a small hope in the vast desert

TW: Mentions of suicidal ideation/depression

It’s been a year — it’s been a motherfucking year!”
- BTS, So 4 More

A year ago, on September 8, 2018, I saw BTS live for the first time at the Staples Center.

The year before that, around November 2017, I was sitting in my bathtub one night at 8:30 p.m. contemplating whether or not I was going to kill myself. A lot of factors had led up to this moment — 2017 was, admittedly, one of the most difficult years of my life.

I was introduced to BTS’ music in May 2017. They had just won their very first Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist, and they were trending all over Twitter. Curious, I decided to check them out, and after watching a few of their interviews on the red carpet, I tweeted “I love BTS — they’re so cute,” and watched their Fire music video. After that, a friend created an Apple Music playlist for me, and another dear friend made an entire thread about the boys that really piqued my interest (“Bulletproof Boy Scouts? I love that so much!!!” I’d replied when my friend told me the meaning of their name).

It wasn’t until their Love Yourself: Her album was released that I really, really started getting into them. I had been listening to their music and added a few tracks from their Young Forever repackage to my regular rotation of songs since I’d been introduced to them, but I was finally, unequivocally roped into it all by Jimin’s beautiful voice in Intro: Serendipity, the first track off Love Yourself: Her. I started watching more videos — not just of Jimin, but of the entire group, and fell in love with their wacky sense of humor, unwavering adoration and support for each other, passion for justice, and their relatable words of support and comfort for today’s youth.

Love Yourself: Her came to me at a time where, I, in fact, was working on my own stuff. I was in a relationship that, at the time, increasingly felt like it was doomed to fail (a combination of bad communication, clashing ideologies, and long distance), was struggling to find a full-time job, reeling from the loss of a friend, felt very lonely, and my overall mental health was at a very fast decline, coming to a head in the fall.

It had gotten to the point where consuming BTS-related content became the highlight of my day. I’d get home from work, watch a new music video or a fan-made compilation, and go to sleep feeling a little better every time. I started opening up and making more friends, started writing again, and it felt like a little bit of the weight on my chest had been lifted.

That night in November, things were bad. I literally sat in my tub for a little over an hour, let the water run, and just felt very, very consumed by my own thoughts. In the midst of all of this, I randomly thought of BTS. I’d watched their Wings Tour DVD a few weeks before and remembered thinking, god, I want to see them live so bad. So as the water ran and ran, I made a little ultimatum with myself: not today, see them live first, and then see where things go from there.

I don’t remember much after that, except for finishing my shower and crying a lot.

After that, many positive things came out of the rest of the year. I got out of that relationship, made new friends, visited my hometown after 10 long years, and more, remembering the very small promise I made to myself, storing it in the back of my brain.

Finally seeing them live felt like coming up for air after a year of trying to properly get a handle on life. I cried so hard at the third Love Yourself show I went to (Oakland, September 12) when I realized that I’d made it. And that I wanted to keep moving on.

As of May 2019, I’ve seen BTS live a total of five times. It’s September 2019 now, a year since I saw them at the Staples Center, and for the first time in my life, I feel okay. Still working through a lot, as always, but okay. And I think that’s all that matters.

I wouldn’t say that they “saved” me. Being a fan has not necessarily been a cure-all. But, their music came to me at a time that was rough, encouraged me to keep going, and to seek out help and support, and have something to look forward to, even though it was short-term. I was able to make friends with people I believe I will be friends with for the rest of my life, take risks within reason, love myself a little more, and learn to enjoy life by taking everything a day at a time. I have much to work on (thank god for therapy), but I’m coming into 25-and-a-half still feeling a little lost, but ready to keep going.

A personal goal of mine was to finally send a letter to BTS once I’ve started to feel more like myself again. I just might, soon. I just hope they know their music has helped myself and countless others, all looking for that one small hope in the middle of a vast desert.

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