A huge part of my story as a One Direction fan is tied to the day Zayn left the band. I’ve been a fan since 2011, and for four entire years, he was my favorite member of the group. I mean, that face! That voice! That mysterious bad boy energy! It was everything I needed. And I was shocked when I first heard he was leaving. Devastated, even. With the 10-year anniversary happening this week, though, I hoped things would be different and he’d grace us with a tweet or an Instagram post in honor of his time in the band. The more I think about it, the more I’m not mad he stayed silent.
When Zayn left the band in March 2015, it wasn’t on the best terms. The official statement from One Direction said Zayn wanted to live a “normal life,” but he later said in an interview with The Fader that he was unhappy in the band and that One Direction’s music is not music he would listen to. He elaborated in an interview with the Sunday Times about his choice to leave the band and talked about the loss of control he felt and how returning home to his roots helped set him back on track mentally.
Leaving the band was a choice he had to make for himself, and even though fans like me were hurt, I recognize that mental health comes first. For Zayn to recognize that this job was putting a strain on him physically and emotionally to the point he couldn’t handle it anymore is commendable, and I’ll never fault him for that. Things were definitely sour for a bit between him and his former band members, with some nasty tweets thrown around—including the one where Zayn accused Louis Tomlinson of making “b*tchy comments” about his life. It wasn’t pretty.
But it’s been years since that fateful (and let’s face it, depressing) day when Zayn exited, and he, along with former bandmates Louis, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Harry Styles, have forged their own paths in the music world and created incredibly successful solo careers. But Zayn didn’t totally turn away from the band and what it did for him. He thanked his former bandmates in his acceptance speech at the 2015 Asian Awards, where he won the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. So while he doesn’t love to talk about his 1D days, he has acknowledged the band in the past.
Which brings us back to the anniversary, all these years later. Each of the other four members shared tweets and Instagrams yesterday in honor of their 10 years together—even notoriously silent Harry—and each one of them made sure to include Zayn in those posts. Liam, Niall, Louis, and Harry all shared heartfelt messages with photos attached, with all five original members of the group. Niall and Louis even tagged Zayn in their tweets, giving, if nothing else, the illusion that the beef was behind them.
But Zayn didn’t say anything. And I’m bummed about that. But let’s be honest, we haven’t heard from Zayn on the One Direction topic for years, and there’s a good chance we won’t hear from him for years to come. I mean, if you left a particular band because your mental health was suffering and then spent the next few years of your life in a never-ending cycle of questions like, “So, do you hate the other 1D guys?” would you be super quick to jump back into that fandom and bring all that up again? Probably not. Can you really blame him for staying quiet? And let’s not forget that just because he didn’t acknowledge this event publicly doesn’t mean he hasn’t been in contact with the other guys about it. It’s possible they’re exchanging memories on a text thread as you read this.
Zayn choosing not to mention the One Direction 10th anniversary doesn’t erase the fact that he was part of this huge phenomenon. Without him, the world would not have been blessed with the word “Malabami” and there’d be far less sexiness on “Night Changes.” As much as I wish he would have given us a nugget of acknowledgment to celebrate 10 years, I’m not surprised he didn’t. And that’s really, truly okay.
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