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BEZAWADA: There is much to be learned from RM

Opinions Column: Traipse the Fine Line

On Sept. 24, rags-to-riches K-pop superstars BTS made history. They became the first K-pop band to speak at a United Nations summit, in front of an audience that included the United Nations secretary general and the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Known by his stage name RM — Kim Namjoon, the leader of BTS — delivered an emotional 3-minute speech. In concise, humble words, he describes the strides BTS has paved amid great hardship and thanks his fellow members and fans for their ardent support along the way. But most importantly, his speech is a story — a tiny novella detailing the ordinary life of a young boy in a small town, and the strikingly universal struggles of growing up.

RM expresses a fond nostalgia for his hometown Ilsan, South Korea. Like many of us, he led a happy, carefree childhood until his heart stopped when he turned 9 or 10 years old— when the words of people around him began filtering into his mind and drowning out his own voice.

In those few sentences, RM revealed to the UN Youth2030 assembly, and essentially the world, the fundamental problem ailing our generation. As soon as we grow old enough to formulate our own conscience, we suddenly start to consider the cautionary, contradictory warnings of adults — the figurative hand dragging us away from bad influences. As a 24-year-old student himself, RM knows exactly what he is talking about because he has been there and done that. As we plod through the mire of our own identity, passions, pursuits, expectations, obligations and the double-edged sword of abundant choice, we strive to sift through it, separate it and make sense of it all. Many drown in that swamp trying to stay afloat.

It took RM years to wade through it all. Many times, he slipped under and had to kick desperately to keep his head up. All the while, the lifeguards either jeered at him from the dry shoreline or turned a blind eye. Even though BTS now dominates the world star arena, RM admits in his speech that he is still learning how to swim. That the mistakes and decisions he makes and the lessons he learns along the way comprise the never-ending constellation of his life.

I had to pause the speech replay there, because that final line struck me. To me, it conveyed three meanings.

First, if a brilliant, worldwide icon can continue to fail, then that means anyone can. In fact, everyone does. An interviewer, a supervisor, a parent, a professor — is human. By the transitive property of mathematics, mistakes are made by people, and people are human. Mistakes are human. Why fear people when they are the same as you?

Second, it is the circumstances behind those mistakes that make someone’s life so much different from another’s. Sure, many have been nominated for the Billboard Music Awards. But has Nicki Minaj earned her fame the same way BTS has? The process was littered with setbacks, pitfalls and scorn from others. But it nevertheless carried them on their individual paths toward stardom, each fulfilling in its own unique way.

Third, it gives hope. Everyone is in it for the long haul whether we like it or not — an endless cycle of fail, learn a lesson, apply it to real life next time, fail, fail again, fail yet again, finally learn, forget to apply and fail once more. Like your favorite dysfunctional character in a young adult novel, living the millennial life is annoying but lovable. In the end, there is an amusing beauty to this inefficient, seemingly pointless process, and that beauty is worth living for.

BTS gave their speech during their tour, based on their latest album series "Love Yourself." But The Daily Targum is a university newspaper managed and written entirely by college students for fellow students. It is difficult to spread the message of loving oneself to a bunch of stressed college students too worried about scoring well on midterms to care. But as much as society, employers and other authoritative figures like to emphasize that grades are important, do not allow them to squash out your inner voice. And when results are announced, do not succumb under the weight of a low grade. It is a tiny blip in the long span of time, all of which is yours to spend. 

This article does not really have a point to it. It is just a vaguely structured interpretation of a story written by an ordinary young man that will probably remain underrated for a long time. But the story is a historic step nonetheless. A step toward how? Nobody knows for sure. It is scary, it is daunting, but the potential is thrilling. After all, as RM asks toward the end of his speech, “What makes your heart beat? Speak yourself.”

Sruti Bezawada is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program  sophomore double majoring in marketing and communications and minoring in Japanese. Her column, “Traipse the Fine Line," runs every alternate Wednesday.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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