It’s been a whirlwind of a week. I had the best time visiting Florida with my BSB Bestie of 25 years and of course, while we were there, we had to take in a BSB show.
We saw Backstreet in Nick’s hometown of Tampa, Florida, and it was every bit as amazing as we could’ve imagined. My best friend hadn’t seen them all together since pre-COVID days. The feeling of relief and rejuvenation was overwhelming for us. I have been fortunate to have seen them twice already on this leg.
Then after the Florida show, I was so lucky to see them again in Charlotte. And every show was just a little more fulfilling than the last.
Now you may not believe this, because I’ve been writing for this site for a couple years now, but I have never met Karah in person. We’ve talked a ton, but never face to face.
The Charlotte show changed that. It was also my first time in Pit for any BSB show. Not to mention, the playful attitude the boys had all night and the TONS of people I got to meet or see at the show.
SO MANY FEELS.
I was asked recently to reflect on what BSB means to me. It took me over a week to work out my thoughts, but I think I’ve finally figured it out.
If I had to choose 1 word to describe what Backstreet Boys means to me, it would be Belonging.
I have been a BSB fan since 1997, when I was in middle school. In case you don’t recall (or haven’t made it there yet), middle school is awkward…like beyond uncomfortable for a plethora of reasons that I won’t detail here. For me, it was no different. I had just moved to a new area, which meant I was leaving behind all of my friends, all of my comforts, and all of the things that made me who I thought I was at the ripe age of 12. I started 7th grade at the new school a couple months into the year with a group of kids who all knew one another from years past. I felt alone. I felt embarrassed. I felt that I had no connection to anyone. I felt like an outsider.
Thankfully, I ran into someone who was quite the extrovert and inserted herself into my life rather forcefully (which ended up being a wonderful thing for this introvert who had literally no one at the time). It was September of 1997, and BSBs “Quit Playin’ Games” had just hit US radio a couple months earlier. I had heard it, and I was hooked. This girl, Melissa, who had all the things to say about all the things possible mentioned to me about liking this group and this song. And thus began the first connection to anyone in my new home.
That grew as more people began listening and proudly displaying their love of BSB. I soon had a whole group of friends who shared that interest. We had BSB parties and sleepovers (including the ones we had on the streets in front of the Ticketmaster counter at Rite Aid for concert tickets). We stayed up late watching BSB videos over the phone and wrote the boys’ names in our middle school notebooks with hearts all around them. We listened to their songs and detailed what they meant to us, what they were saying, and how they reached us.
Fast forward to high school when many of us became too cool for school and other life events became more prominent. Through a series of random other things, I lost some of the friends and connections I had made in middle school. I made new friends, with new interests. But a few of those BSB connections never waned. Moving into college and beyond, “adult” life took over.
BSB was always there. Always a connection to some of my favorite people. But even as they struggled in the dark ages without Kevin, I struggled with finding myself. Again, I found myself lost, not only in my own life as far as what direction I would go in, but also in relationships and friendships, and that lack of connection I had with others. Moving away from friends and family creates a lot of turmoil.
I have been fortunate to have many close friends, but rarely have lived close to any of them since high school. I felt alone as I navigated adult life and was confused as to where I fit in.
These struggles have been a part of my life since I was a kid. But as I got to a place in my life where I could relax a bit from the shock of adulthood, I also found my way back to the BSB fandom. At first, I ran into old friends and rekindled those relationships, honestly, due almost completely to that shared love of Backstreet.
Along the way, we picked up a few new friends, be it standing in line for a cruise photo, selling a table seat for a Vegas show, or just through a mutual friend at an after party. Some of these people became true staples in my life and continue to be today.
These are people I go to for (virtual) hugs when I’m sad, to cheer me up when something gets me worried, to help me process the real dangers of the world we live in now. And I cannot express the appreciation I have for them beyond our love of BSB. These are my people, my friends, my family, and the place I belong.
Once the pandemic hit, and the world went to shit in just about every way possible, I (along with just about everyone worldwide), fell heavily back into that loneliness that had become so familiar to me. I found myself looking for ways to leave my house while somehow still staying at home.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kids and my partner, but being a full time working mother of 2 under 5, working from home while dad is considered “essential” and out of the house daily drove me beyond my limits in every way.
Cue social media. It was at this time that I jumped full force into the digital space. I’ve had social media accounts for years, but have never been very present with them.
I started following BSB more closely on their socials, including their individual accounts. I looked back at old posts and found myself perusing fan sites. Something I hadn’t done since the AOL days. I started reflecting on what brought me joy with this group because Lord knows I needed to find that again.
What I realized I needed was something for ME. Just me. My life had become worry, anxiety, work, home improvement, mom, mom, mom…with the pandemic and the shut down, it was magnified to the point where I couldn’t see past it.
And then, once again, like they had how many times before, Backstreet Boys showed up for me. But this time, it wasn’t just the boys. It was also the fandom.
I started dabbling in blogging. Something I never expected I’d do. I put my feelings on paper for others to read. Shared my experiences that I’d been fortunate to have with BSB over the years. I started putting myself out there on social media which was never something I found comfort in. And I saw that others felt similarly to the ways I did. Not just in regards to the boys, but to so many things well beyond entertainment.
And then, more connections came. I reached out on social media and in private messages to share that others had inspired me or that I really heard or took in what they were sharing. I connected with others about real-life issues like world events, my own health, being a mother, and so many other things. It felt amazing to have this online community so large it expanded to other continents. I could join projects and movements and just put out there my thoughts without feeling like I was being dismissed.
Don’t get me wrong…this fandom has it’s share of drama and most of us have seen it. But at the end of the day, I’ve found a whole host of people that I can trust, who I enjoy seeing (both online and in person), who understand where I’m coming from, and who can respectfully engage in debate about both trivial and serious issues. I have people I can lean on when I really need it and people I can celebrate with when that is warranted. Isn’t that what we all strive for? And isn’t it wild that somehow the Backstreet Boys led me to that community?
I sat reflecting on all of these thoughts as I returned from my trip to the east coast. After the Tampa show and the Charlotte show where I got to see so many people. After the Chula Vista show and the Hollywood Bowl show where I ran into people I considered friends who I’d never even met in person. Picking up conversations we started weeks ago online or just enjoying being together. Meeting even more people that I’ve learned about through the online communities And feeling like I had a place. There is somewhere I belong.
It’s pretty amazing what all BSB has brought me. And I can’t thank them enough.
To all of those people I’ve met through this fandom, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you, and what you’ve brought to my life.