When you find yourself unrelentingly sad, it makes you think back to the days when you took happiness for granted. That first year after the election I found I had to reacquaint myself with the new person I had become. I had to reframe all the thoughts I used to have about things.
I had assumed before, that happiness was to be found in safety (a roof over your head, meals, warmth, health), accomplishments (a degree, citizenship, promotion) material things (shoes and tons and tons of shoes, a cute car, pretty clothes, a nice house) privilege (money, not having to explain your gender identity, being able bodied, being attractive, etc). And yet having all those things, I was suddenly plagued with anxieties that laid dormant before, latent and drowned by my sense of comfort in my place in the world. The moment I was this other version of me anxiety came out of the tiny box I hadn’t realized before I had shoved it in. Like Pandora’s box being opened, it burst out like goo, difficult to contain and pick-up without having it smear, stain and slime everything it touched.
Kim Seokjin taught me that happiness requires CONSTANT VIGILANCE. Pardon me while I mix my two most precious fandoms. Professor Moody (but really Barty Crouch Jr.) taught us in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, that we must always be alert, always be predisposed for horrible things to happen, expecting them, lying in wait for them so they are not laying in wait for us, always aware so we cannot be caught unawares. As a woman I already live that way day to day. Never park your car in the dark spot of the lot, walk with your keys between your fingers, don’t walk with your headphones on so you can hear approach from behind, don’t leave your drink unattended, follow your gut instinct, never ever ever walk by a windowless van. You know, being a woman 101. But Kim Seokjin “Jin” of BTS showed me that the same principle must be applied to happiness. We must avoid complacency. Happiness is something to work at, strive for, search for, MAKE HAPPEN.
I know plenty of people go through life being happy in a careless manner because that was me. I was happy, even when I wasn’t happy I was happier than I am right now. It was a steady kind of warm glow, it was hopeful and…naive. To me it felt like that happy confidence we have in our parents when we are little, that they are the most beautiful, perfect, infallible beings on earth. And then you grow up and realize they are human and sometimes disappointing and make terrible mistakes and the blind magic is gone. If you allow yourself to wallow in disappointment about the perfect person you expected your parent (or anyone else) to be it can ruin what can be a perfectly awesome relationship with someone you can love and respect with all their virtues and flaws.
It takes CONSTANT VIGILANCE to remind yourself to be happy. To find the beauty in things. To consciously focus away from the darkness that is so pervasive in our world and try to find the ray of hope that lays forgotten in the bottom of that box.
Jin inherited, by the cultural, societal and structural hierarchy that is used in Korea, the responsibility to take care of his hoobaes (people with less experience at work or school) along with the rigorous program of being an idol trainee in a start up entertainment company with very little money. If you go back and look at the videos of BTS starting you can tell how hard it all was. When Jin had everything, fame, talent, beauty, money… he still struggled with self acceptance in a group of seven with different personalities and mentalities with his responsibilities, with being away from family and friends the majority of the year and struggling with the expectations that come with being a role model for an ever expanding audience.
In a video of BTS, ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Y6c9vMVnpQ) where they get asked to make a chart of their mood levels for the past few years, Jin starts on the day of his birth, he gets teased for being happy for being born because he was born handsome. Everyone who knows BTS also knows that Jin is always talking about how handsome he is, worldwide handsome in fact. But ARMY knows that Jin has said he talks about how handsome he is because he doesn’t think he is and he compliments himself as a reminder that he can be handsome and there is beauty to be found in his features and in every face. Some might dismiss that as bullshit but he isn’t the first and won’t be the last objectively handsome person to feel ugly. Beauty doesn’t save anyone from feeling insecurities. The highlight I remember the most was a high peak in his happiness level when he won the 7th place of a Taekondo competition in school when he was younger, the other members ask him, “Seven out of how many?”, and he replies “ten”. The next is getting a four out of ten result in a science test. When questioned why he finds that a happy moment he says “I studied really hard and I tried”. The last hidden highlight the rest of the members have to guess at ended up being getting 4th place in a track race on field day at school. They had tried to guess he had finally gotten first place at something and when they realize the highlight he chose to hide was just fourth place in a competition they all just die laughing. The edited words by the video staff across the screen on the video say “Live a simple life, like Jin”
Today there is such reverence for the person that makes it big, for the person that wins the lotto or even the Cinderella story of a little K-pop boyband from a small little known label who everyone dismissed to only watch them take over the world. While I admire those stories, there is something that draws me so much to Jin’s quiet achievements, something beautiful about his quiet failures that he chose to turn into victories, into medals of honor for having done his best.
His approach to life, to his relationship with the other guys, to fame, to hard-work, to music, to his struggles with choreography and dancing, all of it has shown me how we can make every day small decisions and reach for something better.
For some of us happiness takes works, it takes vigilance, it takes grabbing a thing, a moment, a situation, a fight, a conversation, and turning it around and look for the side of it that might shine some light. I struggle every day to be more like Jin, more than I do any other member of BTS I want to emulate. It takes a special kind of person to choose happiness over and over again, to try so hard and so cheerily to make it a reality. To let go of pride or the expectation of what others think of what you did or did not do and smile and laugh and enjoy that fourth place. Because you know you did your best and you tried and because there is a lovely kind of hope in searching for happiness in unlikely places, and there’s power in following your own definition of happiness, and bravery in living like Jin. Happiness really can be found, even in the darkest of times – just like Professor Dumbledore said – if one only remembers to turn on the light.