“These days, I’m having a lot of fun. But there’s always this question. Am I really doing right?…I’m wondering what other friends* in their 20s are thinking in their life. What’s on their mind and what they see and feel. I’m really curious about such stuff.”-Jeon Jungkook, BTS Maknae
(The word chingu (친구) in Korean means friend but generally, it is only used in reference to someone that is the same age as you. Given South Korea’s age hierarchy it’s important to note that when Jungkook says “20s” he is only referring to other 20 year olds, NOT decade mates the way we would in an American context.)
A few weeks ago I watched a V app of BTS’s Jungkook. In it, Jungkook wonders what people in their 20s are feeling and whether or not he’s living well and doing right. Truthfully, Jungkook’s question is one that can be asked at any age, but since we’re focusing on the 20s I feel particularly adept at answering. Answering his question, particularly in a public way, is important not just for all the other 20 year olds out there, but also for myself.
Jungkook, about one week ago I turned 20. Amidst the bday posts on Facebook and texts jokingly claiming I’m now a senior citizen, I realized that something felt immensely different. Something had changed, but I knew not what. (Points for you if you get that philosophy reference 😎) During some much needed introspection, I remembered your question and I imagined that this is probably what you felt when you turned 20 earlier this year. There is something about closing off a decade of your life and beginning a new one that is incredibly life altering. Now, not everyone has the same sort of progressively contemplative worldview as us, but for those who conscientiously leave their teens, they leave behind all the drama, angst, joy, sorrow, trivial worries and pursuits, and blissful naivety that accompanied it. This may seem good or liberating, but that opinion ignores the safety of our teens; an assumed innocence or reprieve from oppressive expectations and responsibilities that flees with the arrival of your third decade of life.
I can only speak for myself Jungkook, but this chingu is thinking too many things. I think about where I’m heading and how I am going to get there. I think about all the options that others have made possible for me. I wonder if I’m really worthy of the blessings and love bestowed upon me. I wonder if I will be worthy of all the love I will receive in the future. I worry about my body and mind and making the most of it now. There is a saying that claims “Youth is wasted on the young” and I worry everyday about wasting my youth Jungkook. I worry about my upcoming journey and whether or not the people that are with me now can continue to walk the path with me. I wonder when the flora will grow too dense for them and I will be forced to continue forward on my own, with only memories of their sacrifices and contributions pushing me forward. I worry about the people I will attract on my way to my destination, and if I will have the wisdom needed to discern who will help clear my path and who will work to clutter it.
Gukkie, I too am having fun and I too am wondering if I am living right. I wonder if I am selfish and if this next decade of my youth should be spent on myself or on others. I want to think I can do both Gukkie, but I have enough wisdom to know that in reality it is incredibly difficult to truly do both simultaneously. Self-centered growth requires just as much dedication as other-centered activity and I think the energy for both comes from two opposing places within us. I think these places are so opposed that it’s almost impossible to do both of these things well. I know you don’t know me Jungkook, but this chingu doesn’t do anything halfway; I’ve always been all or nothing.
Jungkook-ah, I see those around me on their own journey and I feel lonely because I feel no one is really sharing themselves fully with anyone else. I see people become conditioned to put themselves first and others second and I am terrified that I will become that; that the portion of my essence that cares deeply for other beings will be trampled upon and destroyed by the very object of its affection. I feel fear. I am afraid of the way I am simultaneously powerful and powerless. I am afraid of my own fearlessness. I am afraid of my fear and its potential to retard my ability to think clearly and courageously. I am afraid of my voice and I am afraid of the places I will go in which no one wants to here it. But I also feel hope and I see a future characterized by it. Jungkook, I hope you can see it too. It is in every flower, every gust of wind, every drop of rain, and every new blade of grass. It is in every birth, every laugh, every smile, and even in every death. It is in you and it is in me and it is in everyone that is determined to not only survive but thrive.
Jeon Jungkook, I also don’t have many friends in their 20s but I have many that have gone ahead of me and many that will come after me. We are so very typical Gukkie and yet we are so very special. This time is precious and apart of our 花樣年華, our most beautiful moment in life. Continue to have fun and continue to search and question. Just continue as you are now, and if you can say that one day, you will look back at your 20s and be satisfied with the person you were then you are doing right. Let’s continue to run together Jungkook, me, you, all of BTS and all of ARMY. See you at 21!