Right in the Feels: “Magic Shop” by BTS

Sometimes a song is more than a song.

Sometimes a song reminds you of who you are and what you can be. Sometimes a song holds your hand and gently brings you out of the darkness and into the light. Sometimes a song gives you the words you’ve been searching your whole life to find to help you make sense of all the things you want and need and hope for.

Sometimes a song saves you.

Sometimes a song helps you save yourself.

I spent a really long part of this last year hating myself.

I didn’t want to admit it then, but I was depressed—in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever really experienced before. I had days when I just laid in bed and thought the absolute worst, meanest things about myself; days when I looked in the mirror and couldn’t find one good thing about the person looking back; days when I would cry for hours and then frantically push the heels of my hands against my eyes until they hurt when I heard the door click and knew someone was coming home and would see me because I didn’t want them to see how bad it was.

It was bad. I felt bad. And I felt so guilty for feeling so bad. Because I had my job, my health, a healthy family that I got to see every day. Compared to so many, I was so lucky.

And that just made me hate myself even more.

I focused a lot of that self-loathing on two things: my extroverted personality and my writing. Those were two things that I used to cherish—they were two things that I’d always believed made me special. But depression takes your view of yourself and distorts it like a funhouse mirror. It takes the stuff that makes you special and convinces you that it actually just makes you weird and hard to love. It makes you focus on the things people said 10 years ago about you being “exhausting” to be around or that gift you gave when someone was sad being “too much” or your writing having “no real point.” It brings out the worst in you—in my case, that’s my perfectionism, my belief that if people don’t say I’m the best at something, then I shouldn’t be doing it at all. Because what’s the point?

To the very few people I shared my struggles with, I described it as feeling like the good things about me had atrophied during the pandemic. I felt so guilty for feeling so bad that once the dark days of winter settled in, I’d stopped feeling much of anything. And for someone whose entire personality is based on feeling things deeply and strongly, that was the worst part of it all.

I was afraid I was never going to be really happy again. That I was never going to be me again.

Then, I saw a Korean boy band perform on the Grammys.

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Right in the Feels: The Derry Girls Dance

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many Right in the Feels posts here at NGN! This feature will break down some of my favorite emotional moments from TV shows, movies, books, etc., so feel free to share some moments you’d like to see me cover in the comments or on Twitter!

Oh, my life is changing every day
In every possible way
And oh, my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems
(Never quite as it seems)

There’s no better song to capture the spirit of Derry Girls—a show about teenagers growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1990s as the Troubles surround them with sectarian violence—than “Dreams” by The Cranberries.

This is a show about the universal life changes all teenagers deal with, but like the song says, it’s never quite as it seems.

Growing up in the middle of a traumatic historical event changes things.

And never was that dichotomy between ordinary teenage life and extraordinarily violent times made more explicit—or more moving—than at the end of the show’s Season One finale.

As Orla performs her step aerobics routine at the school talent show, she becomes the target of snickering and jeering before her cousin Erin and the rest of her friends (Michelle, Clare, and James) stand up for her and join her onstage. It’s a pitch-perfect moment of friendship that would have been enough on its own to end the season on a moving note, but it’s what comes after that takes this scene from an uplifting celebration to something far more bittersweet—and more beautiful.

As the teens dance, Erin’s family is shown watching a news report of a bombing that left at least 12 people dead. As the adults take in this traumatic event, the background music from Orla’s routine cuts out, allowing the tension to make its presence felt in a visceral way.

But then, the music starts again, and this time, it’s The Cranberries singing about life changing every day.

The episode ends with intercut moments of triumph and tragedy—life and loss. The teens continue to dance and laugh, blissfully unaware of what’s happening, while the adults stare right at the carnage on their TV screen. It’s a perfect visual representation of innocence in a world that is anything but innocent. They’re not dancing while the world around them burns because they don’t care; they’re doing it because they don’t know. Because they’re kids. And kids shouldn’t have to know.

But in the same breath, they’re not really kids anymore, either. Teenagers occupy a strange space between being too young to ignore the horrible parts of life and being too old to fully understand and accept them. So we know that once they get off the stage and get home, their worlds will get a little scarier; they’ll grow up a little bit more. Some part of the carefree light that surrounded them on that stage is going to dim.

But we also know it’s not going to go out completely.

Because they have each other.

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