Over the last few months, as my tepid fondness of One Direction became a simmer and then a rolling boil, people have found it fair game to mock me for it. And while I get indignant sometimes, mostly I don’t much care. Yet I found myself trying to couch my fondness of them in my own history. Just last week, a colleague said “You’re a bit of a teeny-bopper, aren’t you”, at which point I stupidly felt the need to point out my indie-hipster-wanker-music credentials (“I love Sufjan Stevens”, I practically pleaded. “I’m going to Laneway Festival and to see The National in February.”)
But this is what I should have said:
The truth is, I haven’t had a very good year. In fact, I’ve had hands-down the worst year of my life. Lots of bad things happened, close together, none utterly devastating but many that notch or two better than that, enough to make me feel like I was living a life that was emotionally unsustainable. I felt broken.
But more than any specific thing, more than anything that happened, it was my mental health that didn’t hold up. For the first time in almost five years, I cycled into a pretty bad place. The kind of place where life just seems like so much effort, when it’s nothing more than a tedious collection of hours. It’s a place of exhaustion and nothingness.
But somewhere in this space and time, and I haven’t quite nailed down when, I went from enjoying Live While We’re Young and thinking Harry was rather cute, to listening to the albums over and over, to going to four shows. In a year of darkness and sadness and nothingness, it was something that made me a little bit happy. Having something joyful to think about made all the stuff that was going on around and inside me less consuming. It was like that small point you focus on when doing balance poses in yoga, so you don’t fall.
Then they went and released Midnight Memories, and with it “Something Great” and “Through the Dark”. “Something Great”, an exhausted love song, a song somehow about resignation and hopefulness. 1D wasn’t my Something Great this year, but they were my Something Good. Something to look forward to. Something that didn’t make me feel sad and tired and done. It didn’t make up for the family sadness or my poor dog being hit by a car or my body deciding it didn’t want to work. It didn’t make up for the broken heart, for the relationship that I couldn’t believe just didn’t work out again, for the one I thought could have been my Something Great but wasn’t. But 1D was my Something Good.
And with that something good came Thought The Dark. I’ve heard a thousand songs about people talking about depression, about anxiety, about all the exhaustion and nothingness I felt. But I can’t ever think of hearing a song where they say “I know you’re exhausted. I know you’re broken. I can’t make you better, but I will be alongside you. I’ll walk with you.” People often don’t know what to say when you are truly in the depths of despair. This. This is what to say. When they sang in on SNL tonight, in spite of it being far from their best performance, it just made me so joyful. Not happy, because I don’t think that song can ever be properly happy, but joyful. Purged. Proud.
So this silly, funny, self-aware band that made me giggle ultimately provided me with the two most cathartic artistic moments of the last year. And that’s what I should have told the girl at work, and everyone on twitter who has threatened to unfollow me for tweeting about 1D, and my mother when she groans and rolls her eyes and tells me to grow up. One Direction was what I needed in this dark and awful year.
My ability to skip directly to “Teenage Dirtbag” in This Is Us based purely on instinct is truly remarkable.
'cause for a moment a band of thieves
in ripped up jeans got to rule the world
long live the walls we crashed through
all the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
i was screaming “long live all the magic we made”
…one day we will be remembered
Long Live being about 1D is almost as good as “any sly remarks from my father about your tattoos will be ignored” being about Harry.