In the previous LTT entry, we talked about Seasonal Depression and my experiences in November 2017. For this post, I want to pull from my experiences in November 2016.
Once upon a time, I got in trouble one year at Thanksgiving. Many families probably do this as well, but before dinner at 2pm (which is always hilarious to me), we hold hands, go around the room and say what we’re thankful for. That year in question, teenager Claire said, “I’m thankful for music.” That’s it. Not my family or friends or anything else. Just music. My mom wasn’t exactly happy with my answer and I received quite a few side-eyes but it was true. Music was the most important thing in my life at that time. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being the all-encompassing savior to my dour days, but it still impacted me. I had favorite songs here and there, a few bands I loved (AFI & MCR <3), but nothing too extreme.
Hop, skip, and jump to November 2016: I don’t say this lightly–I was suffering. Every second harder than the last.
I had attributed my ongoing misery to the political election in my country, the fact that I was deep in edits for LTAL and had the weight of the collective Ace community pressing down on me with no end in sight, experienced anxiety-induced insomnia and when I did sleep, hypnopompic hallucinations came a knocking. Basically, it’s dreaming while you’re awake. Which seems cool until you substitute “dream” for “nightmare.”
I was tired. Completely and utterly, to my bones exhausted. The lowest point of that year was when I said to a friend, “I don’t want to die but I’m tired of living.” Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. And then I found music again. My whole world changed because of SHINee.
We live in an age where celebrity and media go hand in hand are easily consumable. Sure, you could be an artist who lives deep in a secluded woods and people will still love your fantastical creations, but let’s be honest here: popularity, being present and active, being yourself (or at least the best, consumable version of you) will increase your sales/views/reads, etc. SHINee was not an exception to this rule–they embraced it. Nine years worth of content was at my fingerprints.
I spent several entire weekends doing nothing but watching every reality TV show, variety show, music show, and MV I could find. I listened to SHINee’s albums and Jonghyun’s solo albums non-stop. Even while I slept, I wore headphones and let the music play all night. I watched their concerts while editing my debut novel. I didn’t just fall down the rabbit hole. Ya girl dove head first. Their music, their presence, and personalities brought me so much joy, I was able to cling to that like a life raft to get me through some of the worst months of my life.
I recently read a book called Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills. One of the characters, Iris, is devoted to a fictional boy band called This Is Our Now. Full-on fangirl mode to the highest extreme, but she didn’t want to date her favorite member, Kenji. When the main character, Claudia, asks Iris what she loves about TION/Kenji, if it’s not romantic she answers:
“He’s my small son. I want him to be happy, and healthy, and to be with people he cares about and do things that he loves. I want him to know how much he’s appreciated and how much he’s changed people’s lives by … just being who he is. And by helping us be who we are.”
It was so startling to read that in a book because I have actually said that to people about SHINee. That is exactly how I feel. They gave me joy and made me happy with their music, by being themselves, by loving SHINee world. I want the same for them. Anything that I can do to support them I will.
I became a fan at the best time. The following year, SHINee had their first concert in America. My friend came with me to one of the shows and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Claire smile that much.” And then she made a joke about, “Pure exuberance.” She wasn’t wrong. The same thing happened to Iris when she sees TION in concert:
I look over and see that Iris is crying.
“Are you okay?”
She looks at me, surprised almost, like she had forgotten I was there, and then nods. “I’m happy,” she says and gives me a watery smile. “I’m just really happy.”
Happiness. It should be such an easy thing to find and hold on to, but it’s not. Some of us have to fight to get there. Some of us, for whatever reason, feel like we don’t deserve to be happy. Some of us know what it means to break through the negativity and are willing to fight tooth and nail to not regress.
It might seem silly that this kpop group helped me get to that sacred state of happy but I really don’t care or feel any shame because I am a Shawol. I am proud to be a part of SHINee World. That is my joy when my world gets dark. I write books in hopes that readers can find a kindred spirit in my characters the way I was able to with Iris. That is my joy when I feel dead inside.
Now that you’ve read my story, what’s yours?
What/who brings you joy?
What kinds of characters or traits in characters do you connect most with?