[Hey, that’s me] A mirror I don’t want to see
by Guest Beanie
I’m not someone who can easily share about myself, so this month’s theme left me hesitating a lot despite knowing exactly what I could write. I think it would probably be easier if the “me” I found on those dramas was someone I only related to superficially. Someone that simply reminded me of the silly and unexpected episodes of my life. But the “me” I kept seeing on my screen was someone I didn’t want to see, someone I tried to grow out of, someone I desperately wanted to forget. It’s a blessing that they only appeared in glimpses, never long enough for me to relive the ugly and sharp feeling “past me” used to grapple with. But that was before I stumbled onto a new mini drama called Seventeen-Year-Old’s Condition (a.k.a. Everything And Nothing) last month.
It all started because I needed a filler watch while waiting for the my airing dramas’ new episodes, and this mini youth drama seemed like a perfect answer. I didn’t expect to find a dark gem. And I certainly didn’t expect it to hit me like a ton of bricks.
I’ve watched my share of drama characters who hide their insecurities and vulnerabilities under a tough act, brash words, or forced cheerfulness. In that sense, the heroine Seo-hyeon was a very familiar character despite the darker choices she made compared to other teenagers in youth dramas. Go Min-jae though, was someone I’d rarely seen explored in dramas. The moment I understood how he used his silence as an impenetrable armor, I felt like I was being forced to watch my younger self: a kid who spoke using their wordlessness. A kid I don’t want to see reflected on my screen.
I wanted to look away. But the more I saw Min-jae, the more I felt attached to him. I understood him and his “weird” choices and reactions so well. It felt like I could hear what he was thinking at any given moment, and I found myself wanting to see more of his painfully relatable journey.
Min-jae wasn’t the only introverted character I’ve encountered in dramas. But in him, I recognized my own tendency to avoid confrontation. It was a familiar sight to see him repeatedly swallow down a frank question or change his knowing answer into an amiable, yet meaningless, “yes”. And whenever his mother had to prod him for hours for an answer or any reaction whatsoever, it reminded me keenly of the dynamics that once existed between my mom and me.
While other dramas usually interpret an introvert’s quietness as social awkwardness, with Min-jae and me, there’s a strong sense of futility behind our silence. There are rarely words adequate enough to convey our feelings or thoughts to others. Maybe we were being disillusioned too young with the knowledge that the real world is much crappier and stranger than fiction. And that knowledge colored the way we processed the outrageous things that happened in our lives.
When a certain incident with a trusted mentor happened in Min-jae’s life, he stoutly chose to barricade himself behind his silence rather than explain to his mother the real reason he quit that class. Because he never thought an educator would teach him something so base. Because he thought his mother would tell him that he only misunderstood it. And I fully understand that. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t be able to tell my mom either that my mentor rewarded my high score with free sex. But now, years after I started to unlearn that unhealthy habit, I saw his choice (and mine in the past) for what it was: our arrogance in assuming what others thought without ever telling them what actually happened. I could hear my mom’s words clearly in my mind while watching that scene, how she wanted me to start sharing about my thoughts and problem instead of putting words into her mouth. I looked at Min-jae and saw the long years he would need to finally grasp that lesson.
Another painful lesson I knew Min-jae had to learn was dealing with the consequences of his silence. I knew far too well that words are much like energy. We can’t just simply will them to disappear. All those words we have swallowed down will only turn into some sort of high-pressured ticking time bomb. It’s only a matter of time and the right nudge to blow up at the most inappropriate moment possible. I winced when Min-jae exploded to Seo-hyeon near the end of the drama, making crude and hurtful remarks about her life choices. But at the same time, I knew it was inevitable. I have had my own share of scorching hot anger toward the most important people in my life exactly because of my stubborn silence. The most sobering thing though, is how that anger deserted us quickly and only left behind a bitter regret that haunted us long afterwards.
We learned from that experience. It was the wake-up call I needed to start opening up to my parents and sister. It was also the moment that pushed Min-jae to repay Seo-hyeon’s story with his tale about his broken family. That tentative friendship was only one step in his long path toward a contented future. But it was an important first step. The drama left us there without a “real” solution for their problems, but I believe he will come out from his adolescent phase as a better adult. Because I looked back at the me from 10 years ago and realized that despite years of repressed feelings, I’m actually doing okay now.
- [Hey, that’s me] The difference between romance and love
- [Hey, that’s me] Me and Mi-young
- [Hey, that’s me] A noona romance of my own
- [Hey, that’s me] Oh no! They killed Cloggie!
- [Hey, that’s me] Different name, same story
- [Hey, that’s me] The unfavored child
- [Theme of the Month] Hey, that’s me (again)
- [Hey, that’s me] And my dysfunctional family
Tags: Theme of the Month