially the forms of media I find the most resonance with. When I engage with a particular aesthetic, I immerse myself in in entirely – feeling deeply connected with the atmospheres, themes and feelings that it elicits. This connection is so deep that, for many years in fact, I have wandered between different subcultures and fandoms – under the assumption that I would eventually find which of these scenes best encapsulate my own aesthetic interests. From one moment to the next – sometimes in the space of days or weeks, I would feel like I had discovered some hidden truth about myself, but really I was just shapeshifting.

For me, accepting my protean nature as a shapeshifter has been a very long process. Even with the clarity I have in writing this, I may indeed get lost in a deep connection to a particular subculture or subgenre in a manner that makes it feel more important than my underlying aesthetic fluidity. Being a shapeshifter allows me to accept that I will go through phases of deep connection – shifting into the forms, as it were, of aesthetic and philosophical value available to me. This is healthier than aligning myself to eclecticism, because eclecticism is yet another form to shapeshift into – not a foundation like shapeshifting is for me. This allows me to express the deep respect I have for traditions – a respect that I feel many eclectics lack.

It is worth noting that shapeshifting as an aesthetic and philosophical concept is, at least to some degree, inspired by the practice of paradigm shifting in chaos magic. But unlike with many chaotes, I do not believe in banishing paradigms or beliefs with laughter or mockery. I instead believe that the things we learn from the various concepts, aesthetics and philosophies we engage with are precious – like beautifully made collectibles we put in a keepsake box to be brought out whenever we wish. I believe that to truly shapeshift you must put your whole self into the forms you transition between. True shapeshifters – as rare and elusive as we are, must remain authentic as we continue learning and exploring the world around us.