Sorry if the title is cheesy. No, I’m not.
This isn’t entirely related to travel. I mean, it is for me personally, but overall, it isn’t really. In fact, this is a more personal post than anything else.
Note: This is an extremely long post. It sort of turned into a stream of consciousness.
It’s always really hard to fully accept yourself and willingly admit your true self to others. I’m generally the type to get really into something but refuse to let others know about it because I’m embarrassed or I’m convinced that others will think I’m weird. For instance, I started loving anime in maybe my second year of high school, but I didn’t tell anyone until the end of senior year (Or maybe I had already graduated, I can’t remember.) because I had always thought it was weird to like anime before I gave it a shot.
It’s the same way with my interest in Korean things. I’m interested in the culture and language, which I discovered from watching dramas and listening to K-pop. I didn’t tell anyone about it for probably a year, and it wasn’t even a good friend whom I told. I was having a conversation with a girl in my class, and she told me that she’d been watching this Korean drama, so I told her excitedly that I like them too, and we became friends.
I still talk to her, even though it’s been a year and a half or so since I have even seen her.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to accept yourself. It shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks (even though I know it will probably matter a lot for most people) because you are the one living your life and with your choices. You are the only one whose opinion matters. It may not feel that way, especially when you’re young, but it’s the truth. Do what you want.
I figured out who I was very recently, and I’m very fortunate to have done that. There are many people who are significantly older than me and still don’t know, but I know who I am and what I want, and nobody is going to keep me from it.
I love language and travel.
That is a fact that I have repeated over and over, and I will continue to do so because I am absolutely passionate about both. I can (and I do) spend hours a day talking about both, even when people’s eyes glaze over and they stop listening. I have told countless friends, family members, and strangers about discoveries I have made in different languages, even when they weren’t interested or didn’t know that language.
Even though I talk about them more than I ought to and I have probably caused people that have never listened to them to hate them because of that, I am going to mention BTS again. I have to, in order to get my point across.
When I started getting into BTS, a Korean pop/hip-hop group, my entire world opened up. All these songs I had been enjoying seemed so shallow in comparison, and even American songs did not measure up. Suddenly I had all these songs that I could not linguistically understand but that I could feel. I felt the sentiment behind them, and I could understand them even when I had no idea what they were saying. In short, this is why they’re my favorite band.
I had enjoyed listening to actors speak Korean when I watched dramas, and I liked how it sounded in different songs, but once I heard BTS’s songs, I found myself wanting to be able to accurately sing along. I wanted to be able to say the words right so that I could do justice to the songs, even though no one would hear me.
I started looking up lyric translations so that I could fully understand the songs, and with that, the editors usually included the Romanized lyrics (basically phonetic for people who read languages with Roman letters, like English, Spanish, etc.). The first couple times I listened to songs, I read the translation, and it took me almost no time to know what every song was about. I could even recall exact translations for multiple parts in multiple songs because I knew them so well. As I became more familiar with the songs, I started reading the Romanizations, and I sang along to the best of my ability. I can sing a good portion of their songs somewhat-correctly.
I felt very close to this group. Their lyrics touched my heart, and I felt that I had never been able to relate to music until now. I felt that I had been denying part of who I was until I allowed myself to accept that part of me, and once I realized that I was okay, my world opened up and I found myself significantly happier. Maybe it’s weird to others, but BTS honestly changed how I see myself and the world around me. I found acceptance and comfort in the least likely place.
Because I could only understand the English translations, I found myself wanting to learn Korean. It’s strange, really. I had been planning to learn Japanese because I wanted to be able to read manga and watch anime without translations and subtitles, but once BTS shot into my life, I became absolutely enamored with Korean. I wanted to learn everything about it because I felt that so much was probably lost in translation. I had felt that a bit when I watched dramas, and I even picked up some phrases and words (사랑해 (“I love you”) and 오빠 (“older brother” for girls), for instance) that I could understand whenever I heard them, but after I started listening to BTS, it felt like something I absolutely wanted and needed to do.
The strange thing about loving language is how much my heart is connected to it. When I hear people speaking and I can’t understand them, I try to figure out what language they’re speaking and if I can recognize any words. Usually I can recognize Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Italian (mostly just from accents, but with Eastern Asian languages, I can’t differentiate between accents well and have to rely on the sounds of words and words I recognize). I always wish that I could speak with people in their own languages, especially when they don’t speak English well but are trying hard to communicate with me. I want to make it easier for them when they are working hard to make it easier for me.
I think it’s beautiful, the way that languages can bring people together.
So I actively started learning Korean. I downloaded a vocabulary app on my phone, and I even taught myself to read Hangul. I started taking notes from different websites and blogs, and I paid more attention to pronunciation and understanding rather than reading translations when I watched dramas and listened to music. I pick out phrases or words I don’t know and speak them into my translator. That way, I can see how it’s spelled and I can also find out the definition. It’s been about five or six months, and I have improved a lot.
I found myself when I started looking into BTS as individuals rather than just listening to their music. They have such great personalities, and they are so drastically different from one another, yet they work so perfectly together. Though Yoongi is probably my favorite member (if I had to choose), I relate more to Namjoon than anyone I have ever known (friends, celebrities, or otherwise).
Namjoon is floppy when he dances and extremely clumsy. Half the K-pop world thinks he’s extremely handsome, while the other half finds him incredibly ugly. He is a great rapper but also has a great, deep, gravelly singing voice. He’s humble but wildly talented. He is super intelligent. I mean, really! He has an IQ of 150, and on shows like Problematic Men and random other trivia/mental test shows and videos, he is always showing off his sexy brain. Also his birthday is about a week and a half before mine.
One of the first things I learned about Rap Monster (Namjoon’s stage name) was that he spoke English. He speaks it pretty fluently, though he tends to ramble at times and he speaks nonsensically just for the sake of messing with the other members (who don’t know English). He also taught himself, which is a huge deal to people like me. He was not only intelligent enough to teach himself a terribly difficult language, but he also was passionate and interested enough to do so. He also speaks with a lot of slang and colloquialisms, so he knows it well.
When I found out that he taught himself English, I felt inspired. He was a kindred spirit, and I had neither met nor heard of anyone that enjoyed language enough to teach himself. I found someone that I could look up to, a person about whom I could say, “I want to be like him.” I also heard that he spoke some Japanese, as well, and I was so impressed. I wanted to be like him and speak multiple languages. To this day, one of my goals is to meet him and speak English, Korean, and Japanese with him.
I also found that I could personally relate to him a lot. I read some interviews and surveys they’d answered, and it was almost as though I was reading my own answers. In songs like “Whalien 52,” he talked about loneliness, something I understand because of my inability to connect to other people. (I get along well with everyone, but I don’t connect with them on a deeper level. I could literally cut off all contact with a person without caring. Oops?) He also talked about things on his bucket list, one of which was to love someone so much that he felt like he’d die. It was as though someone finally put my secret desire into actual (translated) words! I had always felt that way, and another person actually described it when I couldn’t.
When I started learning about who Namjoon was, and when I started paying attention to his lyrics, I connected. For the first time in my life, I felt that I connected with someone, and it didn’t matter that it was someone I didn’t know and would probably never meet. I loved him like I had never loved anything, and I was so overwhelmed by it that I became absorbed in BTS and Namjoon. My favorite BTS song is performed just by Namjoon and features his own lyrics. My favorite thing about the song is how much passion you can feel in his voice, and the seamless transition from a happy, light love song to one about hardships and doubt.
When I have hard days or tough times, I listen to BTS’s music because it’s the only thing that can calm me. When I am extremely upset or distraught, I listen to Namjoon’s solo songs. His voice relaxes me, whether it’s an upbeat, sad, or angry song. When I listen to 표류 (“Adrift”), I feel disconnected from my problems, like I’m floating. When I listen to 각성 (“Awakening”), I feel empowered and like I want to ignore what everyone says when they doubt me.
Songs like “No More Dream” and “Intro: Never Mind” are about following your own dreams, despite what others might say. Songs like this were exactly what I needed to hear at this point in my life, when I’m trying to plan my future. Even though I had decided to learn Korean and had decided long ago that I would live abroad for a while, I hadn’t admitted it to anyone because I thought they’d think I’m weird or try to convince me otherwise. As soon as I started to love BTS, I accepted myself and stopped caring what others thought about my plans for the future.
I finally started admitting to people what I loved, and after a friend introduced me to a YouTuber who lives in Korea and taught English for a bit, I considered becoming an English teacher there. The more I thought about it and planned for it, the more in love with the idea I grew. I was so happy, and I felt motivated to work hard in school, study Korean, and save funds in order to move to Korea once I graduate.
I had never been so happy in my life. Everyone started to notice, I happily told them about my passions, my plans for the future, and my love for this Korean band. Most reactions were lukewarm (at best), but a few of my friends wholeheartedly supported my decision and are willing to listen when I get excited about the language. Many people around me try to discourage me from going (for various reasons, such as safety and the distance), but I’m still extremely motivated and have not lost my heart.
Recently, it’s gotten a bit worse and harder to deal with, but my passion and love greatly outweigh my concerns and others’ opinions.
I could honestly go on for days about the effect that BTS has had on my mindset and future plans, but I guess I should stop somewhere, so why not here?
I apologize to anyone who has actually read this hot mess of my free-flowing thoughts.