A year ago, One Direction sat us down and told us they were moving out. They made it clear that as of March (2016) they’d be the Rachel to our Ross and would begin a break that would allow them to find themselves in the wake of their newfound professional independence.
But it was only temporary, they said. The boys swore they’d be back. They told us that it was not us and not them. They said they had projects to work on and lives to lead and dreams to chase, and they needed to do those things apart from their brethren. And because we love them, we chose to believe them. We tweeted and we rallied and we shed our tears, even though breaks usually tend to precede breakups. We know that. Deep down, we have always known that.
Especially when we saw each lad go so merrily down their own new paths. Harry got cast in a Christopher Nolan film before signing his own record deal. Louis continued to (kind of) co-parent his son while also embarking on a world-romance tour with girlfriend Danielle Campbell. (Plus he’s a guest-judge on this season of America’s Got Talent.) Liam also announced plans to go solo, and Niall is ... honestly guys, I genuinely don’t think Niall even knows he was in a band. (I mean, sometimes he’s at sporting events? But truthfully I don’t think any of us would be shocked if he admitted that he thought One Direction was a post-secondary institution he graduated from.)
In short: They’re solo and fabulous. And we need to stop pretending they’re not basking in it.
I mean, we know most “breaks” end with a permanent ending, and that once someone finds their independent footing, they’re much less likely to return to their past — either personal or professional. Plus, it’s time for the boys to take a good, hard look at themselves and begin asking questions about who they are, separate from their public personas. Like, hello: Let’s not forget that during the premiere of Girls, Hannah was roughly the same age as Louis, Liam, Niall, and Harry were when they announced plans to put 1D to bed (and Hannah was proudly living the “Who am I?” life). Which means that all four members are primed to begin their own quarter-life crises — an important and healthy step, even if it’s worked out by trying newish things or tapping out of a safe, familiar, well-oiled machine. (Instead of, like, crying at the cash register at your part-time job, which is what I did at 22.)
The boys need to flail and struggle and figure out who they are outside of the entity they’re synonymous with. And we need to give them room to do that.
If we’re real fans, we’ll respect this. We need to recognize that most relationships rooted in one’s teens and twenties evolve and change or deteriorate altogether. We need to support the notion that in the five years One Direction existed, the boys may have grown apart or felt unhappy in their appointed roles or simply run out of creative juice. Think of it this way: How many of us still roll with the same crew we did in high school? How many of us have the same best friends? How many of us want the same things now that we did then? (Answer: Very, very few of us.) The difference is, when we took time to realize big things about ourselves, we didn’t have to announce it to the world — we just went for it, professionalism be damned.
Ultimately, it was very kind of One Direction to make us think that this was a break, that they were coming back. It was kind of them to sit us down and have a talk and make us feel like we were being factored into a decision that had nothing to do with us at all. It was kind to make us feel like we weren’t being abandoned. Even though we weren’t: Louis, Liam, Niall, and Harry simply told us in code that they were taking the next life steps they needed to grow up and find themselves. And the reason we get so angry with every solo update is because it makes this big change so much more permanent.
It’d be easy to pretend we can pause time and that everything can stay as is, and that the boys are secretly pining for the past the same way we are. But that would also be horrible. Because while it may hurt to think that One Direction will never return, it’d be worse to imagine such talented and creative guys stifling themselves for the sake of our happiness. It’d be terrible to think they didn’t have room to grow because we refused to give it to them.