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mono, like much of RM’s work, is a vulnerable and self-reflective exploration of pain, healing, and growth. Through it, he takes listeners on an emotional journey from feelings such as alienation, loneliness, and self-hatred, to comfort and catharsis.
However, the course of this journey is cyclical rather than linear, which is central to its theme of life’s waves of highs and lows and the balance of contrasting emotional opposites. And like many ARMYs around the world, I found a safe place in this journey. On a cloudy morning in October 2018 — from “tokyo”’s first piano chord at the foreground of the sounds of the city’s traffic — I felt understood, grounded, and comforted by RM’s introspective rap woven into the album’s raw, naked beats. For me, the release of mono not only marked but also reflected the end of a year in which I experienced many of my life’s biggest changes.
In the early months of 2018, I made a choice: to fly across my country to live independently with my friends and pursue my dream career. Though this sounds like the ending of every coming-of-age story, this was only the beginning of a long chapter I have yet to complete. But even then, I was carrying a little more baggage than the clothes and blankets in my suitcases: years’ worth of self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness and guilt over the pain of myself and others. What I was really doing was running away from my childhood and adolescent life in search of a better adulthood, one away from my dysfunctional family, from pressuring schooling, and from hiding my queerness. At eighteen years old I believed I was a bad daughter, a bad friend, a bad student, and overall, a depressed and anxious mess of a person who could only be considered an adult by the number of years I’d been alive. In 2018, I picked up the broken pieces of myself and hoped that moving away from it all would put me back together.
Though I knew, from the beginning, that this new life I had chosen was not going to be easy, what I hadn’t expected was how existing troubles were going to haunt me in new, hideous ways. Self-hatred twisted perfectly normal disagreements and conflict between friends into new reasons to hate myself, no matter how gracious and patient they were with me. Because why would they stay with me once they saw how moody, defensive, irresponsible, immature and terrified I truly was? Some days, I was too scared to check our shared messaging apps, or even face them at home. At the same time, once university became competitive again, school was suddenly stressful rather than exciting, just like it had been in high school. I had started to doubt whether I could make my dreams come true. But living on my own now, it was hard to care for myself sometimes. I fell down spirals. I isolated myself and cut phone calls with my families short. At my worst, I skipped meals because I felt I didn’t deserve them, only to binge eat under both stress and hunger later. During times like those, I wondered if running away had fixed me at all, like I hoped it would. And I was afraid of confronting that possibility, and the feelings and doubts that were constantly piling.
But then, of course, mono came.
For the first time that year, I felt understood and unjudged in these negative feelings. I felt the raw vulnerability of “tokyo,” the haunting of “badbye,” and the sorrow of “forever rain.” The alienation from myself, the uncertainty of my days, the self-destruction, and the wanting to be embraced and cried for even when I felt like I didn’t deserve it. It is “uhgood,” however, that best captured what I had felt that year, specifically the stark and rather bleak differences between ideals and reality. In writing about the distance between his real and ideal self, RM contrasts notions of self-love such as only needing yourself or being gentle with yourself with self-hatred and feeling “off.” As I became independent and tried learning to love myself and heal from the pains of my adolescence, everything that was wrong with me was becoming even clearer. I could see how low my self-esteem was, how it affected my relationships, and how I lived my daily life. But hearing RM, someone who I look up to and love dearly, express very similar feelings in “uhgood” made me feel less hatred towards myself. RM had put to words all the complex and rather ugly feelings I didn’t want to confront, and that made me feel less alone. Less horrible in feeling the way I did. And that in itself was invaluable to me.
Two other songs that I found not only validating but also grounding and comforting were “moonchild” and “everythingoes.” In this context of mono, these songs represent the carrying of burdens and an inevitability of that hardship will pass, respectively. And they are powerful expressions of cathartic release. There is immense strength in the embrace of flaws, pain, and sadness all the while knowing, rather than simply wanting, to keep living, growing, and healing. “moonchild” reached out to me and kept me grounded to a possible reality where my flaws, my “thorns,” could be someone else’s comfort, and that one day, after everything, there will be a time for me to shine. To extend this, I felt that “everythingoes” opened a space for me to be hopeful for the future in its intense emotions, rushing like passing winds and bright like blooming flowers after a storm. These songs walked alongside me during times I had felt hopeless, times where I was hurting and crying with fear that this was how I would feel for the rest of my life, and they gave me strength and hope.
“moonchild” and “everythingoes” also opened dialogues with myself to recognise and acknowledge how I had already been resilient in 2018, despite the many difficulties I faced. The fact I moved at all was an act born out of hope for a better future for myself. I also experienced positive changes and growth as a result of becoming independent, such as learning to take care of myself when there was no one reminding me to. I explored new places on my own, made new friends, and slowly became more comfortable with not only who I already was, but who I was slowly becoming. Hardworking, caring, even if sometimes awkward and forgetful. A little more confident than I had been the year before. More grateful and loving than I had been the year before. In many ways, mono’s release marked the end of this year where many changes occurred in my life.
Even though growth isn’t linear, and that even now I have many days where I fall back into old habits and mindsets, I learned from both my own experiences and from mono that one cannot grow without pain. The pain that I continue to feel now, and the pain I will feel in the future, will be new roots that will allow me to grow. I will also have experiences and knowledge, comforting music and lyrics that will help me stand whenever I fall. And that, I think, is what allows me to know that nothing, the good and the bad, will last forever. That the night will always come after the suffocating daytime.
That like everything in life, everything goes.
Psychology student and BTS enthusiast. (Australia)
Illustration By: Kit @thisiskeets (Twitter) / @jellyfishcakes (Instagram)
Mei. (2021). Growing pains. The Rhizomatic Revolution Review , (2). https://ther3journal.com/issue-2/growing-pains
Mei. “Growing Pains.” The Rhizomatic Revolution Review , no. 2, 2021, https://ther3journal.com/issue-2/growing-pains.
Growing Pains by Mei is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
© Mei 2021