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  • Writer's picturePriscilla Shay

That Time I Wasn't Fine

This post has been listed as “COMING SOON” since July 25, 2019 when I finished revamping and published the website. I’ve been struggling with what to write for my first post because… it’s the first one! It should be important, right? Or, at least it should SAY something. I tend to fight with myself back and forth especially when it comes to writing – books, blogs, essays, lesson plans.

Then, I remembered “I’m Fine”*, a sidetrack off BTS’** 2018 album Love Yourself: Answer, and when I wasn’t fine.

(*I’m not going to analyze the lyrics. You can click the links and do that for yourself. I do recommend the song though. Part of what makes BTS so popular is their ability to strongly connect with this generation and people around the world. They recognized the need for people to be told that everything was okay, that it would be fine, and they would be able to help themselves and not need to worry about others because they also needed to hear that message. BTS’ songs are as much about them comforting themselves and each other and it is about comforting others. This song in particular happened to get me and I hope you’ll check it out and share your thoughts.

**I’m going to do a separate series on BTS, their albums and individual members. Cuz I CAN!)

2017 and 2018 were hard.

Guys. I don’t cry.

When I DO cry, it’s because of a Disney movie or I got too angry and trying not to kill anyone. The only people who have seen me cry are my family and it’s for the 2 reasons listed previously. Then, 2017 and 2018 hit and I was crying everywhere. On the train, the bus, at work, at concerts, waiting on lines.

There were a lot of bright points and I can name a lot of happy things. But, those two years were a struggle. While living 2017 and 2018, I recognized that it was a difficult time in my life but, it wasn’t until this year – this summer – that I sat and realized just HOW dark those two years were. It was like I was wading through a dark, sludgy swamp and each step I took coated me down with more sludge. Everything kept getting heavier and heavier. But, the shore was right.there. I was exhausted, but I was so close. Close to what, I didn’t know. But, there had to be something, right?

That seems a lot more determined and hopeful than how I was actually feeling. It was more of a testament to my stubbornness and inability to recognize situations. If I was able to better, in the moment, reflect and analyze, I would have realized how much help I needed and how close I was to unintentionally making fatal decisions. I haven’t been diagnosed by a professional, but I feel I can safely say that what I was experiencing was depression. Hindsight is 2020, right?

Now, the BTS connection.

I’ve been following BTS since 2015. Prior to finding BTS, I listened to songs here and there is the radio was on or if someone recommended it. I didn’t actively search for music. Then, in 2015 a Facebook post and a Buzzfeed quiz later everything spiraled into the abyss that is K-pop.

The first time I saw them – my first ever concert – was in 2016 at 26 years of age at KCON LA. It was my first time in California, my first time at KCON, and my first concert all in the same week. My quarter life crisis was WILD.

I started questioning my life decisions at the end of 2016. 2017 rolled in and the hits just kept coming. I accepted them and moved forward because what else could I do? January was dark, February was stressful, and I didn’t see March getting any better. I kept going, though. I had to teach. There were 100+ children who needed me in some way on a daily basis.

At some point, BTS announced they were going on their WINGS World Tour and coming to America in 2017. I had run through all their released music, award ceremonies, their side content, bought a bunch of CDs (Who does that anymore??), concert DVDs, and caught up enough that I could say, I KNOW THEIR NAMES AND I’M GOING TO SEE THEM FOR MY 27th BIRTHDAY.

BTS lining up to do their opening introductions at the 2017 WINGS World Tour in Newark
BTS lining up to do their opening introductions at the 2017 WINGS World Tour in Newark

By this time, I was also fully using – and fully aware that I was doing it – BTS to distract myself from my reality. Are people yelling and screaming? Put an album on shuffle. Saw too many sad things on the news? Watch a compilation video of Jimin giggling. Work was stressful? Watch a weekly Run episode. Are people berating you and making you feel useless? Watch Namjoon’s behind the album Vlives. Do you just not want to deal with the world? THERE’S A VIDEO OR SONG FOR THAT. Trust me.

I can’t tell you what happened at the concert. I was there. I had fun. But, do I remember it? No. I have pictures and videos though. (Turns out, I’m not the only one that happens to, but it has happened at every single BTS concert I’ve attended since. WINGS was also the only concert I really had my phone out.)

View of the stage from my seat at the Newark stop the 2017 WINGS World Tour
View of the stage from my seat at the Newark stop the 2017 WINGS World Tour

Everything was falling apart and the only things keeping me together were BTS, my friends and my brother. For different reasons, but reasons.

Now, I have a pretty strong personality. I know that. I can be decisive. This is both a positive and negative quality. It was positive when I was grade team lead and people were waffling and wasting time during 45-minute meetings. I gave options, we made decisions, we voted, we moved on. But my decisiveness can also be seen as rashness.

In June 2017, I left my job without a plan, went to Korea for 3 weeks in the July/August and came back to a new job (with the help of a friend) in a completely unfamiliar environment by September.

I couldn’t control everything, but I changed what I could. There were new challenges and experiences. But I was EXCITED. I had amazing new coworkers, I felt reinvigorated from my trip, I was in a new environment. I was ready for everything to get better.

But, it didn’t.

I couldn’t figure out why and because of the changes I had made in my life, I didn’t really have (or didn’t feel like I had) the time to figure out why. Instead of getting professional help like I probably should’ve, I made excuses. I surged ahead, telling myself I had new school politics to circumnavigate, new systems to learn, new children to teach, new adult personalities to navigate.

So, I continued with my tried and true self-therapy: BTS.

Fast forward to 2018, BTS were doing SO MANY things in addition to releasing a ridiculous amount of music. They were prospering, making an impact on the world through their music and their philanthropy, gaining worldwide recognition at a breakneck pace. And I was so proud of them. I don’t know them and they don’t know I exist. But, I. Was. So. Proud. Of. Them. Everything around me was falling apart, but BTS? They were thriving.

I did realize that them being the sole bright spot in my life was unhealthy and tried to branch out, find new things to do or like. But, I keep circling back to them and eventually accepted that that’s not a bad thing.

Loving them, their music, and what they stand for is not a bad thing. I keep telling myself this and I’m going to believe it. BTS were my one thing that was for ME. If you notice, a lot of what I’ve mentioned in this post has been about the situations or people around me. It’s taken a lot, but the same time that life started getting rough for me was the same time I started caring about ME.

By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, I need them as a distraction even more. Work was increasingly stressful, home wasn’t better, and a former student of mine was murdered. I had a panic attack on the train after being needlessly stopped and searched by the police and was almost late to work because of them, all the while worrying about how I was going to attend a wake for a 15 year old, and showed up at work in tears - on the last day of school.

Love Yourself logo

Then, BTS announced they were coming back to America for their Love Yourself World Tour in September? Nothing and no one was going to stop me from being there.

I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting them to perform “I’m Fine”. It was off their most recent album, why wouldn’t they? I guess I didn’t think about it and was going to enjoy whatever show they put on. But, as soon as the opening chords for “I’m Fine” started, I cried.

They performed a bit of “Save Me” (“I’m Fine” is a “response” to this 2016 song) – I was getting hyped and bouncing around. Then, they transitioned seamlessly into “I’m Fine” and I cried.

I vaguely recall just plopping down on my seat handle and staring at the stage trying NOT to cry. Everyone around me was screaming, cheering, singing along, waving their lightsticks and I was crying. I wasn’t shoulders shaking, tears down my face, snot in my mouth sobbing. But, I was crying in the middle of the Staples Center.

They asked, “How you doin’?” (How many people ever actually stop and ask how are you doing? Even if people do, many don’t expect an actual response.)

They said, “It’s okay.” (Is it? Are you sure?)

They proclaimed, “All the sadness and scars have already become bygone memories. So let’s let it go with smiles on our faces, we so fine… Our future will be full of joy. So set aside your worries and enjoy now. You’ve worked hard, we so fine.” (You have no idea how much I needed this to be true.)

They chanted, “To this nightmare that will be repeated, I cast a spell. I’m feeling just fine, fine, fine. I’ll say it to myself over and over, however many times. Even if I fall again, I’m fine.” (You know, what? I believe you.)

Obviously, just these words didn’t and can’t solve every problem. But, they made me feel better because it allowed me to cry for me.

2019 was getting better which is why I was able to acknowledge how bad 2017 and 2018 were. The situations haven’t gotten better. If anything, some have gotten worse. But, I have been removing myself from them. It’s taken a while and it’s something that is very much generational, but I’ve been very much about ME. (Sometimes to the point of selfishness. No, this isn’t a ‘don’t say you’re being selfish! It’s self-care!’ Part of self-care is also knowing your flaws and I know I sometimes get so wrapped up in me, I don’t consider others.)

Nothing’s ever perfect, and you wish the ups were more frequent than the downs. But, as Kim Namjoon, leader of BTS said on the sixth track, everythinggoes (with NELL), of the solo playlist (mixtape) he released in October 2018, “Everyday I pray that I become a slightly better adult/ And every day I stay/ Since both people and pain will all die one day”.

Bonus Video! This is ARMY waving their lightsticks covered in colored plastic bags before BigHit upgraded and released a new version.

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Feb 20, 2022

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