I am thankful for BTS every single day. Every single day? Really Blog lady? Every and each day? Yes, I said what I said! Each day. Every day. Now more than ever with the world we live, with the daily horrors visited upon us, small and big, monumental and micro aggression, it is a difficult world to live in. If you don’t realize it, you’re either on heavy recreational drugs, a nihilist, willfully ignorant, evil or part of the problem. Don’t at me. Those are the only choices.
So, I am thankful for their music, their words, their deeds, the laughter they have provided, the escape room in my brain they’ve built. Or maybe that I built with the tool they provided.
Amazingly, more than anything I am thankful for ARMY. Now, you won’t believe this because you don’t know me. But I am not a joiner. I have quietly belonged to fandoms my entire life. I’ve been a gamer since the day I failed my first elementary math test for playing Duck Hunt when I should’ve been studying. I’ve been a Potterhead since I read the Philosopher’s Stone in Spanish back when I was sixteen in my home country. I have watched the Lord of the Ring trilogy so often I get teary eyed when I’m listening to the OST because I know exactly when Boromir is dying and when he’ll say “I would have followed you my brother…my captain…my king” (insert crying emoji) Or when Smeagol is about to be ‘betrayed’ by Frodo (don’t get me started! *sob*). I have watched all the live versions available of my favorite anime and manga in Korean, Japanese or however they may come. I am a hardcore Disney fan who can sing every song in English and/or Spanish. I am a cult member of the Murderino fan club for the My Favorite Murder Podcast.
Being a fangirl isn’t new to me. What IS new to me is talking and interacting with people who belong to the same fandom that I … introverted little old me don’t know in person!
See… My brother is my fellow gamer, him and all my friends from childhood still talk on WhatsApp and we wax poetic about the days of yore when we were young and played video games for hours and hours on end. When I got the Switch and played Breath of the Wild every free time for three months straight every day my husband would ask my brother… who is this?! This was me, gamer unleashed, like he hadn’t seen me ever before. My sister and my best friend are the fellow Potterheads. My best friend and sister in law my fellow Murderinos. My two cousins the ones who will quote LOTR back at me, my other cousins the one who introduced me to Knights of the Zodiac and Sailor Moon to get me started into Anime craze.
What I am trying to say is that fandom to me has always been a team sport.
When I became a fan of BTS is happened so…suddenly. One day I am listening to their music, the next I found myself awake at 3 am watching shipping videos and bootlegged clips of their Summer Package in Dubai. And it was lone sport. I wasn’t lonely…. well maybe a little, but I was having way too much fun to realize I was lonely. And maybe I was trying to recruit people and explain what cannot be explained. Because hardly ever can you talk someone into a fandom. Hardly ever can you push someone into liking what you like. You can only suggest, and they will either give it a try and it will stick, or it won’t.
For everyone I shared a common interest with, it didn’t. My sister, my best friend, my cousins, my brother… all those who had shared with me the passionate love that fandom can give you they all were like…meh. It’s not like fangirling was new to them but they didn’t get why BTS.
Some people like BTS as soon as they hear their first song or watch their first video. Mine was a love built through years and years of watching K-dramas and listening sparingly to K-Pop. I don’t think I would’ve been open to Korean music if their TV hadn’t caught me before. K-drama was my gateway drug to BTS. I had watched countless videos of BigBang, Super Junior, Exo, Shinee, F(x), Twice, Girls Generation, you name it I had seen it and yet while I liked it, it didn’t absorb me.
And here I am. Years after, listening to BTS nonstop. SO very much that my husband can sing the chorus of pretty much every song despite himself because I play their music constantly. We would be driving and my husband would say “I am not in the mood for K-Pop” asking to change the song and I would be like “First of all, it’s BTS, second of all you’re not in the mood for some spitfire rapid rap? What’s wrong with you” or “you don’t want to listen soulful deep R&B drop your underwear baritone?” or “so, you tellin’ me you not in the mood for party anthem that lifts your soul and makes you want to rock your body” I mean… Why I am such an antagonistic recruiter?
And then it happened. I, against all odds (really the odds sucked ass) got tickets for the Soldier Field Day 1 in Chicago. I was heartbroken the year before because when BTS was in the US I was traveling in Switzerland and I wanted to complain. Truly I wanted to whine, but I’ve reached an age when whining is just plain unbecoming. And I was in the mother fucking swiss alps! It was magical and complaining about the timing of a concert when I was in the hands down most beautiful place I had ever been, seemed petty, ridiculous, myopic, self-centered, snobbish… insert the entitled adjective here. So, I enjoyed my trip (truly I did) and I abused the Wi-Fi at every single Airbnb by streaming the concerts and watching their UN speech like a proud mama.
The day of the ticket going on sale all my coworkers had the website open with notes of the sections I wanted to sit in and rows I preferred. If I failed to buy the ticket, one of them maybe would be lucky. It was a team effort. Neither them nor I could access the website. The ‘running man’ from the site did not run at all and just sat there with 2,000+ people in front of me trying to buy. I ran to twitter in a panic. Some gentle soul recommended I call the site…and that’s what I did. I called and purchased my tickets the old school way. Through the phone. When the system said through the speaker of my cellphone “your purchase has been completed” my entire office cheered and yelled and hugged me as if I had passed the bar or something. They were so happy for me. Hell, I was so happy for me! A few days after I saw a twitter message, a lady was starting a chat group on twitter for anyone going to Soldier Field day 1 and 2. I hesitated. I have a healthy (or unhealthy depends on how you view it) apprehension of strangers and yet something compelled me to message her and allow her to add me to the chat.
I haven’t regretted that decision for a moment. Because you see… I am not a joiner, but I love a fandom and the ARMY it’s something else… something more. I got to meet the ladies on chats before the concert. We talked about our jobs, our lives, our families, our woes and problems. And then the day of the concert finally came, and we met. My husband, my sister everyone who knew me was shocked I was willingly putting myself out there to meet strangers and all I could say was “they are not strangers anymore”. We had spent hours talking to each other and when we met… it was like magic. We clicked we laughed we teased each other. It has been months since that concert and we still talk to each other daily. About trials and tribulations, about our empty nest and marital problems, about our jobs and our frustrations, about sex, and movies, about books and our love of BTS. We are diverse, smart, fierce, funny, sweet, kind, talented, creative…really there are not enough adjectives to describe the women in the group. We have shared traumas and fears, dislikes and unhappy stories, it’s a safe space like no other and I am every day thankful, every day happy that I found them.
You see, the ARMY is not just for the boys, it doesn’t belong to Kim Nanjoon, Kim SeokJin, Min Yoongi, Jung Hoseok, Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung and Jeon Jungkook. It’s a thing that escaped their sphere… or maybe expanded from their sphere and became something for all of us.
Did they imagine it would become what it is? I don’t know. I don’t think JK Rowling imagined her world of Harry Potter touching the lives of many every single day all over the world in the way it does. I don’t think the ladies from My favorite Murder expected to start a wave of self-acceptance and search for mental health as they did. I don’t think Tolkien thought his books would be made into movies that would span over a decade. I think Nintendo and Disney knew what they were doing though. But ARMY was conceived the same way literary magic happens, with a hope, a spark, a feel, a story and then it explodes and expands and it no longer belongs to the creator and has a life of its own and can be an unstoppable force for good… or evil.
While ARMY can and has been problematic that doesn’t stop me from liking them. We are a huge group of people from different age brackets, genders, races, cultures. If there weren’t problems and differences, we would be robots! And yet I find the vast majority took BTS message to heart, be the change, prove them wrong with actions, improve yourself. Love yourself. Such important messages. When there’s people you admire acknowledging your same fears it can be so… cathartic. It’s not a ha! they are broken just like me! but more huh…they are broken just like me…and they function and love, and move and struggle and fight every day to better not only themselves but the world and the people around them because they have shown so clearly what a joy it is when you do things for others even if not for yourself.
I am thankful for ARMY every single day. Sometimes no matter how hard we try we are not in the mood of being elevated, woke individuals. Sometimes there is nothing else to feel but like a whiny wallowing brat. And they offer support and understanding to both versions me. They accept me when I’m insufferable, talk me off the ledge of anxiety and remind me what else is there to do after that. It’s like I have thousand different versions of my sister. And if you had my sister, you would know that is awesome. It’s amazing to have not just one but hundreds of people lifting you up when you’re feeling down and reminding you there’s music to dance to, books to read, people to love, food to eat. It’s so easy to forget, in the everyday toiling its easy. In the sea of bad political news is easy, in the rampant racism the world is showing it is easy.
When I was younger, I thought I only needed myself, my guts, my ambitions, my grit and brains to go unscathed through the world. The older I get the more I realize we all need each other, as an isolator, it isn’t an easy conclusion to come to. So, yeah, I am thankful to BTS for giving me ARMY and all the fruits the fandom brings with it. And when there is no BTS to remind me because I have watched all their content and listened to their music and they are on vacation, there is ARMY a fandom like no other, and I swear, it’s priceless.