“I’d never like the blonde-haired guy with the pink shirt!” said a girl in her late 20s. That girl was trying to give BTS a chance by watching their “Fire” MV. Now a full blown ARMY in her mid-30s, I’m ashamed I once said that of my ultimate bias, Kim Seokjin. But, I can explain. I’m an ordinary girl who is insignificant and imperfect in this big world, but I’ve found happiness in the deep abyss because I found BTS. I have dreams and goals just like everyone else. In the end, I’m just trying to love myself for who I was, who I am, and who I hope to become.
Discovering BTS wasn’t such a smooth process for me, but then again, everything in life just seemed complicated to me. Before I begin, I’d like to express that I am about to share personal things about myself. My past is not what defines me, though. Just like everyone else, we have our ups and downs in life. But, I’m trying my best to be a better version of myself. People tend to think of me as happy and perky, but little knows of my story and how I became who I am. Let’s just say, I have a talent for hiding my sadness because I only want others to see the happy and good side of me and only remember me as someone who constantly smiles and brings smiles to others. My story will become a connected puzzle piece to my BTS story. I do hope my story will help someone out there to find strength and keep going in life. Fighting!
In the past, I was a very typical person who was very focused on life. I didn’t really have a choice and my life circumstances led me to be very strict and hard on myself. There are no excuses in life and there’s a reason for everything. I’m a child of refugee parents. I was born and raised in the US. I witnessed how hard my parents worked to provide for my brother and me. My brother is 13 years older, and I watched how hard he worked from his teenage years and into his 20s. I eventually saw my brother fading further away from me, but I know he had his reasons and was trying his best to get through life. It did leave me feeling lonely like an only child. However, I recognize that my parents and brother did so much for me that I can never repay them all in this lifetime. From a young age, that instilled an understanding in my mind that I had to work just as hard in order to help my family and not be a burden to them.
There were a lot of bumps in life but the biggest adversity my family faced was when we unexpectedly lost our dad. I was 16 and didn’t have a clue how much harder life was going to get. Nothing could have ever prepared me for what was to come. There were times that life became so unbearable I purposely harmed myself in hopes I’d be taken from all the misery. I even said things that now a much older and wiser version of myself wish I could go back to comfort and help guide the younger me. Yoongi’s “Amygdala” song resonates with me so much because of all the personal hardships we faced. Just like Yoongi having an injury and scar from his accident while working when he was younger, I have a scar along my leg that required 47 stitches to patch up. The cut was so deep that the children’s hospital had to place 18 stitches inside first and then 29 on the outside. Miraculously, I made it through all those hardships just as Yoongi made it through his. Our scars don’t define us and they’re slowly starting to heal for the better. It was mainly because I had dedicated myself to giving full commitment to my family by pushing myself hard in school and working whatever job I had to. At one point, I briefly worked at the same children’s hospital that patched me up. It was nice to work alongside the people who helped such a messy younger me. I pushed myself hard in life because I felt it was a duty of a daughter, sister, and now aunt who wanted to keep her family intact. I also give credit to the good people around me who helped me grow, especially my high school teachers who said I had matured more quickly than the rest of my peers because of my circumstances. I know I wasn’t an easy person to handle. Honestly, I never knew what the life of a typical teenager or life of someone in their twenties was supposed to look like. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s to early 30s did I truly do things for myself and went on a journey to find my happiness. BTS was one of the happiest things to ever happen to me.
It’s funny how sometimes you find things from the past that coincidentally appeared out of nowhere. That’s how I found out BTS had entered my life before I even knew who BTS was. The saying is absolutely true that BTS finds you when you need them most. And, the most humbling experience is that BTS finds you more than you seek them. My dad passed away from a stroke. My mom was always in and out of the hospitals or doctors’ offices. My parents’ health led to my decision to major in science and work in healthcare. I worked various types of jobs while going to school full-time. Ironically, as much as I wanted to help others, I’m the worst at taking care of myself. It’s also true when they say healthcare workers are the worst patients. At the time, I barely had time to eat, sleep, and rest. Sadly, that is still true to this day. If I wasn’t studying or working in my twenties, I was helping my mom with her own health as she constantly had health problems. My mom and I had become each other’s biggest emotional support after losing our dad. I finally graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Spanish. After graduating, I continued working various jobs until I found a career to pursue: medical laboratory science.
BTS debuted June 13, 2013, and I was in my early to mid 20s at the time. ARMY was announced by BTS on July 9, 2013 and fitting enough I’m sharing my unheard story 10 years later. During my time in school to pursue being a med tech and also attending graduate school for my Master’s degree, apparently I was listening to BTS’ music and saving some of their songs without knowing it. Astonishingly enough, I was even watching their dance practice video for “Baepsae” on repeat not knowing they were BTS. I just remembered admiring their song so I’d have the dance practice video in the background as I was studying. I also remembered how much I enjoyed their translated lyrics for “Baepsae,” especially for someone who grew up in an Asian culture. There is so much that happens and requires deep understanding in Asian culture that sometimes I wonder if other Asian children who grew up in the US feel like I do: unintentionally living a double life. There’s this expectation from Asian adults and society norms that we had to conform to. Anyways, I digress… But, that was the most I ever gave my time up for anything Kpop-related. I always told myself I didn’t have time for such minute things in life and even made a comment that these were younger guys who I shouldn’t be giving attention to because for some reason it felt weird to me. I’ve never regretted anything more in life. During my struggles as a broke college student, I found comfort in their songs called “Save Me” and “I’m Fine.” Again, I didn’t know who BTS was at the time. Their songs were among a mix of random songs I collected into a random playlist to listen to while I was trying to navigate life in my twenties. And now, I have their “Save Me” and “I’m Fine” ambigram logo on my desk. I just think it’s the coolest thing ever.
Fast forward to late 2019, I would consider myself an older and much more mature person than a few years prior. I just got promoted at work as a medical laboratory scientist lead. I had already earned my Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Practice Management and have certifications through the American Society of Clinical Pathology as a medical laboratory scientist and blood bank technologist. My main area of practice is in blood banking which is in transfusion services. For those who don’t know what this means, I basically help find compatible blood products for patients who need transfusions. Of course, there’s more to that, but that’s the simplest way to explain what I do for a living. So if there’s any young ARMYs out there who aspire to become med techs, I’d love to help guide you in the right direction. My brother and his wife blessed me with two wonderful nieces. I’m super close with them, especially my older niece. We’re 15 years apart and sometimes people mistake us for sisters. I give my older niece all the credit for introducing BTS to me, which sometimes I wonder if she ever regrets. Why? She’s the little buddy I drag to all the BTS-related events with me, whether it’s cup sleeve events or concerts or going to any Korean culture related activities just to feel closer to BTS. She basically brought me to the surface of BTS, I went down that rabbit hole, and then she left me there. And, I never looked back. Fast forward to present day 2023, she recently told me, “I’m surprised it wasn’t a phase for you. I honestly don’t even remember what your life was like before BTS.” I said, “Me too…” That night, I stared at my BTS oasis room I created during the pandemic that has been filled with BTS and books. At one point, my bed was filled with so many RJ plushies I didn’t have any room to sleep on my own bed.
In 2018, my older niece said she wanted to check out BTS’ concert at the Fort Worth Convention Center. It was a couple months prior to the concert and so I looked up tickets to see if I could find one to take my niece. At that time, most tickets I found were over a grand. I was not into Kpop yet at the time nor did I even know who BTS was. But, I still would have taken my niece if I found a decent priced ticket. I told my niece that I was sorry that I wasn’t willing to overpay for a ticket at the time but that I would monitor for ticket prices to drop. Up until concert week, I wasn’t able to find a ticket with a reasonable price but I also wasn’t in any condition to go either. I suffered from a severe form of vertigo and didn’t know it at the time. I was so stubborn that I collapsed in front of my house when I was trying to leave for work. My mom dragged me back inside the house that morning. I was unexpectedly out of work for almost a month until a doctor was able to diagnose me properly with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and get me the right treatment with a physical therapist. It was uncharacteristic of me to miss work. I would go to work even if I wasn’t feeling well, but this vertigo was no joke. I couldn’t even stand without collapsing because I was too dizzy. I remembered laying in bed staring at my phone looking at the ticket prices drop on concert day. I recalled tickets were “$150” and that I would’ve bought them if I wasn’t so dizzy and miserable. It was a missed opportunity that I greatly regret to this day. I still didn’t know who BTS was, but I was more upset that I couldn’t fulfil my niece’s wish. Later, I found out how awesome this concert was from BTS’ Memories 2018. I regret I couldn’t go because Fort Worth is my hometown, and I even graduated from high school at the same convention center BTS performed at. From everyone who attended that event, they said it was such an intimate, amazing experience and that Matthew McConaughey was also there with his kids. A friend even cried when she got BTS’ concert tickets, but I wasn’t amused at the time. I was happy for her but still didn’t understand how much it meant to have BTS concert tickets. It was as if BTS was trying to enter my life again but it was another missed opportunity.
Third time’s the charm, right? So, it begins… One day, my older niece and I were hanging out like usual. She was trying to show me a video of BTS’ “Go Go” special performance for the 2017 MBC stage. I remembered acting like a child who was trying to avoid someone stuffing a pacifier in her mouth until I told myself I had to give them a chance. My precious niece found something she thought was adorable to share, and I couldn’t just say no. So, being a responsible adult who gives in to whatever my nieces want, I reluctantly watched the video. I don’t even remember at what point I became so interested, but I remembered admitting how cute it was when each performer revealed their hearts hidden in different areas of their bodies. My niece also found it adorable how one of the members walked off the stage in a cute, enthusiastic, and energetic way. That member was Hobi and now her bias. I dropped off my niece after hanging out and went home. I had to workout before calling it a night but ran out of things to watch and listen to at the time. I was on YouTube scrolling when I came across BTS’ dance practice video for Mic Drop. I was somehow hooked. I can’t even remember if I made it to the treadmill or even got my workout in that night because I watched that video on repeat and then started searching for other BTS videos. I just felt inspired by their awesome choreography and it inspired me for my health as well to get moving like them. I can’t dance for the life of me, though.
It wasn’t long after that there was an announcement about their new album Map of the Soul: 7 and a tour was coming. I was starting to feel excited. At this point, I still didn’t know too much about them but that I had to get tickets to their concert in Dallas for May 2020. I took it one step at a time. I knew I had to get tickets and was preparing as much as I could by doing a tremendous amount of research. I bought an ARMY membership for a chance to get a presale code. I didn’t even know what an ARMY membership was at the time. I managed to get an early access code and somehow scored soundcheck tickets not knowing what the heck soundcheck tickets were at the time except that I was going to buy first and figure it out later. I’ve never been so sad about a postponed and then canceled concert in my entire life, because I was never going to ever see soundcheck tickets ever again for BTS. I’m just not a person with that kind of luck. I knew after scoring tickets that I had to finally know who BTS was. I was going to prepare as much as I could and the rest was history. Early 2020, I finally mastered their names and could tell you there were 7 members and who was who. I began to watch any BTS content I could find and then Carpool Karaoke with BTS was released. I found myself watching that video on repeat laughing and smiling like an idiot for days. It’s still my go-to video for when I introduce BTS to people. I was also going to lose weight before the concert so that I could keep up with my niece at the venue.
Early part of 2020 I felt like I was on cloud nine. Life was almost perfect. I was getting to know BTS and finally working hard on self-care. I even lost 20 pounds in a span of two months in early 2020. However, COVID had other plans. COVID was only getting started and brewing to be a pandemic in history and ruin the lives of many around the world. As an essential healthcare worker, we took a really tough beating before, during, and now after the pandemic. Our lives became 10x busier with no end in sight; whereas, everyone else’s life came to a halt. Procedures, policies, and protocols in healthcare were changing by the minute. We were adapting as quickly as we could to fight COVID and help our patients. Sadly, we lost some patients and it took a toll on all the healthcare workers. It felt as if everything we did was meaningless and worthless. It was a fight day in and day out. Some hospitals even brought trailers to give healthcare workers options to board there if they didn’t want to go home to families in fear of spreading COVID to family members. Being close to my mom, it was really hard. I began to isolate myself from my family, especially my elderly mom. I would discard my scrubs in a laundry bin I kept near the doorway and went straight to shower and stay in my room. After what I witnessed at work, I was not going to risk my mom catching COVID from me. I would sit in my room feeling depressed and contemplating on what to do with life. The one thing that truly gave me comfort was BTS. I knew my mom was also feeling sad watching me suffer because of my job. I have no musical talent whatsoever, but I had taught myself to play “Moon” on the keyboard. I played it for my mom since I couldn’t be near her. It made her happy and reminded her of when my dad used to play songs for her on his guitar. I wish I could hear him play, and I knew it would’ve been beautiful. I want to say BTS entered my life at the right moment when I needed them the most. I never knew how much I was going to need them until I found myself all alone once again. I began to make my room into a BTS oasis. If I was going to be isolated and trapped in my room, I’m going to make it my happy place. I found other ARMYs online and even started a BTS-related podcast during the pandemic. I was fortunate that I didn’t feel depressed for long when the pandemic started because of BTS and fellow ARMYs. I was in happier spirits and life became bearable. I went to work each day with more strength to fight COVID in hopes that we could hurry and get rid of it and try to return to our daily lives and so that I could finally attend my first BTS concert.
During my discovery of BTS, Jin first caught my attention in the Mic Drop dance practice video. For some odd reason, I just felt really connected to him before I even really knew anything about him. My most favorite connection with Jin is that our birthdays are one day apart. Jin’s birthday is 12/4. My birthday is 12/5. If I were to celebrate my birthday in Korean time instead of US time, it would fall on 12/4. As I continued to watch more BTS videos, I began to fall in love with Jin’s personality. There are a lot of similarities in our personalities and lifestyle. Even though Jin is the hyung of the group, he’s still the maknae in his family. I’m also the youngest of my family, but also a big sister and mentor to all my colleagues at work. The way Jin wants his little bros to succeed is the same way I want my team to succeed. But, we can also be childish and play around because we’re allergic to seriousness. However, when we have to be serious, don’t take us for fools because we mean business. My niece has even said that when I’m angry it’s scary because it’s a rare sight. Also like Jin, I never felt beautiful about myself. I’ve always been so shy and introverted that I used to eat my lunch in the bathroom stall in high school. I just felt so ugly and didn’t even want people to look at me. I don’t have the same confidence and courage as Jin does to tell myself I’m pretty. So, I absolutely admire him for that but it also ain’t no lie. He’s truly so handsome! And, that’s another thing, Jin is introverted but isn’t afraid to befriend anyone he sees. I’m the same way. People often mistake that I’m an extrovert, but that’s because they don’t know the real me. I’m often more quiet, reserved, and a listener and observer. Jin’s songs resonate with me so much. The meaning behind “Abyss” made me feel sorry for Jin. It’s hard to open up about ourselves and to be able to express it to be heard is difficult. That’s why I personally found joy in the deep abyss because there’s this sense of comfort in knowing or acknowledging the abyss is there yet learning to cope and adapt to it makes all the difference. It’s a similar metaphor to learning to dance in the rain. And, it’s absolutely okay. Abyss doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. So instead, I’ve learned to find happiness while in the deep abyss.
Looking back, I made the daunting discovery that the blonde-haired guy with the pink shirt in the “Fire” MV was JIN!!! To the guy I said I’d never fall for, I sincerely apologize. I was happy to know though that I fell in love with Jin’s personality and not because of his looks, although, his looks are a bonus. I was still in denial, but nope, there was no getting out of it because it was Kim Seokjin in all his glory. More unsettling discovery was made, I had saved BTS’ songs “Save Me,” “I’m Fine,” and “Baepsae” to my random playlist not knowing it was BTS’ music. And then, I realized I had been watching their “Baepsae” dance practice video all along. It made me happy to know that even though I didn’t acknowledge who BTS was, I still appreciated their music and content in the past. It’s just an odd way of finding myself with BTS, but I’m thankful. Of course, forever and always OT7 all the way! Their music has so much thought and meaning, and it makes me so proud of BTS. It makes my heart so happy to hear of other celebrities who speak highly of them. One of my favorites is John Cena. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Cena said, “I got interested in the music then I got interested in what the music stood for. They advocate self-love; they advocate, don’t be afraid of failure; they advocate, you are enough. They are trying to shatter all the stereotypical difficulties and uncomfortable situations that we go through.” Cena adds that ARMY is a fanbase that stands for so much more. “BTS donated a million bucks to Black Lives Matter, and the ARMY was like, ‘Yo if they can do it, we can do it.’ Fans who are already coming out of pocket to support artists, came out of pocket more, to support charity. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. BTS ARMY charity gives a bunch to philanthropic causes. That’s work, and that’s purpose, and that’s changing the world. That’s impressive… I don’t care how you feel about them. I don’t care if that’s your bag or if not, it’s music. You have your opinion, you like what you like. How they conduct themselves as human beings and the message they send to the world? Man, that’s something special.” May I just please say, “MIC DROP BAM!!!” BTS’ speech at the United Nations, Dear Class of 2020, White House, and other various events speaks volumes to who they are, and I truly encourage people to listen to them. This is the very reason why BTS is not just a phase to me. BTS stands for so much more in life. They bring new hope and courage. No matter what challenges we face in life, there will always be a way. We can all draw that map again.
All to say, thank you for reading my story. Similar to other ARMYs, I have a lot to thank BTS. Because of BTS, I have learned a lot about life. They’ve brought me out of my comfort zone to do something I never imagined myself doing, which starting the podcast was one of the challenges I faced with my unnies. I’ve even traveled far for BTS when the younger version of me would never have even given it a thought. I’ve met wonderful people along the way and made new friends. I’ve gotten to see a whole other world I didn’t know existed because of BTS. BTS has inspired me to be a better version of myself. I realized how small and insignificant I am compared to this big world. There is so much out there if I just allowed myself to be more open. I began learning/studying the Korean language. I want to fully understand BTS’ lyrics in all its glory. I currently speak three languages and hope one day I can confidently add Korean to my list of languages. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and experience the things BTS has experienced. I’ve read books I’ve seen BTS read. I’ve followed other artists based on their similar values and emotional connection. My favorite experience so far has been Ahgassi Gopchang and Lake 192. I still can’t believe I got to celebrate Jin’s birthday along with mine in LA during the PTD concert in December 2021. An unforgettable experience with some of the best unnies around! At Lake 192, I got to experience the same exact experience BTS had during In the Soop season 1. I will never forget how happy and at peace I felt on that property. The owner and her dog named Happy were the best hosts. Thank you, Lisa! All to say, I’ve traveled to South Korea to the source of where BTS was formed. I’ve witnessed so many beautiful things in life all thanks to BTS. Thank you BTS and thank you ARMY for existing! You’ve given me a whole new world and made my galaxy a sea of purple, and I no longer feel like the loneliest whale in the abyss. BTS is my Magic Shop. And, this is my better abyss.
- United States