ZAYN and I like a different DiReCtIoN

    I quit the group. The student group, that is. In a crescendo of frustration, stress and (wavering) pride I sent an email at 12:28 a.m. on a Saturday morning detailing my impromptu decision to leave the only organization I’d been involved in since fall of freshman year. It felt good. It felt right. It felt strong.

    But it also felt bloody weird. These people were counting on me. We had history. Was I being selfish? Why were my reasons for resigning (which mostly consisted of lack of time and a desire to dedicate it elsewhere instead) important enough to let a whole group down? I felt utterly alone in this postpartum moment, staring at my sent message. There I sat in the wee hours of a weekend morning, a sad case of self-improvement attempts perched in the desk chair of my single dorm room. Maybe this was too drastic a measure. Dare I say I was wRoNg?

    Then, suddenly, something lit up my life like nothing else: I realized that I was not alone, because ZAYN, too, had ditched his crew. Yes, yes, anyone who spent their adolescent years channeling hope for humanity through love of “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Little Things” was rather disappointed when a One Direction Facebook post on March 25, 2015, announced Zayn Malik’s departure from the boy band. To be honest, I personally remember hearing about it and semi-forgetting about it. You see, though I attended a public high school in Northern California, where I surrounded myself with cheerleader friends who adamantly adored “1D,” I could only ever fractionally match their fandom. I knew some songs, watched some music videos. Mostly I schlumped around listening to Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name,” of which I routinely spit the lyrics by memory.

    But I did, alas, remember Zayn’s name, and with all of this “PILLOWTALK” lately, I dug a bit into both his Twitter profile and the story behind his departure. It turns out that celebrities, my fellow ‘Cats, are just like us, in more ways than just sharing a love for Chipotle. Zayn and four fellow swishy-hair X Factor finalists Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson formed One Direction in 2010, propelling themselves down the road to boy band fame, and never once turning another...way. But five years, four albums, a documentary and three and a half tours with Lord knows how many screaming teenage girls later, the “beautiful king” (his name in Arabic ... tRuTh, amirite?) was done. At 22, the British boy had become a man, and the music wasn’t the story of his life anymore, to be brief.

    As Zayn told The FADER for the cover feature of their December 2015 issue, “There was just a general conception that the management already had of what they want for the band, and I just wasn’t convinced with what we were selling. I wasn’t 100 percent behind the music. It wasn’t me.”

    At this point in my therapeutic ZAYN stalking I sighed with relief, happy to have found a friend in saying farewell. This student group wasn’t fully me, either, you know? Right? I had to be 100 percent behind it, and I wasn’t. Or maybe I could be, if I had five more hours in the day, but we were where we were.

    The only time at which I slightly doubted my newfound buddy and beautiful king was when I read the actual Facebook post from a year ago that had announced his departure. It seems that our boy Zayn hadn’t been totally honest about his reasons to leave the group, or at least his intentions had not fully matched reality. You see, the Facebook post statement from Zayn reads, “I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”

    All well and good, but let’s not pretend to forget what’s happening in Zayn’s kingdom right now. He’s a superstar. He has over 21 million listeners on Spotify. He’s got a sexy song that was released late January and immediately made No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It’s now No. 5, a full three months later. Not to mention his R&B, capital-and-lowercase-styled album Mind of Mine that has songs for all the ups and downs of life. Oh, yeah, and he’s been dating Gigi Hadid ever since she broke up with Joe Jonas. Now you get it.

    So would you call this the life of a “normal 22-year-old,” if we’re being BRIGHT? Probably not. The reality of his dishonesty is disillusioning, but it still doesn’t make everything he’s said and done since his departure rubbish. It’s just eye-opening; perhaps it teaches a lesson to all us previous Directioners who yearn to betray the compass: when we put things in the rEaR vIeW, we must be honest and upfront. We must be true to ourselves LIKE [ZAYN] WOULD be, but also remember that at the end of the day, explaining the truth is what makes the whole quitting process beautiful.

    And guess what? He is feeling good!

    So I read my email over once more to check that it was tRuThful and then happily went to bed, because I was not about to stay up all night.


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