My cheeks are burning. My heart is racing. My palms are sweaty.

Am I in love? No, I’m at a K-Pop concert.

And yes, I’m a fangirl.

How did I get here?

Part of my college life was spent in Australia. This was when I first heard SHINee’s debut song “Replay”. While the world was entering the early years of Hallyu, the folks in the Southern Hemisphere were still pretty chill about it, and my exposure to the genre was limited.

After college, I got a job writing entertainment features for a teen magazine. Hallyu had grown into a global phenomenon by then, and I became a walking encyclopedia for all things K-Pop. And somewhere along the way, my feelings for SHINee morphed into something more ardent.

For some reason, K-Pop fangirls get a lot of flak. We’re often told to “grow up” or “get a life”. But I don’t think being a fangirl is something you’re meant to outgrow.

Yes, I’ve spent hours online, trying to get tickets to SHINee’s concerts (including the ones overseas). Yes, I’ve waited till the wee hours to watch the trailers or music videos for their new albums. Yes, I want to know every bit of information there is to know about them—especially Taemin.

Why him, you ask?

It’s hard to take my eyes off him when he starts dancing. He’s also the kind of guy I would actually want to hang out with, because he’s goofy, funny and always smiling. Sometimes, he makes the silliest jokes and loses his things way too often, but my adoration can withstand that.

But no, I don’t spend every waking hour obsessing over SHINee. No, I don’t splurge all my money on them.

And no, I don’t want to marry my idol. Taemin doesn’t know I exist, and I’m perfectly OK with that.

Because being a fangirl is like any hobby, like sports. It inspires you and is a way to tune in to who you are. When I saw how Taemin transformed from someone who barely had any lines in “Replay” to a solo artist with multiple albums, I knew that if I worked hard enough, anything is possible.

And thanks to SHINee, I met some wonderful Shawols (the name of their fandom) with whom I bonded over our shared interest. Some of them even became my closest friends.

This is the story of my fangirl life, and I hope it inspires you to love a little bravely. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid to pursue what you love, regardless of what others may think.

As I’m writing this, Taemin just confirmed his comeback date. You can bet I’ll be cheering him on with all of my heart.

Edit: At the time this article was published online, I’m in Seoul for his solo concert. Because what’s a seven-hour plane ride if it meant I could show him my support in person?

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Text: Priscilla Wu

Illustration: Shian