It would be a forgotten box. It would be an old box.
It would be a box of days gone by.
Yes, that definition I like. That sums it up nicely.
I would still remember the day I had sealed it with that ridiculous Hello Kitty duct tape; I would probably use it because I couldn’t find the normal kind and I would think it would be funny when I finally saw it again. I’d be sitting cross – legged on the bedroom floor, just as I do now, looking at the plethora of pictures and albums and other merchandise lying at my feet. I would admire every single item before it went in, and promise that one day I would come back for it. And when I would close and seal the box, I’d write on the cover in bold black marker:
Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa
Then I’d put the box on the rack above my closet, looked around my empty room one last time, and then make my way to the airport.
I’d leave behind my teen years and go off to university.
Thirty years later, I would find the box again, buried behind other remnants of my youth. I would find it under a broken dream catcher and my Famous Five collection, retrieve it carefully, and stare at it a good long while before deciding to open it.
I would slit the duct tape carefully with a scissor; I wouldn’t want to risk tearing the box by peeling it off. The Nike shoe box, once sturdy but now yellowed and peeling, would threaten to fall apart in my hands. The sound of ripping tape would fill the room; I would work with bated breath. The very air would be thick with anticipation, yearning, and a twinge of sadness.
Very carefully, I would lift the cover of the box. There would be two trays inside, each labelled neatly with a pink permanent marker:
I would smile.
I would like to look through the items in order. The first tray that would come out would be the one titled One Direction. The picture on the top would be the one I’d taken with their wax figures in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London the very first time I’d visited. I’d sat down next to Niall, and grinned like an idiot, because I’d been hyperventilating
Below it I would find a whole collection of technicolor wristbands emblazoned with the members’ names, bands I’d never worn because my wrist was too small, but bands I took pride in owning anyway.
I would find their movie CD, and remember how me and my best friend had travelled an hour and half in horrible rush hour traffic to catch the premier show across town. I would remember the friends we’d made waiting outside the theatre, how we’d screamed for the whole movie, and how we’d been tossed out for making such a racket.
I would recall sitting up late with my friends clutching pillows and laughing at their stupid jokes, or dancing like wild flamingos to their songs, or even getting emotional and lying in silence on the bed just enjoying their voices.
These would be fond memories for me, because I haven’t had many genuine people in my life. And the One Direction boys, I feel, were genuine. They spoke humbly, and cheered me up on those days when I was really depressed. They couldn’t dance, but they tried and it was hilarious. Another fan once made a comment about their songs which really stuck with me:
They sing what we want to hear, and no boys, no one says to us.
I couldn’t agree more.
I’ll be honest. I was too bitter and upset as a thirteen – year – old to believe in love. Love to me then, was like the Loch Ness Monster. Some claim that they’ve seen it, but no one really knows for sure. But One Direction’s music, really made me want to find it. And why wouldn’t it? When witty, attractive boys sing of the chemistry between two people and it’s beauty, who wouldn’t believe them?
They were unapologetically themselves, and I wasn’t. But they inspired me to be. I hadn’t been a happy person back then. But they made me want to try at least. Sure, the Directioners were a little more emotional than I would have liked, but they were a lovable, honorable and supportive bunch.
I was a proud member of a prestigious fandom. Whatever anyone said.
And then the tenth grade got over.
I passed out of school, and moved from a distant suburb to the heart of the city. Zayn left the band, and One Direction became a four – piece act. I began my college life in a new school with people who were very different. One Direction disbanded, and the members scattered. Five years a fan, and I never even got to go to a single concert.
The end of an era. School was over. Childhood was over.
I had to start growing up.
All these thoughts would cloud my mind, and I would put down the One Direction tray with a jolt, finding that a tear had traced itself down my cheek. I would wipe it off and pick up the other tray.
A new chapter would open in my mind.
Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa. Even the name on the box had come from the name of one of their albums. As a matter of fact, it was the first BTS album I listened to.
Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa. The most beautiful moment in life. That was what it meant.
And BTS was certainly a part of mine.
You see, I was a little different in college.
I had always been at the top of the food chain in school. Not socially you understand, but academically. I’d proven myself when I was very young, and I rode that wave till I left. But in college, I was just another new face in a sea of very capable kids. I had to make my bones all over again. I was struggling for the first time in my life.
People here had been brought up differently. Things that were pedestrian in their lives were a rare treat for me. For a long time I felt like a jigsaw puzzle piece with a broken end. I knew that I was part of this puzzle, that I belonged here and that I deserved to be among these people, but I didn’t really fit.
I’d also started to seriously pursue my interest in languages. I began to write more, and read old English classics. I began to research Latin, and from there branched to other languages. It got to a point where I would wake up some mornings and spend an hour reading epitaphs from old Greek tombstones just for the hell of it. I would spend whole afternoons on anime and Japanese music.
It was from there that I graduated to K – pop. But BTS’ music I fell in love with for very specific reasons.
Those songs were lyrically very beautiful. They sang about things that I identified with. They were about being young and uncertain, young and rebellious, young and carefree. They inspired me to try harder and make things happen for myself. They inspired me to keep my chin up and accept myself and the kind of person I was becoming. They taught me to take pride in the fact that I didn’t fit, and make being an anomaly something awesome. They made me appreciate how stressed and busy I was; those things meant that I was hustling, and close to my goal.
They sang more about friendship than love. I realized that the two weren’t mutually exclusive, and scratched finding love off my to – do list. I realized that I didn’t need it; friendships were enough. If I was ever to come across it, I wouldn’t deny it, but if it wasn’t in the cards for me, I was perfectly okay with that.
I had grown up in a single year. I had realized that maturity isn’t what makes a grown up. It’s contentment and acceptance.
With that, I would close the box. I would cry a great deal, because I was older and knew better and they had nothing left to teach me. I would cry because I wasn’t seventeen and idealistic anymore, with a life of possibilities just waiting to be lived. But then I would remember the line from BTS’ Whalien 52:
We cried a lot and laughed a lot, but it was so beautiful.
Yes, I would nod to myself. It was beautiful.
It was the most beautiful time in my life.
It was my Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa.