[Hey, that’s me] The mouse in the sharehouse
Just a small town girl / Livin’ in a lonely world / She took the city bus, goin’ to Beeeelle Epoque. Yup, that’s me. Or, I should say, that’s Yoo Eun-jae from JTBC drama Age of Youth. As Eun-jae, a bundle of nerves, stepped out of her bus and entered what would be her new home and new life, I had this fluttering feeling in my stomach. Within those first few minutes, something told me that I was seeing my life play out in a K-drama.
I’d related to youth dramas and their characters before, but never to that degree. It was little Miss Eun-jae that shook me to my core, we were so similar. I was also a small town girl who moved to a… er, slightly larger small town. But I was in a completely different state, there to get some space from my parents and to pursue my undergraduate studies. I shared a dorm room with one other person (rather than four, thank god). And because I was as reserved and passive as Eun-jae, I handled the roommate situation as terribly as she did. I was her, all the way down to the incoherent mumbling.
Age of Youth’s depiction of multiple girls living under one roof was scary realistic. From Ye-eun gradually stealing spoonfuls of Eun-jae’s jam to Yi-na accusing her of failing laundry duty. While watching the show, I would nod and think Yes! My roommate totally did that! Or Yes! That was so frustrating! I knew Eun-jae’s specific type of frustration all too well — those conflicting feelings of having someone be a pain in my side and being afraid that I was just as much a pain for them.
It’s always hard to articulate my personality, to explain it to people who don’t really know me. Sometimes I wish I could just show them this drama and be like Here. This is what it’s like for me. Not being able to speak up. Not being heard when you do speak up. Dreading how others will react. I actually had my mom watch the drama for the first time recently, and she practically died laughing. “That is exactly how you are!” she would gasp between giggle fits. And because of the tasteful way the drama dealt with its humor, I, of course, was able to laugh too.
Yeah, a lot of the situations Eun-jae found herself in were hilarious and awkward, but because they were so close to my life, it was kind of cringe-worthy. Depressing, almost.
Like Eun-jae, I would hold all of my negative feelings in, and make things worse by overthinking everything. I’d seen characters like this in other movies, TV shows, and K-dramas, but Age of Youth gave the character of Eun-jae a small dosage of darkness, as it did with the other four housemates.
This shyness of Eun-jae’s was more than a shyness. It was anxiety, in its deepest and darkest form. And we saw that with her backstory. She had the heartbreaking story of losing someone, with an unsolvable mystery behind that loss. There was so much ambiguity there — memories were fuzzy and emotions were clashing.
For Eun-jae and myself, the anxiety is this terrifying monster that is constantly preying on us. It crushes what little strength we might’ve had and feeds on our fear, growing bigger and bigger. And at some point, the monster has taken so much away from us that it can seem like we’re empty. We become empty vessels that run solely on fear.
I believe that is what Eun-jae felt lying on the roof as she was questioning her past. It echoed how I felt at school, after I’d made certain decisions that made me think I ruined my life. Thankfully, when Eun-jae came back down, she had her four friends waiting right there to fill her back up. It reminded me of my own friends and family who would do everything they could to make me feel whole again.
I will say, though, that once we got into season 2, my connection with Eun-jae started to fade. I still related to her passive-aggressive attitude (on a spiritual level), but the lengths she was going to to win back her ex-boyfriend Jong-yeol felt…off. Maybe because I related to her so much, and I myself wouldn’t dare attempt those things, I questioned why she would. It seemed like a weird change of character.
But I think it was because I had merged me and Eun-jae into one, and my thoughts had become less She wouldn’t do that and more I wouldn’t do that. It was quite disorienting, actually, having to separate myself from this character to truly understand her and why she would act that way. I mean, who knows? Maybe I would act the same way, if my feelings were to push me that far. Then again, there’s no way in hell that my best friend would let me. She’d hold me back and wave her finger at me.
Side note: That’s the one thing I hold against Eun-jae’s housemates. You girls should’ve held her back! Pinned her down! Deleted Jong-yeol’s number, something!
While I have nothing against the actress who took over in season 2 — because she was great as well — it was Park Hye-soo’s portrayal in season 1 that created that bond with me and the character. Her smallness in both appearance and soul was just spot-on to how I feel in everyday life.
She was about as small and quiet as a mouse, but her heart and mind were colorful and loud. And seeing her housemates learn to love both the quiet and loud sides of her — ah, it gave me all the warm fuzzies. I haven’t seen another show that made me cherish the beauty of friendship quite this much.
Tags: Theme of the Month