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[Community] Falling sideways into healing

It was early 2009 and I was in college; living by myself in a different country from my family. At the same time I was dealing with a devastating long-term illness that made not only attending school but just performing the basic functions of life a daily battle. I wasn’t well enough to take more than one class at a time, and even that was a herculean effort that took me days to recover from—especially given that my nights were given over to pain and insomnia.

Around the same time, I had fallen sideways into the endless, addicting black hole that was Asian dramas. My long love for anime had led me to reading manga, because I wanted to know how Inuyasha ended and The Final Act had yet to air. After I finished Inuyasha, I discovered the classic manga Hana Yori Dango, and a fruitless search for a subbed version of the (apparently terrible) ’90s anime led me instead to the live-action drama. I never looked back, and devoured every Japanese drama on MySoju. They got me through the long nights, and distracted me from the reality of my dire situation—J-drama’s uniquely dry, wacky humor and short seasons were perfect to cheer me up. Hani Yori Dango is still a nostalgic favorite (and it holds up!).

But then I ran out of shows to watch. So I took the plunge and finally clicked on the extremely weird-sounding K-drama that had consistently been the top-rated show for all the months I’d been visiting MySoju’s home page: The First Shop of Coffee Prince, featuring a bunch of dudes in black vests. Okaaay.

I don’t need to tell any of you what happened next. Japanese shows might have brought laughter into my life after a very long time—and a few very special ones deeply moved me. But Korean dramas completely wrapped themselves around my heart and delivered an emotional experience that transported me completely from the life I was living. I still remember Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji-won) saying in Secret Garden that Oska’s music was like a painkiller for her, and that’s why she would be a lifelong fan of his. It’s corny as hell, but it’s exactly how I feel about K-dramas.

It was on Soompi that I first came across a mention of Dramabeans. It’s been over ten years so things are a bit hazy, but I think it was an article about the Korean adaptation of Hana Yori Dango, which was basically catnip to me, although I ended up hating Boys Over Flowers and dropped it after a few episodes. It didn’t matter though—I had found my community here at Dramabeans, and it became one of the few sites I visited every single day. Not only had I found a place to discuss the shows I had been watching alone–to the mystification of my family members (whom I later brought over to the dark side, mwahaha)–more important were the friendships I made here, first as a Beanie, then much later, as a recap minion.

These were some of the darkest days of my life. I was struggling to even make it to class once a week, when even getting dressed to go out was an excruciating ordeal. I spent most of my time alone at home, because the chemicals that I would encounter in the outside world were so severely debilitating to me—and it was hard for anyone to come over for the same reason. My mom visited as often as she could, but it was difficult considering that she had my very young sister to take care of. Even when she came, the jet fuel that entered the house with her would make me sick for days. I was never not in pain.

I say all this to express how very much I needed to escape into the world of gorgeous actors and beautiful clothes, of the bonds between lovers, friends, and family that can overcome anything. They gave me all the beauty and comfort and happy endings that I could not dream of for myself when I didn’t even know if I would be able to survive my illness, let alone live some semblance of a normal life. But K-dramas gave me love. They gave me healing. They made me swoon and laugh and sob. They broke my heart over problems I didn’t have so that I could finally grieve for what I had actually lost. They gave me music (oh, did they ever).

And they opened up the world to me when I was confined to a small room. Not only did I make online friends when I wasn’t able to go out and meet my real-life ones, I found a whole new language and culture that I had been woefully ignorant of before. Korean language and culture were fascinatingly new and yet delightfully familiar all at once. As an Asian American I’ve never once felt represented on U.S. television, and while I’m not Korean, K-dramas did provide me with a level of comfort and recognition. Here was a family dynamic that looked a bit like mine, sensibilities that I both value and have struggled with in older members of my family, emotionally complex storytelling from a female point of view—and I identified with all of it so viscerally. Even the very fact of watching an entire cast of people of color onscreen, even if they didn’t look or talk like me, was such a novel and thrilling experience.

So here I am today: much healthier and able to live a full and fulfilling life, even if I have setbacks now and then, and doing my Master’s in Critical Asian Humanities at a highly competitive university. I’m planning to write my thesis about something that directly relates to the questions brought up by my experience watching Korean television as a nomadic descendant of South Asian immigrants. My people have our own complicated history with borders drawn by colonizers in the aftermath of a long occupation, and I’m fascinated by the ideas of national identity that have taken hold in these young, postcolonial nations and how they’re expressed through culture and media. Korea is one of my focus areas, and Korean is what I’m using to fulfill my program’s Asian language requirement.

On a less academic (but still very nerdy) note, I now co-host a podcast about K-dramas with two friends I first met because we all wrote for Dramabeans. They’re only some of the amazing people I’ve met writing for this site; forever friends even though we’ve never met in real life. Recapping also showed me how much I love to write about pop culture, so now I regularly write movie reviews (I’m a baby film critic!). I found the true meaning of storytelling, and the desire to share that meaning with others.

Most of all, this decade–with all its ups and downs and changes–has had one constant. I finished my undergrad and moved from Canada to the U.S. where my family is; I emerged from my long, dark tunnel of illness and figured out my next step. All the while, I had this community by my side. I carried you all in my pocket when I stood waiting for the bus in those frigid Toronto winters. I lived for the excitement of waking up to your comments the day after I had spent 14 hours on a recap, writing through pain and exhaustion during the particularly rough periods. Beanies made me laugh and think—and sometimes moved me to tears—with your hilarious wit, your intelligence, and your kindness to each other and to me. It’s been the best fandom experience of my life, and I’m confident that nothing else will top it. You are the awesomest, and I can’t believe such an incredible corner of the internet even exists.

To my Dramabeans community: thank you. ❤︎

 
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Love you, Laica!!! (((HUGS)))

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💚💚💚*bear hug*

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Did I just cry a bit reading this? Yes. I love the photos you used (Misaeng <3). I feel the same way with my discovery of the korean industry. Being of a multicultural descent, I always felt like my culture was never represented well on television. And what do you know, korean culture felt new, yet not too unfamiliar to my home life. You are no doubt one of the reasons DB is what is it, so thank you!

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I'm not crying there's just dust in my eye... *ahem*

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There's a lot of dust flying around all of a sudden.

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A lot of dust, a lot of onions, a lot of ninjas yes...

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The ninjas are chopping onions. Alas, they hadn't cleaned their throwing knives first... (they needed a dyson ppl in their armory stat)

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@leetennant now I'm picturing a ninja roomba chopping onions with throwing stars.

I'll see myself out.

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I'm not googling "Roomba ninja" or anything right now.

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Been meaning to speak to the powers that be about the dust situation.

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@leetennant ChinguMode,
Omo! Do I spy a Dyson PPL coming to a DB thread any second now?! LOL!

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Roomba ppl > Dyson ppl

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Dyson is domesticity
Roomba is love

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*wipes tears*
You’re the awesomest too!
*finger hearts*

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@laica
I'm not crying - it is those damn onions I had to chop up for a potluck tomorrow.
totally feel your words. You are loved and you know it. What a blessing right?
thanks for all your hard work over the years I've been a part of DB.
*hugggggsssss*

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I swear some ninjas are chopping onions next to me.
This is beautiful, raw, and heartwarming, @laica. And yes, I'm still amazed that such an incredible corner of the internet even exists.

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This is beautiful @laica! Am I crying or is someone cutting onions nearby? So glad you're better, and so glad you found dramas and dramabeans.

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Thanks for the lovely post, Laica. I'm glad you're doing better now and hope you stay healthy, and stay with DB for a long, long time!

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@laica 😘😘😘😘🥰🥰🥰🥰😍😍😍😍

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EVERYONE CUE THE GIANT GROUP HUG!!!

*hugs*

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Awwww what a trip down memory lane! Thank you for sharing your community experience, Laica. Your experience really hits home! I watch anime, read manga as well. My first few Asian dramas began with Taiwanese dramas, but it wasn’t until Full House that I discovered my love/obsession for Korean Dramas and the journey to actively participating in online communities began

Dramas and drama communities have been a part of my life since I was 18. Twelve long years, I had thought somewhere along the way I’d grew out of my obsession with dramas, but nope, I realized then and now that they have been my sweet escape when things get really tough in real life. Every milestone in my life from the moment I started transitioning out of highschool and preparing for uni life, dramas and online communities have been with me. I believe dramas will still take a big part of me for the next decade and on, and I do hope Dramabeans and everyone here will still be around by that time too!

D-Addicts, Soompi, Onehallyu, Dramabeans, Rabb.it - I’m so grateful that these communities were with me whenever I needed a place to hang out and that I also got to chat with people online that I shared/share same interest with. ♥️

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Wow!!! Such a heartfelt, beautiful and personal writing!!! Thank you, Laica. Thank you so much for melting my heart this way. I hope you are really recovered. I could identify with you because I also suffer a chronic illness, although it has never been so bad as to keep me looked in a room. But I have my holes. Fighting!

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Y'all are totally making me cry.

Giant group hugs all around! 💚💚💚

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Awwww did I just shed a tear on a subway while reading this during a mini rush hour?? Yaaas

Thank you for what you do in this community Laica! Beanies are indeed awesomest!

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Laica, you amaze me! I’ve always enjoyed your recaps, and hope you are successful in your graduate studies! This is a lovely site and I’m so glad that you are here. (And there’s the MySoju site again. Curiouser and curiouser.)

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You are such a strong person @laica, I can't even imagine what you've gone through.

Your post makes me think I have taken Dramabeans for granted. I don't have any chronic illness or dark periods but DB has nonetheless made a difference in my ordinary life.

"I can’t believe such an incredible corner of the internet even exists." Amen and amen to that!

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This was so beautiful, @laica
I can definitely relate to turning to dramas to help get us through difficult times. I'm so glad things are better for you now.
*hugs*

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Thanks @laica for this wonderful write up. I wish you all the best with your studies and health. Flighting!!

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That is hilarious, we got into dramas almost exactly the same way! I loved your post, @laica~

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I enjoy the comedy, snark and camaraderie I find here. Dramabeans is a refuge for me too. Thank you @laica for your writing and for the podcasts. I continue to look forward to both. Good luck with your studies as well (and thank you for sharing about your studies on the podcasts.)

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@laica I have been on hiatus in the comment section because of my crazy work schedule. But I can’t help logging in to my DB account after reading your post. Like everyone else, I feel so emotional right now knowing your journey to kdrama, what you went through and what you are still going through. I am always thankful to the DB recappers who spend their time just to give us a summary of each episode’s happenings as this also gives us a platform to share our thoughts about that certain drama and communicate with our fellow beanies. But what you are doing is miles extra special and for that a big hug and thank you so much! I wish you well and always in good spirits. Know that you have your DB community who loves you and will be “virtually” here for you. Cheers to life, love and happiness! 🥂😘💋

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i am so glad you're doing better. i'm sorry it was so hard for you.

my journey, as i suspect many others who find solace on the internet, is filled with a lot of pain and sorrow too. and, yea, asian dramas just fill some sort of void. when i first came to DB it was years ago then i took a loooong break. but dramas were in my life in the worst worst worst worst times. it's not embarrassing (i often find things to be tbh) but there's this whole world out there usually in 12-16 episodes and when it's right, it's right. the heart is there. i can't believe it's been that long with dramas for you!

city hall is one of my faaaavorites! also i would love to see your film reviews! i love film and am a ~filmmakeur~~~~

i know the world in general is struggling right now, particularly the US, but i am glad you're back with you're family. i hope you're doing better.

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City Hall is one of my top dramas of all time, and it got me through a particularly difficult period.

Look for a movie review soon, I hope!

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Every now and then I come across the story of Beanies and I get goosebumps! Touching, moving, amazing, ... and I am able to continue listing all the adjectives in this category because every single if them can be true.
I read all the comments and nothing I wanted to say is left unsaid. I just want to repeat “ I’m proud to be among you”. DB gave me a chance to meet lots of wonderful people💙 wish you the best.

And YES to all the onion/dust comments.

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My dear @laica many hugs 🤗 😍 What a lovely, personal sharing! I've still crying but smiling at the same time. Thank you for this.

I second and third all you say about this wonderful community and I am so happy and proud to be a part of it.

Congrats on getting on with your Masters and all the best with your thesis and movie reviews. What fun to be able to write about the things that matter so much to you and which you enjoy, and then get a degree out of it!! 😉

I wish you much good and robust health and many fulfilling hours writing! 😘

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Thanks @laica. What a beautiful essay on perseverance.
Good luck on your graduate studies and good health!
The beanies above express their thoughts much better than me so everyone gets a thumbs up.

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Thank you Laica.
Hugs 🤗😍💜

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Woow, this post really touched me! Giving lots and lots of hugs <3 <3

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@laica, you are an inspiration and, like everyone else, I have tears in my eyes from reading your very personal story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Beanies are the best ❤️

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This is a beautifully written essay. I am continuously astonished at the talent, intelligence, and sheer volume of empathy that can be found in this community. Like many others I too found dramas Dramabeans during a low point in my physical and mental health, and the people here with their wit and warmth have been very much an instrument in the journey to health. It's weird, isn't it, that a niche site about Korean dramas became such source of fellowship? The overlords and minions deserve a huge pat on the back for creating and maintaining this space.

I always enjoy your writing, and I wish you success as you continue your studies.

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Thank you Laica for sharing your story. Asian drama is very much my painkiller but fortunately for me not for dealing with the excruciating physical condition but rather to mute the pain facing the political reality of the country I have immigrated to. Just like you, watching an entire cast of people of color onscreen provides me so much comfort especially dealing with the current blatant racist rhetoric of politicians and covert racist attitude of a few people I work with.

Even though I had started watching dramas 3 years ago to mute the pain, but once I've joined Dramabeans, the community becomes my happy pill! Your lovely, intelligent, and funny podcast "Dramas Over Flowers" together with @saya and Paroma @festerfaster is one of the reasons of what makes the community wonderful.

Beanies, if you are able please support these lovely Beanie Minions by donating as little as $1 each month their contribution to fandom:
https://www.patreon.com/dramasoverflowers

Thank you for all you do, especially for those excruciating recaps which took 16 hours to write.......could it be for Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food? 😱😱😱That drama is no painkiller.
*shudders my way to Jeju Island

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I am so on board with painkiller factor. for a long time I numbed my mental pain with dramas. then real life happened. AUCH. but somehow, no matter how much real life has hurt me and maybe I will never heal, I don´t watch dramas any more. I still occasionally watch music shows.

I feel like I can write dramas now, though. the material is rich. but that would mean going through it all over again.

I am very tempted to take the painkiller. But I resist.

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Dear Laica,

Thank you for your uplifting and inspiring essay. I'm in such good company with my sniffling Beanie buddies.

*passes around virtual tissue box*

Like you, I've had the great good fortune to meet numerous kind souls and kindred spirits here at the greenest oasis on the interwebs. It has been my privilege and pleasure to read many of your recaps. I'm glad to know that your health has improved so much since your early Kdrama days. Keep writing. ;-)

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Thanks for sharing your story, Laica! And most of all, I'm so glad to read you're doing much better now. We're so thankful to you!

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❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

Glad to hear that you're doing better, and your thesis sounds super interesting!

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A very large hug hug from a fellow South Asian @laica. Your story inspires me to do much more and not make excuses for myself. I applaud your strength and grit. Power to you ma'am

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To cry while reading and then find out that all the others have done the same...
Thanks for the marvellous and beautiful post, @laica ! You're truly gifted with words and you're a person to draw examples from.
I hope your Masters and the life that follows become successful and happiness-filled.
And those are some really apt screencaps. Especially the one below the true meaning of storytelling part, reminds me of a bonfire-storyteller.

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I am glad that you are healthier.

You are not the first person to discover that BOYS OVER FLOWERS is not he equal of the (live action) HANA YORI DANGO- but it does have its moments.

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Thank you @laica.
Thank you for sharing your journey and for giving us such a thoughtful insight into your life. Dramas have brought me respite when I was dealing with overwhelming chronic pain as well. I am not of Asian descent, but I live in a different country from the one in which I grew up. Drama Beans and Beanies hold a special place in my heart. I count many of my online friends as true, dear friends and am very grateful for this kind, caring, rambunctious, discussion loving fun, talented, absolutely amazing community.
Thank you for this essay and for the many ways you have helped to shape this place.
Fighting!

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I meant to read this piece for a long time now but wasn't mentally prepared to read and comment so first of all thanks @laica for your wonderful piece.
I'm glad you're feeling better and I wish you never encounter any setbacks in your health and life *many many Hugs*
Fighting in your studies 💖💖💖

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