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Discovering the Map of My Soul: My Journey as ARMY

  • By Cathy Dario

I have not been obsessed with a boy band in over a decade.

That was my first thought when I started obsessing over BTS. I’m way past my teens and now in my 20s where what usually takes up my headspace is work, studies, fitness, and travel. And while I enjoy music and going to concerts like any other person, I never found myself so passionate about any other artist.

It was only with BTS that I dedicated mornings to replaying music videos, afternoons to memorizing interviews and bookmarking fan-made compilations, and evenings to wishing and praying to meet all seven boys.

When I finally bought a ticket to their Map of the Soul ON:E online concert, I could not help but wonder: Why didn’t I become ARMY earlier?

Later on, a friend told me: BTS comes into your life when you need them the most.

***

March 2020 was when the world went on lockdown.

Like everybody else, I experienced a lot of fear and paranoia over the pandemic.To make things worse, my dog unexpectedly passed away a few weeks before quarantine, and so, I went through a negative spiral of grief and heartbreak.

And while there was the internet to help me feel connected with my friends, I still felt anxious and lonely without physical interaction.

I turned to K-Drama (shoutout to my fellow CLOY and Hyun Bin fans!) to help me cope, which eventually led me to listening to more K-Pop than ever before. That was when I started listening to BTS and living the K-Life even more.

What turned into a mere liking became a full-blown obsession. I started collecting shirts, pajamas, and stuffed toys. I watched Run! BTS with my fellow ARMY friends. And, when Dynamite went viral, it was all that I listened to. I played it 100 times in a span of 10 days — and I have my Spotify stats to prove it!

(By now, you might be wondering who my bias is. My bias is V. And if you’re reading this now, Kim Taehyung, I hope you know that I love you very much).

***

The boys are good-looking and talented, but why I love BTS so much is not because of their looks or skills. Loving BTS, appreciating their music, and integrating them into my life made me a grateful and happier person.

Their music is heartfelt, thoughtful, and genuine. And I know that this can be said about other artists, but BTS really captures the complexity of heavy emotions like depression, fear, and anxiety. The lyrics and melodies of their songs depict these feelings not as one-dimensional, but as real and felt experiences that people go through every day.

Some of my favorite songs are “Magic Shop” and “Spring Day”, which talk about finding hope amidst pain. In fact, their latest album focuses a lot about how the pandemic impacted everybody’s mental health and how we should keep moving forward. And as somebody whose mental health was really affected by the pandemic, I really feel that BTS looks into my heart.

***

Apart from learning to embrace my feelings, BTS also inspired me to just be myself. The boys, most especially RM and Suga, always talk about the importance of embracing your true self. While many Western artists have done the same, I honestly feel like BTS is really the best at delivering and, most importantly, committing to this message.

If you watch their series like Run! BTS, In the Soop, and Bon Voyage, you can see that the boys are more than just celebrities or personalities. They are not afraid of being silly, of making mistakes, and even losing. Most especially, they are not afraid of showing love to their fellow members. I feel that they make good role models for young boys especially, because even boys shouldn’t be afraid to be soft and affectionate towards others.

I grew up in a very traditional and conservative environment, with most people telling me what I should do and who I should be. Being ARMY has helped me embrace the wonderful and freeing experience of being myself. This is why I love Inner Child, especially, because Taehyung reminds me to connect with my past self — my inner child — and heal my past hurts.

***

Finally, being ARMY has also helped me feel connected with other people in this pandemic. Although I cannot see my friends on a regular basis anymore, I’ve stopped feeling isolated and alone. My best friends and I constantly bond over our biases. We watch videos and concert recordings together, and we also shop for matching merchandise.

I’ve also found new friendships during the pandemic because of ARMY. Even if I’ve been ARMY for less than a year, I was welcomed with open arms into the fanbase. Thanks to ARMY, I feel like I belong somewhere I am truly accepted.

***

Ultimately, BTS has helped me in my journey of love and acceptance. They have helped me love and accept myself, for the emotional mess that I sometimes am. They have taught me to continue hoping and striving for happiness, even in the bleakest, darkest moments.

They have also made me realize that I can also be accepted, welcomed, and loved by others. We are all connected by shared emotions and experiences. Connecting with other ARMY has helped me feel united with others even in a time of isolation.

In English, the lyrics of their song “Zero O’ Clock” says: “The world holds its breath for just a little bit / Zero o’ clock / And you’re gonna be happy.” In this pandemic, where time is at a standstill, BTS has helped me discover the map of my soul.

My ARMY journey has helped me gain an appreciation of my mind and my inner world, as well as a love for others and my outer world. Being ARMY is more than just being a fangirl; being ARMY is about slowly learning to love life (the K-Life!) itself.