Chester Bennington was depressed

chester bennington linkin park

I woke up this morning to the devastating news of Chester Bennington committing suicide.

The first question is, of course, why. Why would a father of six, the frontman of arguably the most popular and successful alt-rock band, kill himself?

And then: did we all miss something? Some clue that we should have picked up on, perhaps in his songs? Perhaps Leave Out All the Rest was a sign?

While Mike Shinoda has always been the more media-friendly, bubbly one in the band, Chester has always been evidently more troubled. He spoke before about his traumatic past, drug and alcohol addiction, struggle with depression, and it seemed like music was the only outlet for his pain.

Depression is real. Depression is often undetectable. We’ve seen too many seemingly-happy and well-adjusted people, or people with seemingly-enviable lives, take their own lives.

I’ve known people personally who killed themselves. And each time my heart breaks for them. Realising that they had been battling themselves all this while, that none of us ever even guessed. That it had gotten to the point where they decided nothing was worth holding on for.

Depression isn’t something you can just get over, or be completely cured of. Sometimes, it takes courage to fight for one more day, to get up from bed and force yourself to go through the motions for one more day, to live when nothing makes you want to stay alive for one more day.

Depression affects more of us than we realise. It could be that kind teacher who gave you a word of encouragement, or that friend who is always the life of the party, or the one with her earphones plugged in and head buried in a book.

Point is, everything may look fine on the surface. They may be laughing and joking with you at work or at school, but they may also be crying themselves to sleep every night. They may not reveal more than the part of their personality everyone would love, because they don’t want to be a burden to the people around them.

Depression can eat you alive.

But as my friend Nicole (and fellow Muse) said in this post, “There are a lot of good things going on in life and a lot of good things ahead. Just like there are a lot of trying times and a lot of difficult things ahead.

“You can’t just focus on all the negative things. You’ll drive yourself into a depressed spiral that’s really hard to get out of, if you do that. You gotta remember to focus on the good, including the little things and the grand, exciting things.”

If you know or guess that someone is depressed and you want to help, know that you absolutely have the power to.

It can be as simple as a text message asking them if they are okay, or just sitting with them in silence, listening to them spill their thoughts even when they don’t make any sense to you, showing that you will always be there for them and never judge them. Sometimes, the smallest gestures like these can help keep a depressed person alive for one more day.

Be at peace, Chester. Thank you for your music, your spirit, your honesty. I hope you are finally free of your demons now.

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still alive and writing

In case you were wondering, I haven’t been slacking all this time I’ve been MIA. Sure, the day job’s got me like

boo tired stoned

And some days like

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But I’ve been slowly but surely pulling myself out of that previous funk, and now every spare minute that I have outside of the day job is spent working on NEVERLAND or plotting LAND or WORLD or writing a new short story. When your time is in short supply, your productivity skyrockets.

Speaking of short stories, the Muses and I may have scaled down on the frequency of our posts (because life) but we have more head-space to work on our stories now.

The most recent one, Love in Free Verse, has just been posted, and I had so much fun with it. I’ve been back in my Eminem phase for the past week because of this clip from The Defiant Ones, a docu-series airing on HBO:

#LEGEND

Eminem’s life story is so inspiring. He not only went through the worst shit getting bullied as a kid (had no idea he had been so badly injured), going through the loss of a loved one, he also faced so many obstacles to make it as a rapper. But he stuck to his guns and persisted, sought opportunities everywhere, pushed for his dream, and was so hungry for it. It makes me ashamed of how I’m just sitting on my ass when he had tried that hard to earn his big break.

And he’s a brilliant lyricist; he’s got the whole rhythm and poetry genre nailed. I’ve been a fan of his since I was 14, when I first heard Mockingbird on the radio and proceeded to buy his album, Curtain Call, and I just can’t rave enough about how wildly talented he is. He can pack so many expressions, metaphors, alliterations, imagery, allegories, allusions and other literary devices into his songs he rarely ever repeats his lines (except for choruses).

Fun fact: did you know that he reads the dictionary so that he has all these words at his disposal when he write his rhymes?

This is how intimate he is with his art, how dedicated he is to his craft.

This is why he can rap freestyle off the top of his head and think up rhymes in seconds and set the world record for the most number of words in a song.

This is why Rolling Stone named him one of the Greatest of All Time, why Sir Elton John himself called him “a true poet of his time”, why even horror writer Stephen King and Barack Obama (as well as celebrities from Justin Timberlake to Rihanna to 50 Cent and Drake) are his fans.

Okay, I’ll stop now. But if you want to hear me rave some more, here’s an article I wrote on Eminem.

So tl;dr, inspired by the Rap God, I tried my hand at writing rap lyrics in this month’s short story. Amateur attempt, so please forgive the clumsy rhythm and perhaps cringe-worthy lyrics.

And in case you want more, here are some other stories I’ve written for the blog:

Worlds Apart

Leaving Neverland

We Were Meant to Save the World

Death Died of a Broken Heart

The Story Thieves

If you can, check out what the other Muses have written too! They continually blow me away with how creative and imaginative they are with their stories, and keep challenging me to bring my A game to the table. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m lucky to have found all of them.

If you’d like to share your stories on our blog, please feel free to get in touch with any one of us or drop us a note here! We would love to hear from you.

Till then, muse-chasers. I’ll be working on my dreams because Slim Shady inspired me to. ♥

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Quote: Eminem

enjoying the journey

 

“It’s impossible to put all your energy into something really difficult if everything is riding on the result. The people who are the best at reaching big goals have an obsessive drive toward the goal, but also, they are able to break down the process of meeting the goal into tiny, bite-sized pieces and then take pleasure in completing each part.

When someone is unable to relish the small steps, they just stop, because process starts to seem hopeless if you constantly focus on the end. You have to have a proclivity for hard work (which might be as crucial and inheritable as talent) combined with the ability to take joy in the process itself.”

I came across this article recently, and was struck particularly by the quote above.

It is, in essence, what writers and other creative types have heard often enough. But to glean this advice from a story as poignant and sweet as this helps to drive it home.

a little progress every day

I’ve been told often that this writing journey is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to enjoy the journey itself rather than sweat over how soon we reach our destination – partly because there’s always going to be a new ending point, and partly because focusing on the destination instead of the journey means we are losing sight of what really matters. Not whether we publish our next book or make the New York Times bestsellers list, but why we write and what keeps us going. Whether we enjoy writing our stories, whether we love the process of creating something out of nothing (which is basically what art is), of pulling our random ideas together painstakingly to form a coherent and moving story.

I’ve been so caught up in the fact that I haven’t completed a manuscript, haven’t hit the word count, haven’t had anything that I can pitch to agents, etc, that I’ve stopped making it fun for myself. And how fun any endeavour can be is mostly – if not entirely – within your control.

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Before, I agonised over the numbers, the outcome, instead of the process of creation and storytelling. In chasing the outcome, I’ve forgotten to let myself indulge in the joy of imagination, of pursuing ideas, in wonder and play.

But those are the things that will inspire us to write, not having a deadline constantly breathing down your neck and screaming at you to write, dammit, write! Because you can’t write a good story with that kind of negative pressure and guilt-tripping yourself when you fall off the bandwagon. All you’re going to do is make yourself miserable and crush your self-esteem and question your self-worth and identity as a writer. You’ll end up churning out pointless scenes and useless pages for the sake of hitting word count. You will plod along at a lacklustre pace for the banal sake of progress, when in fact you’re going nowhere at all.

So I tried to shut out all of that – all the doubts and anxiety and self-inflicted pressure – go on a partial technology detox, go stare at the sea for a bit, spend a weekend doing absolutely nothing related to writing or the manuscripts, drove around town with the stereo on full blast, belt along to songs like these:

And it’s not only been completely liberating (everyone should try screaming along to 2000’s pop punk hits on a drive if they get the chance to), it has also cleared so much more head space for thought and imagination. I’m watching dramas and TV series again, reading more extensively (instead of focusing on material that’s related to my works in progress), discovering new songs, and dreaming up new scenes instead of rehashing tired old ones.

In fact, I’ve found a way out of the fix that is NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND. Not entirely, mind you. But I’ve circumvented several roadblocks that have kept me scratching the dirt at the same spot for the longest time. All because I decided to take a step back, take a chill pill, and then come back with a new outline! And since then, I’ve been working through Draft 7 bit by bit every day. But every bit counts, and I know I will arrive at a manuscript I am entirely satisfied with no matter how long it takes.

So deep breaths, baby steps, fellow (figurative) pen-wielders. We will get where we need to be in the time we need to get there. Trust in the journey. Relish it. Your writing will thank you for it.

enjoy the writing

(Also in the vein of self-forgiveness, I’m not going to sweat about the frequency of my posts. There are far more important things to concern myself with, like, you know, the quality of my posts.)

Hope you’re having a Zen hump day!

when existential angst seizes you on a Thursday night

WAIT.

It’s been more than A MONTH since I wrote my last blog post? Not just, I don’t know, two weeks?? Where did all that time go???

I honestly thought it’s only been at most three weeks since I last blogged. The past month, like all those before it, flew by with deadlines and events and the mad rush at work to clear my Inbox (when will I ever have zero unread mail?) and check things off the never-ending to-do list.

Every time I realise how quickly time has passed and how completely oblivious I have been about that, this suffocating sadness settles over me.

And along with it comes even more panic.

On top of worrying whether I’ve replied all the urgent emails and cleared everything flagged as top priority on my to-do list and accounted to all the relevant people, I also worry about all the time I’m wasting NOT doing the things I love or actually care about.

Sometimes, I don’t know if this anxiety and sadness (I won’t call it depression because it would discount what true depression sufferers are going through) is normal, if everyone my age feels the same way, as though we’re juggling multiple things in our lives and may lose our grasp on any one of them any second, or if things will get better as soon as I make the bold leap out of my current circumstance.

What if I’m just leaping into another big mistake?

What if this is as good as it gets, and I just need to grit my teeth and get through it?

What about all the other unexplored possibilities out there?

What am I giving up by staying in my comfort zone?

What if I sacrifice safety by venturing out?

Is there any guarantee at all for anything??

Okay, that just got way too heavy for the night. I’m not here to mope and moan again. This was supposed to be a quick update on the WIP, the short story blog, and other (frankly, nonexistent) life updates. I just got triggered by the time that has lapsed since my last post.

I’ll leave the trend-of-thought rambling for sessions with my therapist. For now, there’s always Rilke and his sagely advice

Okay, updates.

  1. On Neverland

On the writing front, I’m still working my way through draft six of NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND. It’s slow-going, especially for Act II, and I understand why some of the agents I queried pointed out the saggy middle. Because the middle IS saggy. I got bored reading it, which means my readers will too.

The question, now, is how to create more tension in Act II and keep the story plodding along. And I can’t move on until this is resolved. Hence, a brief stalemate.

2. On the short story blog

The four of us have decided to take down the pace a notch over at our short story blog. I explained it in this post, but basically we felt that one short story a month, on top of other posts every week, was too hectic given our respective commitments with our day jobs, family, our own WIPs, and everything else.

So instead of a weekly short story, we’ll be posting one fortnightly. Better a short story that we’ve spent time and effort on than one that we churn out for the sake of meeting deadlines, right?

3. On life

Well, what more is there to say? I’ve been cooped up in a bubble, ricocheting between work and writing, work and writing.

Thank goodness for steadfast friends who keep me sane and are unfailingly patient, ceaselessly encouraging, and immensely kind. (And you, dear reader, for being forgiving of my liberal use of adverbs).

A friend of mine said that we, as writers, need to feed our soul in order to create stories that in turn feed others’ souls. That we shouldn’t see the time we spend not writing as wasted, but as nourishment for when we do sit down and write.

Another friend told me that we shouldn’t see life as a race to the destination. Even if we have a goal in mind, the journey itself is worth paying attention to, and we need to live in every single moment that takes us to our destination eventually, even if that means watching YouTube videos or taking a day off just to roam around the city.

(Seriously, how are my friends so wise and in the know?!)

It reminded me of a quote from one of my favourite YA authors, Sarah Dessen:

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And of course, that Rilke quote about living the questions now so that we might one day, finally, live into the answer is a timeless source of comfort.

Looking back on 2016, I was sooo hung up on not having completed a manuscript. I kept feeling like I had wasted an entire year. And I put so much pressure on myself because I told myself I have big plans for my life and can’t afford to slacken.

But if I hadn’t spent my time reading those books, watching those dramas, pursuing those ideas, attending orchestra concerts on weekends, going through the necessary angst, or giving myself the time and space to do things outside of writing (i.e. living), I wouldn’t have come up with two new novel plots that get my heart racing and my fingers itching to write every time I think about them.

Sometimes, I think my gaze is so fixed on the finish line that my view becomes entirely blinkered and I ignore everything else around me. Still working on that.

I guess what I’m trying to say, after all this rambling is, I will learn to trust in the journey. I hope you will too, dear reader, and I hope you’ll find your forever in the moments you’re living right now.

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when life crowds out everything else

don't put your dream in your pocket

You know how when you get too caught up in the daily grind and its nitty-gritty demands that everything else falls by the wayside and suddenly you glance at the calendar and realise weeks have passed and your brain is still stuck in two weeks ago — no, 2015?

Yeah, that just happened. Again. Actually, it’s happened too many times before. And weeks, months, YEARS can pass just like that. When you stop to take a breather and realise that all this time has fled and you’ve done pretty much nothing that you can show for.

2016 was like that for me. A year where everything was a blur, weeks blended into each other and I had no idea when one ended and another started. My calendar was full of deadlines, and the to-do list for work jostled for the most space on my phone and desktop.

We get caught up the snare of day-to-day life unwittingly. It creeps in, slow and insidious, beginning as just regular ol’ anticipation for the weekend, when we have some alone time, some room to breathe, at last. We try to survive through the week, and then anticipate the next weekend.

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Pretty soon, the brief reprieve offered by weekends is the only thing that’s keeping us afloat.

Weeks can fly by when we’re counting them down like that. We can lose grasp of our time, our goals, our dreams, when we let real life rob us day by day. Commitments like the day job, socialising, chores, errands… Something’s got to give, and more often than not it’s the thing that asks the least of us that gets sacrificed. The thing that asks the least of us, but gives us the most joy.

For artists, it’s our art.

It sounds frivolous and indulgent, but it isn’t. Living isn’t just about survival. On top of that, it’s about finding a purpose, a calling, a reason for being, what the Japanese call ikigai.

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Everyone would have, by my age, typically found theirs by now. Otherwise, we’d all just stay in bed and wonder what we exist for.

For artists — at least, for this artist — the drive to create is what keeps me going. I can’t break down yet, I can’t give in yet, not until I publish another book, reach one more reader, finish writing another novel.

Therefore:

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When there is no space in our lives to create, or at least (in Liz Gilbert’s words) pursue our curiosity, life dims into a dreary pool of watery light. When our minds are so preoccupied with keeping up with the demands of everyday life to venture into the realms of creativity, we become ravenous, mercurial beasts, snapping at everything in our way and not understanding why. We grow heavy and lethargic in our hearts, to the point where we can’t seem to breathe, or where everything comes out in tears.

What Laini Taylor said in this blog post (which I keep going back to) was right:

You can be convinced you’re following your dream, or that you’re going to start tomorrow, and years can pass like that. Years.

The thing is, there will be pressure to adjust your expectations, always shrinking them, shrinking, shrinking, until they fit in your pocket like a folded slip of paper, and you know what happens to folded slips of paper in your pocket. They go through the wash and get ruined. Don’t ever put your dream in your pocket.

I let 2016 pass me by. I’m not going to let real life rob me of my time this year, I’m not going to put my dream in my pocket any longer. I will unfold it. I will find the time and space for it, if only because it is growing too restless sitting in my pocket and sitting in my heart and it’s manifesting itself as tears, despondency, night-time despair, and a bone-deep restlessness that is crowding out every other thought in my head.

But I don’t have time to go insane. I don’t have time for a mental breakdown (although physically I have, what with a high fever, sore throat, and the flu I’m just slowly recovering from). I don’t want to be lost and depressed anymore. Because there’s work to be done, and only I can get it done.

If nothing, I can at least say I tried, and it was all worth the effort.

I think the passion for an extraordinary life, and the courage to pursue it, is what makes us special. And I don’t even think of it as an “extraordinary life” anymore so much as simple happiness. It’s rarer than it should be, and I believe it comes from creating a life that fits you perfectly, not taking what’s already there, but making your own from scratch.

~ Laini Taylor

 

 

on writers festivals and … not writing :/

*blows the dust off this sad, neglected blog*

So I’m here blogging when really I should be working on my short story for Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand (pop over and check it out if you haven’t already!) DUE FRIDAY. Well done, Joyce. Such a champ at procrastinating. If I deliver a crappy story this month, you can blame this blog —

Okay, no. Just blame it on my procrastinating self because I have no idea what to write for this month’s prompt and I’m afraid it will suck so badly our readers will be disappointed so all I can do is ramble here because anything is easier than staring at that pile of steaming crap I just dumped on the page.

Anyway, on a brighter note, I spoke at two sessions during the All In! Young Writers Festival, about short story writing and commercial writing respectively, and that was a whole! lotta! fun!

Agenda for today! So lovely meeting all the young hopeful aspiring writers #youngwritersfestival #allinsg2017 #writerslife

A post shared by Joyce Chua (@thewritesofpassage) on

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It’s always such a joy speaking with readers and writers at events like this. I especially love hearing what young adult readers have to say. As a YA writer, I have tremendous love and respect for my target audience (why else would I be writing for them?) because they are so passionate and wide-eyed and optimistic, but also incredibly smart and discerning.

A lot of them are just starting out as writers themselves, and they ask questions like, “How do you get past writer’s block?” and “Do you go into your story with a detailed plan or do you figure it out as you go along?” and “What advice would you give to writers who wish to cross genres?”

Plus, it was interesting to hear what the other writers had to say to these questions. Marla herself is a huge fan of writing endings – you can read her beautiful writing at her blog.

Shout-out to the National Book Development Council – thanks for inviting me as a speaker! I had a wonderful time ❤

(Also, my book, LAMBS FOR DINNER, was sold out at the festival bookstore, so yay!)

Now, back to the story I’m clearly not writing!

Drama Review: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

 

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I had fully expected it to be a lighthearted, fluffy romantic comedy. But last night, this show made me cry at the end of episode 10.

WEIGHTLIFTING FAIRY may seem like just another feel-good rom-com, but it actually tackles a lot of hard-hitting emotional and psychological issues – such as trauma, pressure, eating disorder, and depression – that not just athletes but regular people go through. And that’s what makes this show so relatable.

Beneath all that cutesy puppy love, adorable banter and squeal-worthy scenes between the impossibly photogenic leads also lie big dreams, passion and depression, friendship and kinship, and a raw humanity to each character as they go through life making decisions big and small, making mistakes, and realising what matters most to them in the end.

 

SYNOPSIS:

WEIGHTLIFTING FAIRY KIM BOK JOO is a campus romance about the titular character (played by Lee Sung Kyung) who has been training to be a national weightlifter her whole life … until she encounters her first love at 21. In college, she is reunited with Joon Hyung (played by the handsome, cute AF Nam Joo Hyuk), a national swimmer whose dreams are hampered by an unresolved childhood trauma. His cousin, an kind, gentlemanly obesity clinic doctor (played by the gorrrrgeous Lee Jae Yoon), is the heroine’s first crush, and Song Si Ho (played by Kyung Su Jin) is an overachieving gymnast gradually pushed to breaking point.

 

REASONS TO WATCH IT:

  1. It’s YA Contemporary at its best

It is a deceivingly simple story about athletes trying to achieve their dreams, with an essential host of characters like hilarious sidekicks and tough but well-meaning coaches. It’s everything you would expect of a young adult contemporary story. It includes hilarious drunken shenanigans, first crushes, jealous ex-girlfriends, competitive seniors, sneaking out after hours, and more.

2. The relatable characters

Kim Bok Joo is a likeable, relatable character who is positive, down-to-earth, unassuming but not a pushover. She’s loyal and honest, raw and flawed – it’s easy to see parts of yourself in her, and you find yourself identifying with her, wanting her to be your best friend, and rooting for her throughout the story.

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Dr Jeong, the object of her (initial) affections. And can you blame her?? The guy’s gorgeous.

Plus, she and her friends are total #friendshipgoals.

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3. The burst-out-laughing-and-clap-like-a-flailing-seal moments

 

4. The chemistry between the two leads

I enjoy every single scene between Bok Joo and Joon Hyung – from the hysterically hilarious moments to the cute banter to the surprisingly poignant and sweet moments. It just makes you yearn to fall in love!

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5. The realistic portrayal of depression

Despite her fast track to winning nationals, not everything is peachy in Bok Joo’s life. After a painful experience with unrequited love (to which I’m sure we can all relate), she begins to question why she’s weightlifting, whether she really loves it, what she’s doing it all FOR.

This scene at the end of episode 10 *spoilers ahead* where Bok Joo describes the symptoms of depression to Joon Hyung broke my heart:

It’s like she stole the words right from my lips. This scene made me realise that I was going through the exact same thing, that maybe I’m feeling just as lost and stuck as her at this juncture. (But more on that another day, perhaps.)

This is a major turning point in the story as she realises she no longer has any motivation or passion for weightlifting, the only thing she has known all her life. Now she’s lost, stuck in limbo, and has no idea how to recalibrate her life.

This depiction of depression feels on point. Bok Joo knows that something is wrong with her but she can’t pinpoint what it is – that’s what the first stage of depression is like. Sometimes, the person herself has no idea that she’s depressed but she knows something’s wrong with her. Joon Hyung immediately realises that Bok Joo is suffering from depression – sometimes, it’s the outsider who notices the symptoms first.

I like how the writers didn’t romanticise depression and presented it in the most raw and heartbreakingly honest way. The actors – both Lee Sung Kyung and Nam Joo Hyuk – did a great job too, as the sufferer and the bystander.

 

6. The swoon-worthy romance

Bok Joo and Joon Hyung collide (literally) into each other’s lives through a series of misunderstandings, then realise they were ex-elementary school classmates, and become good friends (best bros, in fact) before falling for each other. It’s a slow burn romance that viewers already root for right from the start.

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Dying from the fluff!

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I want someone who can stare out at the sea with me too.

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THE WAY HE LOOKS AT HER *__*

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Korean dramas and their picturesque scenes

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STOP BEING SO CUTE! ><

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I love this OTP because they understand each other very well as fellow athletes. Their affection and appreciation for each other goes as deep as kindred spirits’, and that is established even before the romance kicks in.

As fellow athletes, they can truly understand each other’s struggles, and encourage each other in significant ways: Bok Joo comforting Joon Hyung when he lost a race, and Joon Hyung regularly giving Bok Joo the best pep talks whenever she’s feeling anxious or nervous about a competition. They are each other’s biggest supporters.

Plus, I love that Bok Joo doesn’t need to be anything or anyone other than herself to inspire this kind of loyalty, affection and head-over-heels lurve from him. They started out as really good friends – bros, even – and maybe that’s why she can be entirely herself around him with no inhibitions.

 

7. The pretty soundtrack

NELLLLLLL!!! I can’t put into words how much I ADORE this soft rock band (if Muse and Radiohead had a love child, it would be Nell). The fact that their song fits so perfectly into this drama makes me so happy.

I’ve heard lots of good things about this acoustic indie band Standing Egg, but this is the first song of theirs I’m hearing and I’m in looooove.

How pretty and sad this song is! Perfectly encapsulates the phase where Bok Joo contemplates and reassesses her life.

 

TL;DR

This drama deals with the good, the bad, and the ugly things that college students, athletes, and really anyone go through. Don’t dismiss it as just a fluffy romantic comedy – it’s worth a lot more than that. Like all contemporary YA worth their salt, they stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

And if not, there’s always Nam Joo Hyuk and Lee Jae Yoon’s pretty faces (and abs) to ogle at 😉