[interlude] 200417 RM

RM isn’t my bias.

RM isn’t my bias. My “relationship” (if you can call the act of having and choosing a bias a relationship, which I don’t think you can but it’s 1:20AM and I don’t really have proper words for things rn) with him, as a fan, feels different; the flavor of my admiration is less, “I adore you,” and more, “I look up to you.”

(Well, I’d literally look up to him. The man called Kim Namjoon is a bloody tree.)

There’s a Filipino word that expresses how I feel when it comes to RM. It’s the word paghanga. It means wonder and admire and amazement all at once. It also manages to sound exactly like how I feel: like that catch in your breath when you say “Wow.” That delicate exhalation of breath. Everything is summed up in it.

I’m not making sense right now, am I? I started writing this as a Facebook status, but decided to make it a blog instead, because I felt it would run a bit longer than an FB status has any right to be.

Usually, I’m a really chill stan. I don’t mind when people say they don’t like BTS, or KPop, as long as they leave it at that. I don’t run around picking fights on Twitter or wherever. When ignorant people share (often vaguely racist) hate-memes on Facebook, I just hide post.

The one time I came close to lashing out at someone because of KPop, though, was when someone started explaining why they disliked RM. I won’t share what they said, because I know how ARMY can get online and anyway this came up in conversation and not online. I don’t think they deserve hate for their opinions, especially those brought up verbally and privately.

I think people are allowed to dislike whoever they like. I fully believe that’s a human right, of sorts.

(I also still like the person. Well, as much as I allow myself to like people in general. I’ve been rather guarded since last year, I think.)

If someone insulted Jin, my ult-bias, I’d brush it off with a wave of playful anger and joking indignation. I get a little more defensive about Hobi, my second bias, because he gets more hate about his looks than is unjustifiable. But still, I usually can handle this hate with humor.

I couldn’t do that this time. Instead, I was surprised by a sudden, surprising wave of blinding rage that I had to choke down speaking at all.

RM isn’t my bias. But I like his content the most.

Or, well, that’s not entirely true. I live for Jin’s interview moments and stream his solos with religious fervor. I worship at the altar of Hobi’s stage photos and cannot tear my eyes away from supercuts of his dancing. But when it comes to lives, to logs, to the “personal” minutiae that KPop idols are (sadly) obligated to share…I find myself most inclined to peeking at RM’s inner world.

My last trip abroad was Sydney, late last year. I went for Hillsong conference (I realize I haven’t even blogged about that, but there are some things you just can’t blog about, you know? There aren’t enough right words.), but booked a few extra days before and after.

I don’t remember Sydney as beaches or ferry rides or food or views or nature, though I experienced all those things. Instead, I remember Sydney as a series of art museums: the Museum of Contemporary Art near the harbor. The Art Gallery of New South Wales in the garden district. The Sydney Opera House, with its beautiful acoustics and architecture. The White Rabbit Gallery, tucked away in some far-flung part of town.

When the bright sun and open space and crowds and laid-back energy of Sydney proper got too much for my introverted, easily sensory overloaded self, I retreated into galleries and exhibitions and listening to tour guides explain other people’s thoughts to me.

When my friends asked, afterwards, why my IG stories were so full of galleries, I said it was because I was Namjoon-ing.

I was supposed to go to Seoul in March. I think I’ve said that before.

My favorite place in Seoul is Ttukseom.

Ttukseom Resort Station is RM’s favorite branch of the Han River parks. He wrote Reflection, his solo song from the WINGS era, about it. That was back when he could still visit Han River parks without being noticed. I’m not sure he still can, now, but you can hear the echoes of the beautiful, quiet, steel-and-concrete-and-river-water park in mono, his solo mixtape (“playlist”) from a while back.

The last time I went to Seoul, I followed his footsteps to Ttukseom, chasing, not his ghost exactly, but the ghost of inspiration. I found it. I’ve written songs about the night I spent there.

I write about it still.

When RM travels, he tweets photos from parks and galleries.

For what was supposed to be my third trip to Korea, I’d assembled an itinerary that was pretty much all park and gallery. I had booked a room in a hostel in Hongdae because it was cheap. Where I really wanted to stay, though, was somewhere in Hannam-dong. Hannam-dong has art gallery after art gallery. It has places where you can sit and drink coffee among books. It has basements you can descend into just to listen to music for hours.

When I wouldn’t be there, I’d planned to wander the different parks Seoul had to offer. Haneul Park. The walkways by Cheonggyecheon Stream. And Ttukseom, again and again and again. Chasing the ghost of inspiration.

This has gone on long enough that it sounds creepy and sasaeng-like, so I’d best get around to wrapping things up and explaining myself.

RM isn’t my bias. While I’d like to meet him someday, I wouldn’t make an effort to put myself in his way. If I ever saw him in the street, I would not follow him. I might not even approach, really.

What I do follow, though, are his metaphorical footsteps, the traces he leaves behind of his creative process. RM is not my bias. Instead, he’s something different: “muse” doesn’t cover it, and neither does “inspiration.” This one-sided fan relationship feels like an indirect sort of mentoring, but that word isn’t what I want to mean either.

I take him as a model, but not quite. I go “Namjooning,” but I do it for myself and as myself. I don’t look to draw the same conclusions, or create the same things.

RM is not my bias. But I like watching the man named Kim Namjoon create. I like these rambly Youtube not-quite-vlogs where he ignores the camera and patters on. I don’t understand what he’s saying–I rely on fan translations for that–but I understand what he’s doing, because how many times have I turned my own live camera while practicing piano or writing a song or mixing? How many times have I decided to stay connected while simultaneously not connecting?

To be clear: I know I’m not anything like RM at all. I’m brighter, flashier, more constructed and conflicted and into posterity. I’m a noisier soul. I’m also probably quite a bit dumber than Mr. IQ 148. But these moments feel like moments all creatives, regardless if they’re famous KPop idols or struggling bedroom musicians, share.

I live for these tiny, shared moments, because they’re comforting. They remind me of how I felt hearing Sara Bareilles’s first record on my CD player: “Hey, that sounds like me.”

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s nice to get this little validation, this picture of what’s possible even if it’s a possibility I’ve no capacity to make real.

I watch RM putter around the RKive, rambling disjointedly about his creative process, and it makes me feel less alone, somehow. Like there’s someone out there who maybe doesn’t understand me, but that I understand a little bit of. Just enough that maybe following his threads will lead me to more of myself.

RM isn’t my bias. I am not in love with him. I don’t want to be him. But I admire is work and I’m in awe of his process.

Maybe the best way to sum this all up really is I’m a fan.

Shameless plug: I do go on random, rambly lives where I share my music and such. They’re much shorter than RM’s Youtube live, and they’re on Facebook. I also do casual music theory chats from time to time, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

You can check them out at Drop by and say hello, why don’t you?

[Worldwide Handsome Day, 2019] In Seoul (demo ver.)

Two years ago, I was in the middle of what I have now come to learn was an untreated depressive episode, compounded by major life changes: new job, going back to school, my band breaking up. I was turning twenty-five, an age where I felt people are supposed to have at least some their life together and have something to show for it. Instead I was starting over. I was lost. I was scared. I wanted to give up.

A friend introduced me to KPop, figuring having something else to focus on would help. Instead, I fell down the rabbit hole that is Bangtan Sonyeondan, and fell “in love” with my bias, Kim Seokjin and his solo song, AWAKE. Listening to the lyrics–ones he’d written himself and pushed for, having been rejected 20 times–made me feel like someone had finally understood where I was: knowing I would never fly, but wanting to run a little bit longer.

That year, I would release the first original I would write in Jin’s honor. It was called “Golden,” and it promised that, though I knew Jin’s “legs might get tired” from “chasing down the sky,” the love he put in the world would be worth the exhaustion, because it would always come back to him. I truly believed that for him.

In hindsight, I guess, I also wanted to believe that promise for myself.

“Golden” started something of a tradition: every year, I would record something in view of a December 4, 12AM KST (December 3, 11PM Manila Time) release. It would be a song that was for Jin, but also for me–a recap of the year that was, of the things I was learning, of the person I was becoming as I kept running, just a little bit longer, the way Jin sang that he would.

This year, I find myself in a similar place as two years ago. I am facing major life changes: withdrawing from school, applying to a new course, my job growing in new ways, leaving the org I co-founded. I am turning twenty-seven. I still don’t think I have my life together. I still doubt I have anything to show for the years I’ve spent existing. I am still a little lost. I am still scared.

But I don’t want to give up anymore.

While I am, in many ways, the same girl as I was in 2017–lacking in many ways, making a lot of mistakes–one thing has changed over the years. I’ve slowly learned to let myself believe that I can be better. That I if I just keep running a little longer, when I look back, the distance will be like I flew from where I was to where I’ve ended up.

A few nights ago, me and my two “PD-nims,” Carl and Nik, had discussions on projects for 2020 and 2021. Nothing’s solid yet, but there’s something. I won’t pretend that I don’t still grapple with the negative feelings, the fears and frustrations, that haunted me two years ago. But I’m more hopeful now.

In 2017, I found a song someone wrote for himself, and it gave me hope. This song, written two years later, is a product of that hope, of that idea that if you can just run a little bit longer…things can get better. And they do.

To Kim Seokjin, who will never read this: thank you for your song, which felt like a hand to hold when I needed one.

And, to everyone else who has been a part of this journey so far: thank you for listening. Let’s keep running together, for just a little bit longer. ❤

~ Frankie


Been listening to this specific version of Yellow lately, not because of the lyrics necessarily, but because of the moment in Crazy Rich Asians when it plays. As Director Jon Chu describes it:

“…there’s an intimate story [in CRA] of a girl becoming a woman. Learning that she’s good enough and deserves the world, no matter what she’s been taught or how she’s been treated…The last scene of the movie shows this realization as she heads to the airport to return home a different woman. It’s an empowering, emotional march and needs an anthem that lives up and beyond her inner triumph, which is where Yellow comes in.”

Jon M. Chu in his letter to Coldplay

I haven’t really talked about it, but about two years ago I tried to make the conscious decision to close myself off romantically. To intentionally not like anyone seriously, and shut down any attempts in that direction. I did this because for most of my young adult life, I’d based my self-worth on whether or not I was considered likeable, lovable, beautiful enough for someone to choose.

Suffice it to say, my attempt at closing myself off has failed a few times, with each failure being more painful than the last. I could not get past the internal narrative of “Of course (x) would pick someone else, like someone else. Why would anyone like me?”

The last time I liked someone was the worst. As it became clearer to me that they liked someone else–someone I knew who is, and I do not exaggerate, one of the nicest people in the world, and the most deserving of love–I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how I had been so foolish to think for a second that person would want to be my friend, let alone “like-like” me, as the elementary school kids of my day used to say.

From there, I spiraled, thinking of all the ways I was unworthy: how I was prickly and antisocial to their bubbly and warm; how I was negative and cynical to their positivity; how I was worldly and dark compared to their–and I cringe at my using this word–purity. It didn’t help that these were things I’d heard said about me before: negative, dark cloud, why don’t you smile?

I didn’t belong with them, so why did I think that anyone would want me to belong to them?

I heard Yellow being played at a gig I attended recently.

When I first heard Coldplay’s live version, with its beautiful piano intro, I imagined this song would be played at my wedding. It’s a love song, after all: her skin, her bones, all beautiful, all yellow and glowing and you know I love you so much.

This time, though, when the artist started covering it, I thought of that scene in Crazy Rich Asians, when Rachel Chu decides she is worth it, even if she doesn’t look like Nick’s family, even if she doesn’t fit in at all.

So no, I’m not the nicest person in the world. I don’t smile easy, or often; my happiness looks more like manic neon lights than gentle, glowing sunshine. I may never really stop being slightly pessimistic, imagining the worst case scenario. It takes me a while to trust. For all of my purity ring-wearing, I don’t always think of my mind or my soul as particularly “pure.”

But I think that, at least to myself, I can think of my skin and bones as all beautiful, yellow. That, if no one will sing this to me, I can sing for myself, You know I love you so much.

值得去等候. This love, this slow journey to seeing myself has worthy, it has been worth waiting for. And as I learn, and fail, and learn again, it will still be worth it.