Lessons of Strength and Hope: An Essay from an ARMY to the World

  • by Claire A.

Seven young South Korean boys who started out with nothing but dreams and somehow by fate, got together to become the phenomena that we all know and love — BTS. Almost eight years later and counting, along with their wide and colorful discography, there has been ARMY, beside them that only kept getting bigger.

No one saw them coming. Not their company, not Korea, and especially, not the group itself! Even I, personally, would have never thought that I was gonna be part of something this big of a fandom. I recall the time B.B. (stands for Before BTS, lol) — the curiosity I had as to why ARMYs are so just completely head over heels for them. It baffled me because I never felt like I had that kind of energy from a K-pop group before. And now here I am, purchasing merch after merch, albums in every version available, ARMY memberships, and streaming their MVs and songs on Spotify apart from other fangirling things.

Life is full of interesting surprises. One day you’re an ARMY, then the next day, you’re writing an article about them. It’s as if the stars aligned the day that BTS made a fan in me. “A providence of the universe,” indeed, as Jimin's song “Serendipity” says.

Ever since I started the ARMY life (I remember it was the 5th of January Year 2019), one thing I became thankful for was that I met like-minded people who shared my two cents about the group. This fandom also inspired me to dive deeper through their discographies, music videos (with the accompanying theories about them, of course), shows, webtoons, and many more. With so much music and content to talk about, you could just imagine how my ARMY friends and I would chat for hours about our love for BTS. Before I knew it, they had already become important friends to me.

Other than the music and shows that the boys put out, us, ARMYs, would also talk about how BTS had created such a huge impact in our individual lives. “Each song they have differs in impact, really, so it's hard to pick one in particular, since each song has its meaning that differs from a person’s perspective. But I do recall crying from listening to “Zero O'Clock”, “Everything Goes” and “2!3!", shared Anita, a friend of mine who’s been an avid fan since the HYYH era.

Check out her photo below from when she attended the Epilogue Concert in Manila last 2016! “It was one of the most memorable moments of my life,” she gushed.

Photo by Anita M. when she was in BTS’ Epilogue concert in Manila last 2016

One of the reasons that makes BTS’s music and lyrics so endearing is the awareness they have — right from the creation of the group — on how they wanted to use their voice. Their music and lyrics that have changed and continued to evolve over the years is amazing to witness. From a lot of criticism in the band’s beginning to winning awards year after year in the present, they pulled through together and continued dancing to the beat of their own drum. Just looking at their discography today is definitely a testimony to how hard they worked and as to why ARMYs just love and love to protect them so much.

As an individual, I also realized how their music resonated with how each and every one of us is feeling — the feelings of being lost, scared, anxious and having a hard time loving yourself, to be more exact. Belle, another friend of mine, shared a song that made a huge impact on her. “The song ‘Answer: Love Myself’ is a reminder that before you love someone else, you should learn how to love yourself first. You cannot truly know the meaning of love if you don't know how to love yourself,” she said.

Photo by Belle R. at her first BTS concert experience in Thailand last 2019

What BTS reminds us is that they hear us and that they, too, know what we feel. And, just like Belle, their willingness to be raw and organic through their lyrics sparks a fire within me, as well.

I recall crying a lot as I was going through all of their albums, but it was when I heard their song “Jamais Vu” for the first time upon release that made me realize just how powerful their music really was. It was a song sung by 3/7 of the members: Jin, J-Hope and Jungkook (highly recommended!). As I listened to the lyrics, “I’m okay but I’m not okay / I told myself I’m used to it,” I couldn’t help but get teary eyed right then and there. However, it wasn’t until Jungkook’s last line that truly made me bawl like crazy. The line simply went: “I won’t give up.”

With the way their words saved me, I had decided that they were a miracle from the universe. And since then, BTS’ music has served as a constant reminder for me that no matter how much I stumble again and again, I should continue to hope and give myself a chance. For me, it’s BTS’ way of telling me, “Let’s be happier,” (a line from their “Blue & Grey” song).

Photo by Claire A. (me), a surprise birthday cake given to me by my friends for life who support my K-life fangirling <3

As with any other music artist, the boys of BTS have had their fair share of struggle in the ongoing pandemic as well. The boys were slated to embark on their 2020 Map of the Soul World Concert tour but due to COVID-19, it was inevitably canceled, leaving them and the ARMYs devastated.

Still, there lies a silver lining in everything. Despite show cancellations, they were able to showcase their performances through their virtual online concert “BANG BANG CON”, last year, serving ‘fireeee’ energy to ARMYs all around the world — right in the comfort of their own homes! These frustrations also led to the birth of their self-produced album, BE; a body of work that gives you comfort and relief, promising that the sun will return and that we are together in overcoming this adversary.

Photo by Belle R. at Thailand 2019 during BTS concert

“We were only seven, but we have you all now.”

Up to this day, my love and support for BTS remain unwavering as they continue to inspire me with how they overcome whatever comes their way. I thank the universe that I am living in the BTS generation, with them being a huge part of my K-life. I imagine the future: us being in our 50s, reminiscing on our life as an ARMY and telling them young’uns about how wonderful it was to be a part of this fandom during our time. I realized that once you start your journey as an ARMY, you are in it for the long haul. I know that I wasn’t there when they first started out, but you can be sure that I’ll be walking with them ‘till the end.