Don’t Cry Because Zayn Malik’s Time With One Direction Is Over-Smile Because It Happened
I remember a friend trying desperately to get me to appreciate the Spice Girls when I was in elementary school; she had all of their albums and an impressive poster collection covering her walls. She even had a Spice Girls themed birthday party that required everyone to come dressed up as a Spice Girl (where I frantically tried to morph myself from a Japanese-American girl into a British pop star in order to participate). She was an emotional wreck when Geri decided to leave the group, even though Geri was not her favorite Spice Girl.
I was never the kind of obsessed fan who had her idols’ posters plastered on her walls or shelves boasting an artist’s entire discography from start to finish. I was (and still am) more of a quiet fan: someone who enjoys an artist’s music without begging for concert tickets or standing in line for hours just to see the object of my adoration for seconds.
So I didn’t quite understand why she was so upset about it.
Fast forward to 2015, and we have a very similar scenario with Zayn Malik choosing to leave One Direction. Except for one huge difference: we have social media at our disposal.
Fans were so upset that the hashtags #cut4Zayn and #Cutting4Zayn appeared among the list of trending topics on Twitter. I’m not a fan of One Direction’s music. But as someone who has dealt with mental health issues, I was absolutely incensed when I saw these trends.
Not only are messages like this encouraging young people to express their sadness in an unhealthy way, but it also makes those of us who really should seek help much less willing to do so for fear that such requests will be seen as a cry for attention.
There is something seriously wrong with the idea that we are promoting the idea that it is okay to self-harm as a way to express sadness over someone’s choices. The truth is that it is not okay.
Words are extremely powerful; just because you send a hurtful tweet to your celebrity target of choice from behind the protection of your computer screen doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt them. Yes, this celebrity may get thousands of tweets a day. Yes, yours might be the one negative tweet out of hundreds, maybe millions. Yes, you might not be able to see the person. Yes, the celebrity might say (or act like) they’re unfazed by those sorts of tweets. But that doesn’t mean that they are immune to pain.
Yes, when someone you admire dies or chooses a different path, it is sad. You are losing a part of something that made you happy. Everyone deserves a chance to grieve when something like that happens. But we also have to realize that people in the spotlight are just that: people. Everyone deserves the chance to live a happy life. We are all human, public figure or not. We make mistakes. Our feelings change.
If something in our lives is making us unhappy, we shouldn’t have to continue to make ourselves unhappy when they are perfectly capable of making different choices that are ultimately healthier for them in the long run, regardless of whether or not they are in a famous band. People are not puppets; they will make the choices that are best for them in the long run, and we must respect those choices and move on, no matter how long it may take.
In my mind, that is exactly what Zayn Malik did. He made a choice to stop doing something that was making him unhappy. It’s no different from any of us choosing to quit a job that makes us unhappy. Sure, we don’t know what led to this decision, but what’s done cannot be undone. And who knows?
He might change his mind given some time away.
We are only given one shot at life; we are under no obligation to make our choices based on what other people think we should do. The people around us can give us their advice or opinions, but those opinions should not dictate our choices. We cannot please everyone. We can only please ourselves.
So for those fans out there, instead of spreading the #cut4Zayn hashtag, thank Zayn Malik for being a part of something that made you happy. Encourage those who take the message seriously to seek help. Be happy that Zayn has chosen to put his happiness first. Don’t encourage people to express their grief over his departure in harmful ways. Don’t become the sort of person who laughs at other people’s expense or makes people think that it’s not okay to ask for help when they need it. When we step out from behind our computer screens, we are all human. We all deserve to be happy.
In the words of Theodor Geisel, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Originally posted on Hello Perfect on March 28, 2015