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Dear One Direction fans, the pain you feel is real.

A letter to all the One Direction fans grieving over the loss of Zayn Malik.

To every One Direction fan who today is feeling devastated over the news that Zayn Malik has quit the band, I want you to know I get it.

And actually, something else: the pain you feel is real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It’s okay for you to feel shocked or mad or devastated or abandoned. Yes, abandoned. Something you adore is changing and it’s going to take you a while to get used to it.  And that’s okay too.

People are making jokes. They always do when it comes to “boy bands”. But don’t give them the power of making you feel small. What you feel as a teen is so often more authentic and powerful, more intense, than anything we feel as adults. Why? Because your love for someone or something is pure. It’s not tempered by age or experience, by heartbreaks or suspicion. When you love as a young person, you tend to do so with all your heart. You’re ALL in.

And while people around you may scoff or roll their eyes muttering how ridiculous it is to be upset over a guy leaving a band (“Puh-lease!  Nobody’s died!”) – let me politely point out that grown men and teenage boys routinely shout and yell and scream and weep when their rugby league team loses the grand final (or a player signs to another club). Grown women (like, um, me!) felt flat for days when Dr Patrick  (a FICTITIOUS CHARACTER!) died unexpectedly on Offspring. And, um, again when the series ended. 

And that’s called life. The bitter and the sweet of allowing something or someone to take hold of your heart.  It always hurts when it’s over.

One Direction was an enormous part of your life.  The music, of course. But more than that.  Your dedication to this band goes way beyond being able to recite the words to Story of My Life or knowing about Liam and his fear of spoons or those Harry bandana tumblrs. Those five guys filled up your days.  Deciphering lyrics. Following them on social media.  Researching their charities, their backgrounds, their opinions, their family homes and their family … they were, in a way, your happy place.

One Direction was (and can still be) your time out from real life when assignments were due or bills needed to be paid. When your best friend was behaving like your worst enemy, when life felt overwhelming you turned to them and their music. They helped you get through. They meant something to you. I get it.  

And now you feel like it’s gone.

Zayn leaving the band means that One Direction will never be the same. It’s over. That’s what you’re thinking, I’d guess. But deep down you knew this day would come and you always knew it would suck when it did.

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So today feel whatever you need to feel. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. You’re not lame or pathetic or stupid or childish. Nope. You’re loyal. And passionate. You’re a fan. So for now eat Milo out of the tin and watch their X Factor audition for the millionth time on YouTube and wallow.

it was 5 great years… A photo posted by niazkilam (@zaynmalik) on

But remember too that Zayn Malik has done what is right for him.  What he has done takes extraordinary strength and courage. And I mean that sincerely.

For the past five years he has lived the dream and been a part of the biggest band on the planet.  And this 22-year-old boy who – before X Factor had never been on a plane or owned a passport –  has spent five years living the life so many covet: money, fame, fans, stardom, stadiums and red carpets. And to walk away from that takes courage. To pursue your own happiness, to follow your own path takes courage. To know you’re disappointing millions of fans by doing what is right and best for you takes courage. Wish him nothing but happiness.

Be sad today. Eat the Milo. Debrief with your friends.

And know that it’s perfectly okay to be gutted.

I get it. I still miss Dr Patrick.

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