My humanities project is on the K-pop group called BTS. BTS helped me overcome my challenges in life, helped me feel better about myself, and helped me become happier than I was 5 years ago. I had it rough in jr high. No one wanted to be my friend or wanted to talk to me. I was all alone and no one had the same interests as me at that time. At that time I was into Anime and Manga and wanted a friend who shared that same interest as me, as I try my hardest putting myself out there and with my mom’s words echoing through my head saying “ Just be your own self Kelsey, you are who you are, don’t be ashamed of it.” I have always stuck to my mom’s voice in my head every day when I go to school because it helped me calm down. I also wish that I didn’t have my iPod during my jr. high years, as I was addicted to it like everyone else with their phones. I ruined myself more and more. I put myself down a lot and didn’t want to talk to my family or play games with them. I didn’t want to go out anymore with friends as I always became the third wheel and I didn’t dress like myself. I wish I could go back in time and changed the way I acted and the way I was feeling, but that wasn’t the case. I also had a bad time in school, not just with friends, but with assignments and teachers. I was having a hard time understanding what was being taught to me and processing it through my head. I was always afraid of asking for help as I had that voice in the back of my head telling me that the teachers would yell at me or wouldn’t help me. I always knew something was wrong with me and how I learned ever since elementary school. I found out that I have a learning disability in the 3rd term of my 10th-grade year. I had a really hard time in Math and English as I had been in and out of a regular English class since 7th grade and missing those concepts that I should’ve learned. At this time I was a little bit into BTS and have known of them but haven’t researched them at all.

I decided to watch a video called “YouTubers React to K-Pop.” on Youtube. In that video, there were 4 groups that the youtuber’s were reacting to. One group stood out to me like 7 boys were calling my name, saving me from the troubles that I was facing. That group was BTS. I wanted to learn more about them and wanted to see what they were about.

The video that made me a fan today is called “Dope.” The music video started to play and I felt something change in me, and slowly made me happy. The leader of the group named RM started out saying “어서 와 방탄은 처음이지.” Which translates to “ Come on. You’re the first Bulletproof?” RM said it with a smile as he was introducing me to a whole new fandom right before my eyes. I didn’t know any Korean at that time, but it gave me the chills. And it still does to this day. It made me feel welcomed and loved.

I showed my mom BTS a few months later after my experience and showed her the “Dope” music video. She was happy that I was happy and becoming anew with this new experience right before my eyes. I thought she would hate it and tell me not to listen to them anymore. My mom was also showing interest in them. (I think she is secretly an Army as well).

On August 24, 2018, BTS came out with a new song called “Idol” that talks about loving yourself and being yourself and not listening to what the haters say because they are not you. This song made me different today because of the meaningful lyrics. BTS also spoke at the UN on September 24, 2018. The leader named Kim Namjoon spoke and talked about his life growing up in Ilsan. He said a line in a song in their earlier albums saying, “My Heart stopped when I was 9 or 10” (Washington Post, 2018). Looking back he began to worry what other people thought about him and started to look through their eyes. He stopped looking up at the stars and jammed himself in what molds people made for him. He shut his own voice and listened to others talking for him. “No one called out my name, Neither did I” (Washington Post, 2018). It took a long time for music to call out his real name. After Making BTS there were a lot of hardships that they went through. Most people won’t believe them now, but back then a lot of people thought they were hopeless. Sometimes he just wanted to quit. “We will keep falling and stumbling.” Kim Namjoon stated that BTS is huge worldwide, selling out stadiums and becoming more popular by the day. In reality, he is just a regular 24-year-old man. After releasing their Love Yourself album and releasing the Love Yourself campaign with UNICEF, they have heard and seen a lot of messages from their fans about how this album and campaign has helped them through their trials and hard times. It helped them to love themselves even more. “So, let’s take one more step. We have learned to love yourself. So I urge you to speak yourself” (Kim Namjoon, Washington Post, 2018).

At the end of RM’s speech, he asked us this one question and that question has been stuck in my head since I watched the video and the question is- “What is your Name? What excites you and makes your heart beat? Tell me your story. I want to hear your voice and I want to hear your conviction” (Kim Namjoon, Washington Post, 2018). He also added, “No matter who you are, where you are from, your skin color, your gender identity. Just speak yourself.” (Kim Namjoon, Washington Post, 2018) I played this video over and over again because it hit me so hard and I wanted to take RM’s challenge and love myself and feel good about myself and not listen to what other people say about me.

2018 has been my year to find that voice inside me and expand my horizons. The song Idol and RM’s speech helped me find a friend that needed me and my help. She is from Japan and she is an exchange student. She has been having a hard time living here in the United States. When I heard her hardships with the host family she was living with, and how stressed she was, I used my voice and offered to let her stay with my family until she goes back home. I realized when she started living with me that I completed RM’s challenge. I used my voice and help someone in need and made myself happier than 5 years ago. I’m a whole different person than I was before, and more open to other people around me because I love myself.

– Kelsey Smith (Writer)