A 25 Year-Old’s One Direction Story

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What Makes You Beautiful

Zayn Malik left One Direction this week, which means that One Direction as we know it is pretty much over.

I don’t remember why this was so important to me, but one day a few years ago I just decided “I need to get really into One Direction and I’m doing it today.” I like being obsessed with bands. I love fandoms. I love the sense of community behind fandoms. You can connect with people no matter who you are, no matter who they are. Plus— life is easier when you have a fandom rock to cling to. Yes, my boyfriend can break up with me but then I can blast music and start to heal. Not to mention- the world is a kinder place when you realize it gave birth to something like One Direction.

So, I listened to “What Makes You Beautiful” over and over again. I didn’t like it at first. When I heard “One Thing” it was a done deal. I love One Direction now. All I have to do now is find one to like.

The only teen sensation I liked in the past was Justin Bieber, and that was easy. There was just one Justin. All of your love went to Justin. When I was younger I liked Blink-182 a lot (a LOT, I penned a biography of them that’s still in my closet) but they didn’t have personalities ascribed to them. One Direction does. Louis is the jock. Niall is the sweet one. Liam is the fun one. Harry is the heartbreaker. Zayn is the mysterious one. I looked at a ton of pictures and tried to memorize their names. This was hard because it was when they were younger and all seemed to have the same haircut:

Initially I picked Liam. He’s cute there. Nice jaw structure and he wasn’t Harry— who everyone liked. The more I followed Liam though, the more I didn’t vibe with him. He sounds like a moron on his Twitter and once he spent 2 million dollars on a bottle of champagne which is such a waste of money it made me have a mini panic attack when I first read about it. Liam is out. I reach out to my friend Caitlin.

“Who do you think is the hottest?”I ask.

“Zayn.” She says.

“Ew. His hair is dumb.” (his hair was dumb.)

“He’s the hottest.” She says, again.

“I guess he’s the best singer.” I respond.

“He’s the hottest.” She says.

Flash forward to the “Story of My Life” music video. One of my close friends had just died of a heroin overdose. My boyfriend, who I loved beyond reason, and I were very on-and-off. I had a nine-to-five I couldn’t get down with. I was broke. Shit sucked. I take a break from work and watch the video. It’s beautiful. Zayn is beautiful. He’s so soulful and sensitive. He has great facial hair. He’s cute with his little sister.

I’ve been sad. I cry everyday. I start thinking about Zayn a lot. He’s so hot. I just want to touch him and go on vacations with him and for life to be easy with him. Life is so hard. With Zayn, it would be easy. I know that with certainty. It made me forgot about all my baggage. Some people have drugs, I had One Direction. I wrote funny little fics about him on Tumblr:

There was a knock on the door. Zayn Malik walked in shyly. He came up to Kate.
“So we haven’t properly met yet but I’ve been following you on tumblr,” He said, scratching the back of his head and looking down bashfully, “and I really like your Adam Levine fan fiction. You’ve really captured a tragic side of the world. I lie in bed at night, read it and sometimes cry because Wow, you get me.” He told her. Kate didn’t say anything. How had he found her?

“Do you want to play laser tag, drink tall boys and Ciroc on my private jet, fly it to the Maldives, shoot paint ball guns at each other from ATVs, do lots of cocaine, talk about Twilight, watch Homeland, lie on the beach and have really awesome sex in semi public places?” Zayn said to her softly.

She stood up. She kissed him on the mouth. Hard. She quit her job. Finally someone understood her.

I post more. My friend Caitlin says to me “Remember when I said Zayn was my favorite and you didn’t understand? I’m glad you finally came around.” I’m glad too. Zayn is my type. He’s sensitive and artsy and mysterious and sincere. Moreover, he is a famous person so I can ascribe my own traits to him. He can be whatever I need him to be. I don’t get swimfan about it but he helps me work out my self-esteem problems. At this point, I have no self-esteem. It’s been a long year and a lot of stupid shit went down. I keep writing silly Zayn fic:

“It’s okay,” Zayn said softly, “I’m here now.” He wraps his arms around her and the voices of “Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate” recede into nothing and it’s just him and her on the top of Splash Mountain.

“I want to cry,” She said.

“You can.” He said, and kisses her mouth. He wraps his arms around her tightly, “You deserve everything you know. That’s why we’re at Disneyland.” He said, she looked around at the dead-eyed anamatronics with big fake grins and bright colors and the expanse of golden California. Space Mountain peaked in the distance. “You deserve everything, you just don’t let yourself deserve it.”

Zayn, or the thought of him, helps me stay strong. It’s fun having a crush on him. It’s harmless. It keeps me creative.

Things get better and then get worse and then get better again. That’s life, right? Bruce Springsteen says “hard times come and hard times go.” They came and went. One Direction was always there for me though. A boy would be mean so I would watch One Direction music videos. Work sucked, my friends would betray me but One Direction was always there to pick me up. I would get silly merch from Claire’s when I was sad. It was an act of self-love.

In September I went to the One Direction concert in Charlotte with my friend Christin. We painted our car with “I love Zayn!” and “I love Harry!” and “Zayn what makes you beautiful!” and “Mrs. Styles.” We find out where they’re staying and we join this massive group of teen girls milling outside their hotel waiting for them to come back. The energy is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. Girls scream at SUVs with tinted windows. At one point someone sees Zayn and Perrie pull into an alternate lot we weren’t monitoring. Someone screams and there is an actual stampede of girls. One girl is openly sobbing standing in the street saying “I saw Zayn and Perrie! I saw Zayn and Perrie!” We meet these two superfans who follow them around the country and try to meet the boys at their hotels. They have all of this insider information about groupies and one of Zayn’s exes. It’s fascinating. There is an entire hierarchy of One Direction fans with their own vocabulary and language. We end up staying out all night with the girls, drinking and hanging out around One Direction’s hotel. We hear they’re going to this bowling ally. We get there and it sucks. We’re skeptical they would go there but we see all their groupies hanging out around there so we stick around a bit. We go home around 2 AM. The next day Niall tweeted a picture of them at the bowling ally. We were heartbroken. We should have stayed. It was still one of the best nights of my life.

The next night, Christin and I go to the concert. I’ve never been to a show quite like it. The screaming is deafening. They’re 20 feet away. Them. These mythical beings. These perfect boys that console us when the real boys in our lives constantly let us down. They play “Story Of My Life” and I start sobbing and shaking. I can’t stop. Afterwards I feel like I did ecstasy. I am on a cloud the entire night. I feel healed, like God went straight through me. Christin couldn’t speak. It’s hard to believe it even happened.

Four came out. It ruled. Zayn grew his hair out. I didn’t like it. He cut it. I was happy. I listened to “Heart Attack” again recently and it still resonates. They hurt the same way I do. They love the same way I do. It made me feel better and lately I’ve been more depressed than I ever have in my life. I am healing and One Direction is helping, just like they always have.

Today a lot of people have asked me if I’m really upset or if it’s just a joke. I cried on the street listening to “Strong” earlier. One Direction may be silly to you but they’ve kept me strong. I don’t care that I’m 25 or it’s “not cool” to like pop music. One Direction have been so important to me. I feel lost now that they’re broken. They were my rock when I was broken. Yeah, maybe they continue without Zayn but it won’t be the same. I’m grateful for them despite it all. The world has been a kinder place with One Direction in it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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