Young Forever – My Chapter
It all started with a television show.
Bored and channel surfing one Saturday night, I happened to land on Saturday Night Live. Emma Stone was just introducing that week’s musical guest, BTS. (Huh? – Obviously I HAD been living under a rock because I’d never heard of them before. Ever.) But they were cute and the song was catchy. Wait…they were singing in another language? And there seemed to be a million of them on the world’s tiniest stage. How were they dancing so gracefully? The song finished, and the studio audience lavished them with love, which they gobbled up with smiles and laughter and so much good-natured personality I thought I was seeing The Beatles again. Now intrigued, I decided to stick around to see if they’d sing another song…
My curiosity was rewarded when ES introduced them again. But this time, instead of a light, bouncy, happy tune like before, this song was hard-driving and they looked serious and almost angry. And their dance moves were like nothing I’d ever seen before. By the time this second song ended, I had to know more!
The next day I found myself Googling “BTS” and up popped an entire encyclopedia of links and references. Since they were a music group, I started with the first Video I saw: DNA. And that video became the gateway drug to my rapid descent down ‘the rabbit hole’. One video became two, and then three and then four. Then YouTube suggested other videos, some with intriguing titles like, “Get to know…” and “Who Are…” and I found myself watching (what I later learned were) fan-made videos that explained who was who and took me on a journey into their history. I discovered they were a K-Pop band, a term I’d seen before, but knew nothing about. I cried watching this rag-tag band of seeming misfits work longer and harder and with more guts and determination than I could ever have imagined in order to succeed. They weathered adversity, false accusations, media dismissal and often public ignorance. I learned that the group’s leader, a young man barely in his 20’s who was the only fluent English-speaker, would sometimes read hate mail but translate it erroneously to the other members as fan support letters so as not to discourage them. And throughout the process, as they laughed together and lived together and cried together and worked together, they coalesced into a band of brothers with more talent and drive than any group I’d ever heard.
Weeks turned into months and the more content I watched, the more I wanted to see. These young guys were funny and engaging and freakishly talented! And while I couldn’t understand some of the videos and half of the songs, there was something about all of it that just drew me in like a siren. Over the next months, whenever I had free time I found that my new pastime had somehow become digesting BTS content on the internet. An offhand remark in the comments section of a YT video mentioned Twitter being the place to find out ‘everything you’d ever want to know’ about BTS and their world. So of course, I made my way to Twitter, created an account and jumped in.
My social circle had always been pretty small. I had many acquaintances and a couple of what I would consider good friends. But there were very few that I would consider close, and even with those, my contact was often sporadic. My days stretched one after another like so many dominos: get up, work, come home, make dinner for the hubz and myself, feed the cats, watch a little tv or read; rinse, repeat…etc, etc, etc. I had a job I enjoyed, but it was not without its own problem: I was a fifty-something-year-old woman in the entertainment industry. As anyone in the industry knows, there’s an expiration date on the forehead of every creative out there, because unless you are one of the Golden Few, the industry is endlessly chasing after the ‘new’ and the ‘young’ and the ‘sparkly’… all things I just wasn’t any more. I found myself isolated and beginning to worry whether this was all my life was destined to be. Wasn’t there supposed to be more fun? A little excitement and joy? I wasn’t miserable, but I was lonely. And it seemed the things that most people liked to do and to talk about just didn’t interest me. So as time went on, there was work, there was taking care of my husband and helping my widowed mother, there was reading and TV and not much else, aside from an occasional invitation to gather with relatives who took the place of the friends I’d realized I didn’t really have.
When I created my “fan” account, it was originally just to lurk online and read about the group and what they were doing. I had hoped to perhaps find out about any upcoming local appearances (I found out that shortly after the SNL performance I’d first seen, they would be performing at a stadium near me, but the tickets were already sold out. [–of a 90,000+ seat stadium, no less!! Who ARE these guys?!!!] If I’d somehow managed to find my way to Twitter back then I would have learned that I could still have purchased last-minute seats from someone else who had bought them, but couldn’t attend. One of my biggest regrets to this day!)
But when I arrived on Twitter, I found something I never, in a million years, expected to find: Community. A community made up of individuals of differing ages, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations–and they were kind and welcoming, funny (SO wickedly funny!!), supportive, helpful, intelligent, and best of all–they understood what that fall down the rabbit hole was like. I didn’t have to justify my fascination with these 7 men because everyone in this community shares it! By an odd stroke of coincidence (or the twist of fate known as Twitter’s “algorithm”), I not only learned BTS would be appearing in a radio industry show near me, but I also happened to see a tweet asking if people would like to join a “group chat” to share information about that show and venue for those planning to attend. Not knowing a single other person who would be going, I thought it sounded like a smart idea. It was in this group chat that I discovered a handful of other fans (I hadn’t begun to call myself ARMY quite yet) who all lived in my general area. One of them, young and energetic and smart and sweet, brilliantly posed a question that would forever change the course of my life: “Would you like to join a chat I’m starting for those of us who live locally?” Ten of us said yes. We began to chat regularly and share jokes, information, work stories, life stories, pictures, recipes and tons of discussions about our favorite BTS songs, our biases, just about everything!
A couple months later, we found a place and a date to all gather in one spot and our alliance was cemented. Over fruit salad, Korean pot luck and a few of BTS’ favorite snacks, we laughed and watched videos, beat each other at UNO and bonded. (That was my first time seeing the ON Manifesto MV on a Large TV screen. It was a revelation!) I parted from them that evening knowing that something in my life had shifted. We hugged and waved goodbye to each other, tossing out promises to make the next appointment to get together. Little did we know that roughly 3 and a half weeks later, the world would be turned on its head by a monster pandemic.
March 2020 saw us all thrown into collective-but separate-isolation. In order to stay safe we had to erect walls between ourselves and our work, our extended families and friends, the world at large. We slowly began to realize that the monster we’d expected to conquer in a few weeks, was not going to be so easy to vanquish. But the seeds of the relationships on Twitter that had been planted in late 2019 began to take root and flower during the months of forced isolation. Because there, nothing had changed. In fact, many of those relationships grew into actual friendships. Where you couldn’t leave the house, you could chat with friends* on Twitter (*Moots – short for “mutual”, a term that means you both follow each other’s account) and via direct messaging. Interactions weren’t limited only to ‘business hours’ because many of your moots could be in other countries. So when other locals might be sleeping, but you couldn’t—you could always talk to someone on another continent. Stan* Twitter never sleeps! (*Stan is a term often used to describe a particularly devoted fan/follower of something or someone.) Most incredibly, the seeds of those relationships were being watered by the 7 members, who had appointed themselves our unofficial caretakers. They created an endless stream of content, new music and opportunities for coming together—even if it could only be online. They let us see into their hearts and shared their struggles and their tears and their triumphs. They let us know we were not alone. And they showed us the way to reach out to each other.
Throughout the pandemic, the lifesavers that buoyed me came in the form of my moots from Twitter–both ones far away whom I’d never met in person and the ones in my own figurative back yard. Since we locals couldn’t meet in person, there were weekly Zoom calls scheduled and whoever was available would jump on in the middle of the laughter and fun and it was like the chaos of Stan* Twitter had come to life! But there were serious moments, too: the disappointment of canceled proms and graduations and concerts, job layoffs, financial stress, anxiety, the fear induced by an unexpected life-threatening medical diagnosis and the crushing heartbreak of losing family members to sudden illness. The world continued to turn but suddenly we were all off balance. And yet, in the midst of this upheaval, the miracle of it all was that the community we had begun to form brought unexpected benefits in the constant support and love and encouragement and friendship of these kindred souls brought together by chance and a seven-member band from Korea. 💜
A funny thing happened “on the way to Stan Twitter”…I met my true self again and I learned to love me. As narcissistic as that may sound at first hearing, this basic principle is what has been missing both from many relationships and from the structure of society itself. At its core it is a principle similar to the old adage: “Physician, Heal thyself!” If you cannot learn to love yourself, however will you be able to look outward and truly love someone else? This is one of the foundational messages embedded in much of BTS’ music. It’s a lesson they themselves are striving to learn and they are taking us along on their own journey–and along the way, many of us are being healed: of old hurts, past limitations, discouragement, fears, disappointments and self-judgment. In discovering BTS I’m getting to know more about myself and liking what I find. In the wonderful ARMY community I have connected with friends from all over the world who have injected me with optimism, fueled my creativity and brightened my outlook. I no longer fear aging because I am once again filled with youthful energy and hope. Something tells me that deep in a jungle somewhere, hidden behind a tangle of vines, if the Fountain of Youth really exists there’s a note painted on a rock that simply says: “BTS WAS HERE!”
It would actually explain quite a lot… 😉
- United States