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Sixteen years is a long time. In an industry that’s always looking for the next big hit before the current one has even stepped onto the stage, few make it past the gauntlet of public scrutiny, and fewer are able to ride the favor of a nationwide audience for longer than it takes to be more than a passive presence — a song everyone recognizes but can’t remember the name of.

Yet here Girls’ Generation stands, against the test of time itself. But it was far from easy, of course, to get to even halfway of where this handful of incredible women find themselves today: at the pinnacle of their peers, true giants of an entire generation — and then some.

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A trip down memory lane would tell of more ups and downs than any high-speed roller coaster. And many of the obstacles are perhaps more commonplace than we’d like to acknowledge: the scathing criticisms thoughtlessly written because keyboards don’t leave fingerprints, or the inky blackness of a stadium hiding motives far murkier than any of the performers on the stage that night.

And so some are torn down past recovery, while others only bear the wounds without complaint instead of letting them properly heal. It’s a harsh reality, mercilessly breaking the people who are forced to face it point-blank. But it can also take a group of girls gathered by something as flimsy as a notion of doing what makes them happy, and weave them together into a force far stronger, far brighter, than anyone alone could ever be: a true test of teamwork and patience and belief and strength.

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Sixteen years is a long time. Enough for Girls’ Generation to become something close to a global phenomenon, through simple things like hard work and circumstance, and more complicated things like a bond that transcends all expectations but their own. Details like contracts and solos fade into the background against the sheer brilliance that the very concept of “Girls’ Generation” brings.

So it doesn’t matter that half the members are scattered around the world at any given point, working on one or two of a dozen different projects, each with its own trajectory. Because even at the farthest corners of the Earth, Girls’ Generation stills stands, united and shining for everyone: for those who are starting to think that some goal may be too lofty to touch, for those who could be having a better day, or even for those who are struggling with demons of their own.

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This is what Girls’ Generation has become now: a beacon. For strangers, as an unofficial icon of South Korea; for fans, who cherish them through both the good and bad; and for generations of idols to come — those who venture far enough to also stand in their light, just as bright-eyed and eager as they had been more than eleven years ago.

Happy anniversary, girls. May you never lose that drive to show the entire world what you’re made of; because as much as you’ve already accomplished, we know you’ve only just begun.

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Sources: Hyoyeon’s Instagram, “Holiday” Photobook, modelpress, Taeyeon’s Instagram, SM Entertainment
Written by: moonrise31@soshified

Originally posted on August 5th, 2018.