queue light up my life

To My Baby Lion,

I fell in love with you at the prime age of 20. In retrospect it wasn’t a particularly special moment. I had just gotten home on a Monday afternoon and there wasn’t anything especially fascinating in the way I found you – just through a simple click on youtube. But even in seemingly small moments, that’s when the softest blessings fall into your pockets. You, Byun Baekhyun, are one of the most genuinely beautiful existences I’ve ever fallen upon and I say it with the utmost sincerity that you have touched my life so strongly that some of that beauty can now exist in my life personally. I have been so grateful and humbled to have come across you.

When I mention you I think it’s important to emphasize just exactly why your presence was so significant to me. Growing up, I loved music; it was the one thing I had to chase away the nightmares of my father leaving and isolated hospital rooms and the sad smiles of my mother. You know, she was the one who had given me music and when she passed away, she had also been the one to take it away from me. It’s hard losing people and it’s even harder when you’re young and left alone. My entire life shifted and it was hard to breathe let alone look at a sheet of music and not remember the way cancer stole my mother’s voice. I grew to hate music and for months and months afterward, studying it, even grasping at the fragments of my dreams, left me angry.

That’s why when I first heard you it meant so much to me. Raw and untrained – you lacked a lot of technical ability. At the time of your debut you were still so new and every note that came out of your mouth was evident of that. But I remember sitting there that Monday afternoon and not paying attention to a single bit of that. Instead, the very first thought that entered my head when I heard you was a memory of me being six years old curled up against my mother’s side as she sang to me. She told me then, “Singing is only heard by the heart.” And I remember how I finally understood in that moment of listening to your voice what she had meant.

Singers are meant to inspire. Their competence relies solely on their ability as an instrument to push the song’s limits to its greatest emotional boundary in order to move the audience. Because music is one of the only things in this world that allow us to express all those feelings inside us and sort out the chaos somehow. And that’s what you had given me, a chance to sort the noise in my mind into a song. You inspired me. When I heard you that day that was the first time in a long time I was reminded of why I sang. You’re hardly the perfect singer but you have the passion of one. You sing with your entire soul and every breath that leaves your mouth is crafted so delicately and softly to reproduce a fragment of a heart. Hearing you sing sparked something in me and somehow you became one of the most significant catalysts in my life.

Did you know that I’m actually in college now? And that I’m on my way to becoming a music teacher? I’m leading a good life and I’ve quit smoking and I’m working so hard to achieve all the dreams I’ve wanted to reach. The nightmares don’t hurt as much anymore and I can say that I’m happy – actually happy. And you are such a heavy part of that. Because you taught me not to be so jaded; that even with burdened shoulders and a hesitant heart that I can make something of myself. That with a little faith and determination, I can reach all the possibilities I’m made for. That it’s okay to smile and it doesn’t make me weak, rather it makes me stronger. That I am allowed to make my heart open even with all the pain and sorrow and that it’s okay to keep my palms open to catch the rain because that’s how you create rainbows.

You are the one who taught me about hard work and persevering. You were already 20 when you entered SM and with all your past rejections with other companies, it would’ve been so easy to use your age and failures as a way to feel sorry for yourself. Amazingly enough, it did the opposite for you. Staff members and trainers talk of it all the time, just how hard you worked. How you entered with messy feet and shy smiles and somehow transformed yourself into someone leagues beyond with your skill and talent. And it wasn’t magic; those lessons left you with blisters and callouses and tears and sweat. You speak of it sometimes in your interviews, how Seoul still leaves you feeling lonely and that it’s so loud and bright that it’s too easy to get lost in. You hardly speak of your pains but I know just how hard they exist and just how much they’ve bled inside of you. Because it’s not easy to be exposed to sadness and expectations so young and too early. You never had time to get used to the hatred or the shouldered responsibilities or the intense amount of faces watching you or the endless practice or the lack of time for anyone - most of all yourself. Yet your eyes have never talked of heartbreak no matter what was thrown at you. They spoke of hope and love and trying again, of smiling and smiling even when it hurts. You spoke of compassion and affection in a world so cold to you. And you have loved this ocean of fans no matter how hard we’ve left you drowning and gasping for air. You have loved your dreams and everyone – even those who’ve left and those who’ve came back – accepted each with open arms and loved and loved and loved. It’s hard to be filled with any bit of hate when watching that in you.

You’ve strived on no matter how many struggles you’ve endured. And despite being in one of the biggest acts in kpop right now and having such a massive amount of popularity and love, you have remained so humbled. All I’ve ever heard from you was mentions of hard work and determination, that living is only a path of efforts. And not only have I heard it but I’ve watched it. You came in with barely any technical ability and have worked up to your spine to become who you are now. And I know of that journey. I’ve seen all the cracked notes and witnessed your slumps and just how difficult it was to adjust and restructure your voice in such a way. I’ve watched the way you’ve bent yourself over backwards to memorize choreography, stayed later than anyone just to catch up, and pushed yourself to every single limit just to achieve every height. And watching you now, it is heartwarming to know that all that love and admiration you have gained is solely through your own efforts and triumphs. You are not a perfect idol or person but those callouses and bruises are what make me love you so much.

Even today I have not seen a single bone of laziness in you. You are the first to extend a hand. After every performance, despite the strain in your throat and the weariness draped around you. You are always the one to smile first, to talk first. You let everyone get a moment to breathe while you entertain the crowd and you laugh so happily that it’s so easy to forget that you are also tired and drained. It’s easy to forget that behind those performances, you’ve taken up extra dancing classes and singing classes. That you’re still working so hard to become a better idol because as you’ve said before “this is my only way of thanking you guys.” You practice without the intent of fame or fortune but merely as a way to give back to the stage you love so much. You are filled with so much optimism and passion and it leaves me in awe of you.

And maybe it’s silly to others how a boy so far from me can hold my heart so close to him. But you are the reason for so many good things in my life, for so many of the good things I’ve found in myself. And love is silly and maybe it’s hard to understand, but I hope you hear my words and find the genuineness in it. I love you for all the things that you are and all the things you’ve helped me find in myself.

I wanted to write this letter slowly and carefully because even if you’ll never read it, I hope in some way the wishes and sentiments can reach your heart. And maybe serve as a little reminder to myself. Of a time when I loved a boy like you so much and of how much his warmth lingered upon my soul and lit my whole world up. I can’t ever describe in centuries in any true justice how much you mean to me and how much I love you. But you were my miracle, Byun Baekhyun.

I hope that with every day you live you remember that you are loved. That all your deeds of hard work and passion do not go unnoticed. You are not merely a clown or a joke or a label. You are more than an idol or a pretty face. You are stars and endless galaxies and love and light and every definition of breathtaking. I hope that you know that you are so beautiful in every possible way. And I don’t say that as a reflection of you with eyeliner and smirks and tight jeans. But in remembrance and knowledge of your sweat and effort and dedication. I hope you never lose the way you glow and how you light up a room with just your presence because the sun exists in your smile and I never want to see the day you lose it. I hope you achieve all the dreams you’ve dreamed of and all the skies you’ve wanted to reach. I hope you realize that you never need to apologize, that you never needed to. That you are good enough god you always have been. You don’t need to be insecure of yourself because all those little things you dislike about yourself is what I’ve loved so much in you. I hope you realize just how much you’re worth and that you finally see in yourself all the things I’ve found in you. And most of all I hope you’re happy, truly happy. In a way that’s so genuine and pure, the kind of warmth you present in me every single day of your existence. I hope you never lose your light.

So little angel on your birthday you’re turning 25 but even still I will always remember you as that boy I found in my living room on a Monday afternoon with sparkling eyes and the most beautiful voice. No matter what form you take or how much you age and grow, I’ll always love you. Thank you for giving me so much, for teaching me so much. I have found so much life through you.