Lyrics taken from “DIVINE“.

It’s been more than a decade since the world was introduced to Girls’ Generation. That’s 12 years — and counting — since Kwon Yuri first looked straight into the public eye and smiled, fresh-faced at the foot of what promised to be an uphill journey, to say the least.

There is definitely more than one way to deal with any challenges that might come your way, and there will never be just a single best method. Because what matters in the end is not what your solution is, or even necessarily the way you decide to solve it — instead, it’s how you keep pushing yourself to take step after step of that process, in spite of how difficult the path becomes. And Yuri has realized the importance of this more fully than many could ever hope to.

At the beginning, Yuri quickly became known as one of the mood makers of the group. She can always be counted on for a quick laugh, and doesn’t mind being the butt of the joke, because she finds her own actions just as hilarious as everyone else does. Her energy is infectious and sincere, and it’s this that immediately endears her to anyone she meets.

Yuri channels this same energy into her work — her stage performance is rivaled by few, and her talent and tenacity go unnoticed by even fewer. It might be hard to believe that the person who carelessly makes screenshot-worthy expressions on a regular basis is the same one who gives substance to the phrase “if looks could kill” — in more ways than one — as soon as the spotlights switch on. But Yuri does it, and effortlessly.

Of course, someone who sees the world for what it is — and still chooses to stay open for whatever may come — is as easily susceptible to wounds as she is to letting the next blow roll off her shoulders. Because sometimes others will take advantage of you regardless of your best intentions, and sometimes they will laugh at you not because you’re funny, but because they want to. So you smile along with the rest and push the darker things to the very back corner of your mind; but when you’re alone with your thoughts later, where else do they have to go?

Having your worst fears amplified by the sounding board of anonymous opinion as all attention turns to Korea’s national girl group will certainly not help, and Yuri has had more than her fair share of scrutiny and insecurities. Here, the solution is easy (they’re wrong), and the way to achieve that solution is even simpler (just ignore them). But if it were truly that effortless, Yuri wouldn’t have had to laugh in the face of her worries until she finally believed in the humor, wouldn’t have had to pull her members close and dry tears that should never have been shed, all so that she can stand in front of us today and greet the entire world with a smile that has nothing behind it to weigh it down.

Yuri is the poster child of strength, in every sense of the phrase. Because it takes resilience to fight her way through the stormiest of oceans, and a certain kind of innocence — the one tied to those bygone years when the world was much less gray — to still push through to the end with a laugh, as if the darkest waves of the past are now all just water under the bridge.

Happy birthday, Yuri. Thank you for showing us that choosing to believe the best in people is not the same as being too naive, and may you continue to smile without burdens for many, many years to come.

Written by: moonrise31@soshified