The hobby I hardly ever share about

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Can you believe that it is going to be March soon? When mid-march comes, it will also mean that 1 year has passed since my ‘gap year’ and gosh, COVID is still around to haunt us.

While going through the diaries of my younger days, there was one aspect of my life that I had intentionally left out sharing in the public space. It has been many years but I’m still not comfortable with sharing this ‘hobby’ in the public space so I’m gonna try writing about it here, and see how it goes (will I end up keeping this post in my draft folder instead of posting it out?)

Just curious, when people ask you what hobbies do you have, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Often, I respond with common and unquestionable answers – Watching Dramas, Bake, going KTV (something I have not done since COVID) or just chilling around but the hidden truth is I have this one hobby (I hope it is the correct word) which in the most ‘normal’ terms can be said to be ‘listening to music’. However, the extent and commitment I have for this hobby of mine is more commonly known as ‘idol-chasing’ to others. For some reason or another, somewhere within me regards ‘idol-chasing’ as something negative. As such, it has been a ‘hobby’ disowned (at least in the eyes of public, or perhaps what I think people don’t know about me) by me; only some friends (mostly those with similar interests) are aware of this hobby of mine.

The beginnings (-20 years)

I tried to re-trace the origins of my hobby (to listen, enjoy and support the music of a particular someone/group) and the earliest memories that I have belongs to 20 years ago. It was the era of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the boybands – Backstreet Boys, Westlife, N’Sync and for myself, I had my ears and eyes on a not that popular boyband called a1 (originating from UK). I can’t seem to recall the exact ‘aha’ moment which locked down that attraction but it was either from the song ‘Like a Rose’, watching their Black and White MV for ‘Ready or Not’, or perhaps that cowboy-themed MV ‘Same Old Brand New You’. Back then, YouTube and Spotify were nonexistent and the only sources of music and news I could receive were from public radio and MTV channel. As I did not have much allowance, I wasn’t able to afford CD albums. I only bought my first album when I was 12 and it was a1’s 3rd and final album ‘Make it Good’, before they disbanded and reunited many years later. Anyway, in case you’re wondering.. what do I mean by going beyond ‘listening and supporting their music’? I had been somewhat obsessed with the group (or perhaps, it was just Ben, the handsome lead singer). I started buying magazines whenever they are featured and attempted drawing sketches of his face (and failed terribly). I even wrote a letter to a radio station (once only), hoping to make a request for their song and win some of their CDs. Oh, I even attempted dancing to ‘Same Old Brand New You’ in my room back in the days. It had been a complete disaster since I was in this alone. To add on, I even printed lyrics of their songs (and others) and sang these songs on the school bus with a bus-mate of mine. I think it had been a complete wreck back then but it was fun. Furthermore, it was exhilarating to wait by the radio or MTV channel for a chance to hear/see them. There was this special type of excitement and joy I received from this hobby of mine.

My next ‘support’ was given to Simple Plan – a Canadian punk-rock band with the song ‘I’m Just a Kid’ that caught my attention while watching MTV channel back in 2002. I’m not sure what caught my attention (though my good friend used to say that I was attracted to the spikey hair), but the songs about youth (and later on society) had been rather important in my growing up years. Back then, my type of ‘support’ was pretty mild – I just listened to their songs a lot and I remember frequently refreshing their website to get the latest updates. I believe I started using the internet in 2001 because I recall chatting with my friends on MSN and IRC. I remember that their song ‘Untitled’ and ‘Welcome to my life’ were popular ‘on repeat’ songs for me. I think by this age, I was borrowing my brother’s CD-player (was it called Discman) and I had a radio which could play CDs. (Note: I didn’t experience the tapes era.) I remember there was a period where I listened to Simple Plan’s album non-stop, from the first song to the last song and after it ends, I’ll repeat the entire album again. I really like their songs – and the song style had been very lyrical (unlike the songs today where you struggle to even understand what they are singing). I remember watching the Scooby-Doo movie because their song was featured on it. I don’t really keep up with them anymore (except in 2016 where I chance upon a poster for their Singapore concert and attended). Since then, I’m not really in the loop of their activities, unless they share it on their instagram account which I follow. Spikey hair lead singer Pierre has grown older, gotten married, and have lovely daughters. The ‘kid’ had grown up to be a father. On a side note, they had been given a reboot as their ‘I’m just a kid’ song made it to be a viral hit on Tik Tok where people replicated their photos from the past.

Moving on to Mando-pop

I’m not exactly sure how it began but there was a period where ‘Taiwanese Dramas’ had been trendy. I think it possibly started from F4’s Meteor Garden (which I didn’t really enjoy, and F4 can’t really sing) and then there was this drama called ‘My MVP Valentine’ which I really enjoyed (despite it having very cheesy lines) as it was basketball-themed and I was into basketball back then. There was a group that ‘debuted’ from the drama and it was known as 5566 – and my favourite member was the one with spikey hair (Xu Meng Zhe). The craze didn’t last very long and the only crazy thing I did was to visit a neighbourhood shop called ‘Comics Connection’ and purchase one of his photo card. I don’t recall throwing it away, so I may chance upon it one day in the future. With the Taiwanese market picking up the steam, there were many more singers and groups starting out (S.H.E., Mayday, Jolin Tsai, Jay Chou etc.) and another group that caught my attention (it was from a drama again) was this group called Fahrenheit. I got to know of Jiro Wang from the drama (It started with a Kiss) and for whatever reason – maybe his less spikey but still nicely styled hair attracted me. But it was only for a short period of time. Guess what? I dedicated my ‘first’ attempt of attending an autograph session to them – but it ended up as a ‘failure’ as I could not even get close to their stage despite waiting in line for 5 hours. The logistics and queue management had been a complete disaster as there were simply too many ‘fans’ that turned up. After the attempt, I remember going home (the place was one hour away) feeling very sorry at how I wasted 7 hours of my life. It was an episode that I hardly shared with people because I was too embarrassed to even admit I was there. (Yes – that was me 15 years ago – thinking that waiting in line to get your idol’s autograph is a complete waste of time)

Another singer that I supported since 2004 was Jay Chou. When he first started out in 2001, I did not enjoy his music as I felt it was too noisy. To be honest, the support for Jay Chou could have arisen from friends’ influence. At that time, I had many friends and classmates that supported Jay Chou and I remember my classmates were playing his music via the classroom’s audio system. I was attracted to his talent for writing music (especially ballad songs) and how he always strived to do even better – after achieving success as a singer, he wanted to be an actor, director and the list goes on.. I think this was one of the first few idols where the attractive factor goes beyond their music or looks; it was their attitude and character that you find yourself looking up to. Jay Chou was never regarded as handsome in my eyes, yet he made it so big and so far in life. He was the first celebrity where I bought almost all his albums since 2004 (I think I stopped in 2008). I was one of those fans who always pre-ordered his album early. Oh, and for reasons beyond my own cognitive knowledge, I was comfortable to be seen as a Jay Chou fan. I remember pasting his poster in my room (no idea why I did that when I don’t even think he was good-looking) and my mum was aware that I saved up money for his concert. When I was 16/17, I worked part-time during the school holidays so I could get that extra cash to pay for his concert. To date, I think I attended about 4-5 of his concerts and I even wrote a post back in 2015. I did not go to his most recent concerts in 2018 and 2019 (I was still in NZ) but I still occasionally follow his updates on Instagram. Right now, I don’t see myself as an active ‘fan’ anymore, but someone who enjoys his music and being proud of his success.

Fanclubs

Yes, I had been part of a fan club or rather it was more like a fan forum back in the days of 2007 to 2010. The next celebrity that entered my life was Yoga Lin You Jia – a Taiwanese singer who came in first for a singing competition, One Million Stars (Xin Guang Da Dao), Season One. I can’t remember how I got to know him (but it was probably from a YouTube performance) where I got pretty mesmerised by his voice. His voice is pretty distinctive and he has this lazy singing style which makes it very suitable for singing ballads (especially the soapy and emotional ones). Remember the autograph session which wasted 7 hours of my life? I found myself back in the same mall a year later, this time for a promotional event where Yoga Lin attended. The year was 2007 and it was a time where I had a camera phone which could film videos (I think it was the Sony Ericcson slide phone w910i) and guess what – I even uploaded a video of the performance I filmed that day. The quality back in 2007 was 240p but the audio seems pretty decent despite being 13 years ago. For that event, I dragged one of my close friend to go down with me (one hour journey) as she liked another guy that was at that event too. However, something inside me realised that instead of forcing friends to accompany me for such events, why don’t I start looking for like-minded fans online? Facebook didn’t exist yet (I think), there was only Friendster but with Google, you can pretty much get info on many things and I don’t recall the exact date or reason, I found myself being a member of this forum called acidyoga (no longer available). Apart from sharing the similar interest of ‘liking his music’, many of us went on to chat aimlessly about random musings about daily life. I found myself refreshing the forum every night (till the am) and I talk to these members typing in traditional Chinese (my mother language but not my preferred language for typing) in the forum style. Each page displays only 20 posts and every night when I log in, I will want to back-trek on the conversations that I missed out. As I was a student, I think I could only use the computer and internet only on friday nights + weekends ; and this resulted in me sleeping very late each night. From that forum, I got to know of other Singapore fans (one of which became a close friend whom I am still in contact with), Taiwanese/Hong Kong/Malaysian fans (met some of them a couple of times) and even a Korean girl who was aspiring to master the chinese language. For those years, I was pretty proud and happy to know and have overseas friends (from a fanclub/fan forum) and some of them assisted in purchasing tickets and goods. Although the forum died in the later years (probably due to funding and those forums were no longer relevant), I do have some of them on my Facebook still – though the community is often quiet, unless he has activities. My current fan/hobby status with Yoga Lin is that I will still attend his concerts if he has one in Singapore (his concerts are really enjoyable and his live singing is superb) but my friends and I stopped buying his physical albums. He was supposed to have a concert in Apr 2020 (one of the reasons why I had to return to Singapore after NZ) but sadly, it was postponed and canceled due to COVID. Unlike the example of Jay Chou where I went beyond his music and songs to support his character and success, Yoga was a little different. I did not pay much attention to his private life (he is now happily married with two kids), but it was the fan and friends that I enjoyed hanging out with (and doing stupid things with). We used to meet slightly more regularly for his events (autograph sessions/publicity events) and most of the time, we don’t spend the ‘waiting time’ fangirling but catch up with each other about our lives. It started off as a hobby but it evolved into (lifelong) friendship which goes beyond the celebrity/idol himself. I still like his music, his singing style, his live performances but the happiness I derived from all these would have been halved if I didn’t enjoy it with the friends I met back in the days. I last wrote about him in 2017.

Music has no boundaries

I was an early adopter of K-pop. In fact, when I first discovered it back in 2006, K-pop wasn’t even a popularised term. How did it all begin? It was from a ‘Teens/Teenage’ magazine from 2006 which featured Vanness (a guy from f4) & Kangta – who did a 1 album Chinese-Korean collaboration. Anyway, for some unknown reason (yet again), I was attracted to the visual of Kangta (I didn’t care about Vanness though most of my friends think he is the better looking one after cutting his hair) and gave their songs a shot. It was an interesting concept (way ahead of time) where they released the same song in two languages – mandarin and korean. (This is what many companies do these days to cater to 2 different markets with the same song; but it is usually Korean/Jap). Apart from Kangta’s visual, I was totally sold when I listened to his other performances on YouTube – there was this one performance on variety show X-men where he sang a self-composed song – and after that song, I became a fan and it happend almost instantaneously. Sadly, by the time I got to be aware of him, Kangta was already over with the peak of his career and he was due to be enlisted into the army. I declared myself as a ‘fan’ and bought his solo album which had been released years earlier. There was this MV of his called Polaris which I got so obsessed over because in the MV (Note: it is my own interpretation), it showed a part where he missed the girl so much that he put on makeup to make himself look like the girl, so he can see the girl’s reflection in the mirror. Sounds a little psychopath but I somehow felt that the concept was really refreshing. Anyway, Kangta was the first person that made me realise that ‘Music has no boundaries’. I was not able to understand the meaning of the song from the lyrics back then, but I was able to feel the emotions in the song. And he was also the reason why I attempted learning the Korean language in 2009. (Not relevant for this post but till today, I am still not able to master the Korean language despite being exposed to it so often.) Today, I still call myself a ‘fan’ of his music and talent (not so much of his personality – and I remain indifferent across all his dating scandals/news), but it is sad to learn that he is no longer active in the music industry. He did release a solo song, but it did not receive much hype about it. However, he was given a ‘director’ status in SM Entertainment (perhaps due to his loyalty since H.O.T. days) and I hope that he is doing a lot more behind-the-scenes activities to keep him busy. It is sad that he does not update his social media accounts anymore (since the scandal) and no one knows what he is up to these days. I’ll forever be grateful to him as he was the first one to let me understand the concept of music having no boundaries. On a side note, I did manage to watch his musical (when I visited Korea back in May 2019. As I didn’t understand korean, but the musical I was watching was in Korean without subtitles, I borrowed the book to read about the storyline for ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ – and it turned out to be a story about a love affair between a housewife and a photographer. It was pretty random but that short encounter made many parties changed their perspectives in life. I still can’t understand why it was a big hit but oh wells, the music from that musical is lovely.

The last one

Is it too early for me to determine that this would be the last group I’ll ever chase? I’ve made this decision back in Dec 2017 – that SHINee would be the last celebrity/idol group that I’ll ever be committed to. While I was writing this entry, I kind of got a warm fuzzy feeling that everything I have written above about my emotions/feelings and what made me support the music/idols/celebrities.. is what SHINee is for me today, and perhaps in the future and forever. However, I am still not comfortable with being ‘open’ about this obsession, remaining as a ‘closet fan’, despite supporting them fervently for the past 11 years. You may not know it if you’re not a fan, but I have left many small touches within this website that drop hints that I am a fan of SHINee – the mint colour accents and having diamond as a logo. Sometimes, I do feel somewhat excited when people ‘recognise’ that I am a fan and leave a comment/email me. I guess I am a person who enjoys the element of ‘surprise’ in my life.. There are many times where my friends (who know about this hobby of mine) question my decision to keep it under wraps – cause it is something that I’ve been so enthusiastic about for such a long time, and it doesn’t seem like it is will end anytime soon.. so why do I still ‘hide’? Something inside me feels like this is a ‘secret’ that I’ve been hiding for so many years, and because it is a secret, it is even more precious to me. I know it sounds pretty ridiculous for most to understand, but I just wanted to document my emotions/thoughts somewhere and perhaps re-visit this piece years ahead (in case I forget the reason along the way).

Anyway, another reason why I am writing this is that they are having their ‘Comeback’ activities right now (started on 22 Feb) and I had been fully involved in following their updates – watching all their performances, variety shows, and releases; since their ‘comeback’ announcement on 1st Jan 2021. In a parallel world without COVID-19, my friends and I would have flown to Korea for their activities, and to enjoy the atmosphere of their promotion activities.

(Alright, sorry for the long introduction (but it is only going to get longer). Please don’t feel like you need to continue reading because it may get a little personal and boring since these are all my experiences and memories.)

How did it all begin? I first saw SHINee back in Jan 2010 when I accompanied my friend (the same one that went with me for the Yoga Lin event back in 2007) to the airport. At that time, SHINee had an event in Singapore and it was very common for fans to gather at the airport’s arrival hall to ‘welcome’ them as they walk from the luggage collection area to their vehicles. My friend was attracted to them after watching a variety show called ‘Hello baby’. That day, it was the first time I got to know what SHINee looked like, how many members there were and the names of the members. My friend brought a magazine (Teens/Teenage) which had an interview of them and I was reading the article while waiting for them. As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt it was weird to be ‘stanning‘ anyone younger than myself, thus I paid more attention to Onew (Onew is his stage name which stands for ‘soft/gentle’ while Lee Jinki is his real name), the only member that was older than me. The atmosphere was chaotic yet enjoyable at the same time. As I wasn’t a fan (yet), I felt amused and refreshing to be an observer from within the crowd (Generally I am a person that enjoys trying new things/experiences). I observed the people around me – mainly teenage girls younger than me; brave enough to spend their Friday evening doing something absolutely ridiculous and perhaps a waste of time. On my first encounter, there had been no ‘love at first sight’ and I simply moved on with my life after that event as I was still more preoccupied with ‘Yoga Lin’ and the fan forum I was in.

Then, in Mar 2010, there was an ‘awards show’ held in Singapore where both ‘Yoga Lin’ and ‘SHINee’, alongside many others were invited. It was a huge venue and I was sitting far away – but together with the ‘fan members’ from the fan forum of Yoga Lin. We had fun among ourselves; it didn’t matter if we were so far away but that night was the first time where I saw SHINee performed ‘live’. There was a song called ‘jojo’ which I thought sounded nice, but once again I didn’t have any spare capacity in my life to be bothered with them – I was busy with university and earning money from part-time jobs.

In the summer of 2010, I went to USA for 3 months (for a work & travel stint), and a friend that I was traveling with had been a fan of Big Bang (and G Dragon). I was slightly getting more exposed to the K-pop genre and when I returned to Singapore in August 2010 – my favourite local radio DJ (the one I have been listening to every night) started introducing K-pop songs as part of his nightly setlist. I’m not sure if he did it because he liked it or perhaps he predicted that it could be the next big thing. Over time, his K-pop session evolved from being just 1 hour per week to a full segment every day. For myself, I continued listening to his radio show because it had been a habit of mine since my younger days. Furthermore, Kangta (the korean singer that made me believe that music has no boundaries) got out of the army in 2010 as well. To add on, Yoga Lin (the one that I had been chasing together with the fan forum members) did not have any new albums in 2010, and without any promotional activities, we did not meet as often that year. So, if you put everything together, there had been a push and pull factor which created the perfect concoction for me to be aware of and eventually end up becoming a fan of SHINee.

Since Aug 2010, I was listening to K-pop songs for at least an hour each night (due to the radio DJ). In addition, as I had been intrigued with the song ‘Jojo’ from before, I started gathering more information about SHINee, started watching their varieties and music/radio shows and before I knew it, I was hooked. Just backtracked my iPhone photo album – the first photo I had of Onew was ‘saved’ on 3 Sep 2010. In case if you’re wondering why Onew, that’s because he was the first member that caught my attention (due to his age) and I was deeply impressed with his vocals after hearing his radio performances. He has the ability to digest a song and do a cover with his own flavour. To be honest, it was similar to the reason why I got attracted to Yoga Lin back then, for having a unique tone and colour which I had never come across before. Anyway, I have to thank the existence of ‘YouTube’ for making me fall for them. Without YouTube, I wouldn’t have gotten so far. By Sep (it only took one month for me to get hooked), I was pretty much crazy over them and by their next ‘comeback’ for ‘Hello’, I was very much into them – watching every of their music performances ‘live’, downloading their performances to re-watch and even watching emcee cuts which were un-subbed. It has been rather intensive back then but it was something that made me happy.

I bought my first kpop album in Dec 2010 and it was SHINee’s ‘Hello’, together with SM Ballad. Since then, I’ve never looked back and probably bought about 10-20 more albums/DVDs to date. Throughout the years, I’ve also ‘live’ attended about 10+ of their performances, ranging from full-fledged concerts (known as SHINee World Concerts) to Fan meetings and also combined concerts and performances. When I first started, I was pretty much a hysterical fan, following their updates religiously on twitter – it would be the last screen I see before I sleep and the first screen I scroll when I wake up. I also wanted to go to Korea for summer school the following year (2011), so I could.. chase them literally. However, in reality, things don’t always go according to plans and I was off to a somewhat rocky start. My friend (the one who I accompanied to the airport when I first saw SHINee) was slowly sliding away from SHINee and K-pop in general. While she was still alright with my sharing, she was losing interest bit by bit. K-pop was slightly different as the community is very big and there weren’t any similar ‘forums/groups’ similar to the one I had with Yoga. As mentioned earlier, it is rather difficult to be ‘crazy’ in this hobby without friends and I was lucky to get connected with another fan (who was originally my GMarket spree customer). We started chatting via really long emails (It was 2010/2011 era) after realising we are both into K-pop and SHINee. Somehow, the conversations didn’t stop and we moved on to MSN (another chatting app that is now gone) and before we knew it, we kind of found other similarities between us and the conversation continues till today – even in things beyond kpop. Also, the next ‘setback’ I had was that the korean university I was bent on applying for summer school was not a ‘partner university’ in my year which meant that I had to pay the full school fees ($5-6k) instead of ($1-2k), which I could have afforded. I was very upset with this news which derailed my plans and ended up unfollowing most K-pop fan accounts on my twitter, because I didn’t want to be too upset at not being able to be in Korea that summer. At that point in time, I thought that if I were to quit K-pop, it was the perfect time to do so as I was upset and being upset and disappointed could be a trigger. However, the next ‘twist’ came when my friend found another university that had more affordable school fees – which we ended up applying and I did make it to Korea eventually but.. despite going all out to be in Korea for 7 weeks, SHINee was busy with their Japan debut. I went through so much.. yet I couldn’t get to see them at all. Ouch.

The consolation was that I ended up ‘liking’ Nichkhun (from 2PM) because of his boyish looks. This was one of the rare celebrities among all that I supported across the many years, because of solely his visuals. Their activities timing were very fitting in my Korea schedule and I even had many chances to see them. Sadly, as I didn’t manage to find any ‘friend support’ within the 2PM fandom, the fallout with them was pretty fast. While I do think that Nichkhun was really handsome, I never bothered myself with their songs or the other members. Apart from having his handsome face as my iPhone wallpaper for the longest time ever, I lost the excitement of following/supporting him as the years go by. But if I look back on my entire ‘idol chasing’ journey, Nichkhun was perhaps the only one I chased literally, as the timing had been perfect. There was also a brief distraction with this group called ‘BEAST’ (now they are known as HIGHLIGHT), and I supported them for a couple of albums because I enjoyed their songs.

Anyway, after my 7 weeks in Korea, I started becoming less enthusiastic about K-pop as time went by. I guess I got busy with life and earning money (to fund more travel plans). I was no longer the ‘updated’ one, but my customer-turned-friend will still share the updates regularly with me. I always tell her that had I not known her, I would have given up on this hobby of mine many years ago.. Across the years 2011 and beyond, I got busy with my full-time employment and I could only fork out time for the main news – new albums (which I still purchase) and concerts (which I attend if I have the time and money). In 2015, I even flew to Japan and attended their 1st ever Tokyo Dome concert alone. It felt really awkward back then because I wasn’t very up to date with their Japanese songs but generally, I enjoy watching concerts so the experience was great even though I was no longer as connected/attached to this hobby of mine.

Everything changed in 2017. First, there was a combined concert in Aug 2017 where Onew sang the theme song for Descendants of the Sun (this viral popular drama then) and his performance that day made me realise how much I missed him/them. However, one week later, he got into a scandal in Korea where there were some accusations against him. He disappeared from the eyes of the public and stopped all activities for 4 months. During that period of absence, I started missing him more and more (you know the saying where they say that you don’t know how much you miss someone until they are gone). I started scrolling through the memories I had with him, the photos and videos, and everything. He also failed to turn up for a schedule planned in Singapore that November. I guess they wanted to wait for the police to clear the charges before appearing back in public officially. It was only on 5 Dec, where he wrote an official apology letter and announced that he will be performing for their February concert the following year. Sadly, the happiness did not last and another member of SHINee, Jonghyun passed on 2 weeks later. That month was a complete wreck for me as apart from this emotional turmoil, I was going through a very tough time in my day job as well. As awkward as it sounds, it was also the same time where I got to know another of my closest fan-friend whom I met at work. We always agree that the way we met had been very exotic, and it was because of the situation back then, which made us even closer today. The last two weeks of Dec 2017 had been a very painful period for me. I was feeling emotions that I never knew existed within me and the hardest part was that I had to pretend that everything was fine (because I was a closet fan). On hindsight, I was happy that I had been a closet fan as my friends who were not, had to deal with a lot of ‘are you feeling okay?’ messages which really don’t deserve any reply; but if you don’t reply, they might think you’re not okay and if you reply you’re fine, you’re lying through your teeth and if you reply you’re not fine, they will struggle to think of words to say to make you feel better and nothing helps. It might be awkward to talk about it here, but it was an important turning point in my life – where I figured out the importance of mental health and the importance of being contended/satisfied and happy. I also came to a realisation that you can’t set a deadline to your emotions and sadness don’t just disappear; it takes time (a long time in fact) to build on more layers to bury the emotions you hope to forget. There’s also no such thing as ‘moving on’, and you shouldn’t pressure yourself (or anyone else) to do so. Anyway, the conclusion of this important chapter in my life was that.. it drew me back to SHINee – and it was also that moment where I decide that they would be the last group that I’ll ever chase.

2018 had not been an easy year for me either. I was very stressed at work and this ‘hobby’ of mine served as a motivation for me to get by. Remember how I mention that apart from just supporting the music from such idols/celebrities, there’s this element where you start understanding their personalities (it doesn’t matter if it is real or just what the company wants them to be), and somehow you are able to find the courage, the confidence, the motivation and the strength to go on. To see SHINee deciding to continue their activities and promotions as a quartet (previously 5 members) and continuing their February 2018 concert (within 2 months of JJong’s passing) was a very courageous decision. At that point in time, I was prepared to quit this whole idol chasing shit if they were to disband as I can’t go through these emotions again. Thankfully for me (as a fan), my idols were stronger than that, and they chose to continue to remain as a band and continue their activities (with the blessings of Jjong’s mum, who probably treat the other members as family). It’s amazing to realise how relationships between fans and idol can be strong enough to overcome tough situations. While we rely on them for entertainment, hope, comfort; they too, rely on the fans support, to keep moving ahead. The February concert was extra painful for me as I had been very stressed at work, was nursing a very bad cough but I knew I had to attend the concert or regret it in the future (as it could be their last). A work event scheduled for the same time got canceled (it was like the forces wanted me to be there) and I set off to Japan for a short 4D3N trip (where only 2 of my colleagues were aware about). 2018 was also the year where Onew had been due for enlistment and no one was sure about how SHINee would be able to continue after the members go to army. In 2018, I went to South Korea again for their final fan meeting. On that trip, I truly considered resigning from my stressful job and taking a gap year (working holiday in NZ) and I even went to a tarot card reader who gave me results that supported the decision. As ridiculous as it sounds, I told myself since Onew was going to be in army, there would be no activities and the timing was the perfect time for me to go for a gap year. To be honest, the decision to go for a gap year may be the best decision I will ever make in my life – it helped me change my perspective on many things. It could have been rather indirect, but SHINee kind of re-assured my decision to go for that break.

Another point I would like to touch on.. although it is a rather weak thought without much justification, is that sometimes I find myself wanting to become a person similar to Onew. There will be days where my friend and I will go on about how he is very caring (especially towards his parents) and how thoughtful he was as a member and a leader. He always thinks of others before himself and he was always willing to take a backseat, for the benefit of others. These are very important qualities of a leader and sometimes I would think about how he would react in such situations, before figuring out if I could do it too. He also ‘taught me’ (indirectly) that it is fine to not be greedy and to be thankful of all the blessings that you have received. Most of the time, people tend to feel jealous of situations and wishing of all the ‘could haves’ and ‘what ifs’ but have you ever thought how lucky you are to be in this situation; and that things could have been a lot worse? He also taught us that there are many ways to say ‘I love you’ and there are many gestures you can do to keep someone in your memory. Many of SHINee stages have traces of Jjongs and even today, when the emcee asked him if he had anything to say to his members, he repeated ‘I Love You’ 4 times, the first 3 times looking at each of the members and the last time, he looked up (probably to the sky). There are many important lessons I’ve picked up from them across the years and I feel really blessed to share this journey with them for so many years.

I know I’ve written a lot and I’m not sure if I’m still being on point about sharing this special/unique/private ‘hobby’ that I have. I was once ashamed and upset with myself for chasing celebrities which I once perceived as a waste of time. But now, I am sharing this ‘hobby’ of mine with people who are willing to go through this long writing of mine. It takes courage for me to write and publish this entry (but then again I know this is kind of a ‘safe space’ as my friends/family don’t read my writing) but I want to be able to reflect upon these thoughts some time in the future. Idol chasing / Supporting a celebrity can be as important as a hobby like Gardening, Baking, Reading or even sports like Swimming or Running. It is capable of giving you opportunities to learn (well I attempted learning korean and perhaps more genres of music), to grow (I grew a lot in mental strength and resilience through the years with them), to be happy (even if I’m having a bad day, a happy video from them has the power of cheering me up) and to find meaning in life. I am not one of those crazy ones that aspire to marry them someday or get to know them on a personal level, but the thought that my support (or perhaps the collative support) means a lot to them and perhaps helps them get by in life, makes everything that I’m doing worthwhile.

Oh and in case you’re wondering what’s the meaning behind their cheesy name ‘SHINee’, it was actually inspired by the employer/employee relationship. As employees are usually on the receiving end, they want to be the ones that receive the light, to shine even brighter.

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Sorry for being random with this post again and thank you for reading through the end.

It was a post that I have written for myself but I guess if you can read till the end, I hope you found it useful in some way or another.

^Cheers

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