For many of my friends, pop-rock was a phase that came and went. I guess not for me. I’m not exactly sure why the bombastic melodies and edgy lyrics still have such a hold on me, but they do. In both Chinese and English, they do. Blame it on the fact that there is no drama in my life so I latch onto any residual vicarious excitement. I don’t really need excitement in life, but I love the idea of it. Just like love.

All these years later, I’m still a fan of Fall Out Boy and Mayday and All Time Low and CHVRCHES and One Direction. I also started listening to My Chemical Romance (really late, I know, it’s the fault of my no-electronic-devices-adolescence in China). But my most recent find is the Taiwanese band 831 — I loved their song for Someday or One Day, a television series to the last episode of which I cried excessively, but only stumbled upon the rest of their discography this year.

Not sure what exactly struck a chord with me in these tracks that ooze youthful angst, because I shouldn’t be that angry or upset or lost about anything in life. Hell, I can hardly call myself youthful at this point. I feel more at peace than ever. I am content with the life I’ve lived. I believe that everything happens for the best. But weirdly, I feel something when I listen to these songs.

If I really think about it though, perhaps the predilection for pop-rock is rooted in my contrarian nature (天生反骨). Mom said that I became more rebellious after I’m 18. I call it my true colors showing. More and more, I don’t want to wear what other people are wearing, do what I’m told, follow orders. I shouldn’t have anything substantive that I am rebelling against. Maybe it’s to carve out a privileged status for myself as I am molded into an ordinary component of society. To claim a specialness by imagining an “other” to fight against. Either way, the lines “Isn't life without adventure the most dangerous?” (不冒险的人生是否才危险?) and “Disputing the world, resisting loneliness. When I feel like crying, I scream at the top of my lungs” (和世界冲撞, 和孤独对抗, 想哭的时候, 我都大声唱) touch me so.

Or perhaps it’s the deep-seated hope in 831’s songs that is comforting. I will finish college this year. To say that I’m not scared about what lies ahead would be a lie. When they sing “even if imperfect, a rock can be a star, only after shedding tears will one know the value of dreams” (我相信即使不完美, a rock can be a star, 流过泪才会懂梦有多珍贵), I am reminded of why I keep striving for things that may seem obviously futile. Why I keep dreaming.

When they sing “I don’t need every person to love everything about me, it doesn’t really matter if the whole world misunderstands” (我不需要每一个人都爱我的一切, 全世界不理解, 其实也无所谓), I am reminded that no amount of external affirmations can mend internal emptiness. It has to start from within oneself.

When they sing “What if nothing is accomplished in this life? Why is greatness defined by fame and achievements? Isn’t it enough to do one thing well? Who is to judge a legend or a failure?” (这一生一事无成又怎样? 为何要功成名就才伟大? 一辈子做好一件事够不够啊? 谁定义的失败或伟大?), I am reminded that the outcome matters way, way, way less than the scenery along the way.

After thinking about it, I realized that this resonates with me because, at my core, I am still afraid. Afraid that this might be it. That I might never make anything of myself. But even if my initial emotional reaction is one of excuse-seeking for my inevitable averageness, the principle contained in the line “Isn’t it enough to do one thing well?” stands. It is enough to do one thing well in this life — that’s all that we need. Sure, more would be better, but even one would be enough. So I’ll go after that in the new year.

I’ll conclude with the last stanza from The Last 8/31:


To my future self, are you living well?
Liking yourself more, than I do now?
To my future self, what does your expression say?
Happy or bitter, have you stayed true to my way?
Even if you’ve given up what you’d been chasing,
Don’t forget this you, and this song you were singing.

Hope I won't forget the me that was singing this song.