A love letter about (and for) NCT DREAM
Of all the centuries we could’ve been born in, of all of the life paths they could’ve taken, and of all of the people I could’ve stumbled upon, the universe decided to bring them to me and me to them.
It was in the spring of 2018, right in the middle of lunch break, when the sight of 7 men singing “내가 널 이끄는 boss” caught my eye. K-pop had never intrigued me, but they did. What initially started as a minor curiosity of wanting to know who these people are ended in me drowning in K-pop songs and swimming in a vast world of boy/girl groups and award shows. I started with 13, added 21 more, then 9 more, then 12 more. By the end of 2018, I was insanely overwhelmed by the number of performances I was screaming over during year-end awards. I didn’t purposefully unstan groups or people, yet gradually and naturally, 7 people stuck with me to this day. Those 7 people are the ones I discovered in the summer of 2018 while they were breaking into trains and riding bikes at midnight. I started by adoring their leader, but soon, the blonde-haired Scorpio-Sagittarius cusp, whose voice can melt the hearts of millions, decided to cast his spell on me, making me love him and the 6 other silly little boys around him even more. I followed them as they drove their car into the sunset and said their goodbyes to their oldest member, and I haven’t stopped since.
Stanning NCT DREAM is exhausting. I decided to come right out and say it because no statement can be truer. The amount of emotional turmoil and mental rollercoaster I have had to go through to be in my position right now is truly unbelievable.
Right after Mark graduated, it broke my heart to see the team perform as 6, sometimes even 5. This was my first year focusing on DREAM, and thankfully, I was greeted with a refreshing song featuring a British boy they came to befriend. Later that year, I was yet again greeted with disaster. Checking the NCT DREAM social media accounts as my friends and I drove back home from We The Fest 2019, my heart broke witnessing the hairstyle they assigned to Chenle. The DREAM fandom changed overnight. I stayed silent, knowing I had no right as a non-Black person to say anything regarding the matter. When the fandom started coming to terms with the fact that the style was not Chenle’s decision, we were greeted with Boom. I remember sobbing at Pekan Raya Jakarta due to not having any phone signal to watch their newest comeback right at 4 PM that day.
Not long after that, Chenle convulsed on a live stream, made his own Batik, and dipped for a month. I saw them 5 times that year: when I greeted them at the airport on September 9, when I watched them on K-Wave on September 10, when I ditched school to see them at FX Sudirman on September 11, when I greeted them at the airport once again on December 13, and when I watched them on Boom19 on December 14. Every encounter ended with me having sore feet and tired arms, but they were all worth it. Every. Single. One of them.
2020 was insane. I think we all know why, but in the context of NCT DREAM, my reasons may be different. 2020 started with a bang: The Dream Show in Jakarta, March 1. However, while the entire world went downhill from there, my investment in NCT DREAM only went uphill, or dare I say, skyrocketing. I spent every waking minute watching content, tweeting pictures, updating news, sharing videos, and participating in votes and birthday events. I had the time of my life. The lack of offline concerts meant that DREAM was the furthest they had ever been from me, but I had never felt closer to them. The DREAM fandom world completely changed when the April 14 announcement happened. I woke up to see Mark being planned to return to DREAM by the end of the year. Not only was Reload the last era not to have Mark in it, but it was also the worst era to live through as a Dreamzen. But throughout all the article streaming, Jaemin N*tflix issue, Melon streams, and fan wars regarding Ridin vs. Kick It, I learned so much more from this era than any other eras.
My world got 100x better when Chenle was announced to be the next regular DJ of TBS eFM’s 9–10 PM show, Akdong Seoul. Every night, I listened to him passionately talk about anything and everything and rigorously updated his radio show content on the Chenle Radio website that I built with the help of content from fellow Chenle update accounts. Though that meant staying up until 3 AM to finish my schoolwork before starting to update the website, I felt like I had the entire world in my hands. I watched every YouTube content they released, paid attention to every detail, and by the end of the year, I could edit clips from videos and then tweet it with a witty caption in less than 1 minute. Strange flex, I know, but it’s still a flex and a talent I possess up to this day. Oh, and NCT 2020 RESONANCE happened, but who cares.
The year 2021 was the year of change, not only for DREAM but also for me. We were greeted by the release of Hot Sauce, DREAM’s first full album after 5 years of being in the industry. I was over the moon. I streamed every day, voted for every music show, and put all my energy into ensuring this comeback was successful. Angry pre-Ridin Dreamzens gave their entire power to prove to the world just how great DREAM can be if given the opportunity. And guess what? We succeeded. We actually succeeded so well that we became terrified of whether or not we could beat our own record in future comebacks. A few months after that, Hello Future came along. Mark said that Hello Future was personal, a present for their fans, and it truly felt like it. Just like the concept of the comeback itself, that entire era was filled with rainbows, laughs, and positivity. Every music show performance was filled with bright colors and vibrant high notes from Haechan, Chenle, and Renjun, and every live stream felt like watching a home video of family members who live abroad. During Hello Future era, there was always sunshine in Dreamville! But just like seasons, the summer had to turn into winter. SM’s obsession with the whole NCT brand never fails to ruin my days. Packed as a more heartwarming version of RESONANCE, NCT 2021 UNIVERSE felt even colder and underwhelming. The best thing that came out of it? That one iconic Dreaming group photo with a school-yearbook-esque background.
As I said, 2021 was the year of change, even for me. In December, I moved from Jakarta to California to pursue my studies. I started processing the fact that moving to California means having a 16-to-17-hour time difference from Seoul. It meant being awake at 3 AM for music shows, 6 AM for YouTube content, and 8 AM for comeback teasers. The thought of not being able to keep up with DREAM terrified me. However, I soon got used to it. Pursuing my studies also meant barely having time to keep up with DREAM. It meant being awake at 3 AM, but to talk and hang out with my friends instead. I’ve now come to terms with the inevitable time difference and lack of time in one day to keep up with DREAM, but I do miss them sometimes.
Living only one hour from the home of the basketball team that Chenle so dearly supports and adores made me feel bad for not “caring” about DREAM as much as I used to. Every time I pass by some Golden State Warriors merch, my heart sinks remembering Chenle and the amount of time I used to dedicate to him and NCT DREAM. I was too busy during Glitch Mode and Beatbox eras in the first half of 2022. I figured that the least I could do was stream the songs on the music platforms I used. That was the first time in 3 years that I didn’t rent a Melon account to help me stream; it felt strange.
When it was announced that DREAM would perform in KCON LA 2022, I knew I had to watch them perform. I immediately bought myself a ticket and pushed forward my flight from Indonesia back to the US. I didn’t care that I was going to spend 5 days in LA all by myself. I didn’t care that I was limping from the foot surgery I did in June. I didn’t care that I had to sacrifice a lot of money to Uber everywhere. I wanted- no, I needed to see DREAM. So, of course, I fucking did. Once again, just like in 2019 and 2020, they were standing right in front of me, waving to all the fans and dancing their hearts out to the 4 songs they performed as they closed the event, being the most prominent group invited to this year’s KCON. I was lucky enough to get a last-minute red carpet pass and witness them less than 5 meters away from me. That experience itself felt like filling a void in my heart that had previously been haunted by ghosts and covered in spiderwebs. I felt… alive.
While writing this, I had just finished watching DREAM’s concert movie/documentary in theaters, NCT DREAM THE MOVIE: In A Dream. Not to waste time giving my film-major-y thoughts on the film, I’m just gonna say that after an entire year of barely focusing on DREAM, the Dreamzen in me has finally woken up again. I don’t know how long it’s gonna wake up this time, but hopefully long enough to give me a chance to sort out my priorities and learn to balance between my studies and DREAM, because goddamn do I miss being an active, dedicated Dreamzen. I have college work to finish, classes to attend, friends to care for and hang out with, and places to explore, but I also want to be able to do all of that while keeping up with my silly 7DREAM and their silly shenanigans.
The year 2022 hasn’t ended yet, and God knows what will happen to my Dreamzenism next year or in years to come. I had dedicated 3 full years of my life to DREAM. I don’t know if next year I will only be attending concerts and buying albums, or if I will keep up with them daily and go back to my 2019–2021 Dreamzen self and routine. But aside from all the tangible things I may or may not do for DREAM, there isn’t anything more certain in this world than the fact that in the deepest part of my heart, I will always save space for DREAM. Forever I’ll bring alongside me the fresh world they introduced me to and the lessons they subconsciously taught me, even when I’m 30 and busy, or 70 and wrinkly.
So, 7DREAM, I hope you boys know that I will always be supporting you, whether up close or through a telescope. Please continue doing what you’re doing, and never stop improving and getting better with every performance, every comeback, and every song. Let’s walk slowly together as you do your thing, and I do mine, and let’s meet every now and then, again and again, until we reach the end of the line. It has been and will always be an honor being a Dreamzen. I grew up with you, spent my teenage years with you, laughed, cried, screamed, and mourned with you, and I would love nothing more than to stay by your side as I watch you boys grow to be successful adults and, later on, wise and happy old men. I will be here when you continue to take on the world hand-in-hand with each other; I will be here when each of you branch further out into the universe on your own, and I will certainly be here when you all return home and ride your hoverboards once again.
Stay healthy and happy, my beautiful 7DREAM, you are so dearly loved.