18 Again Life Lessons
Warning: Spoilers for 18 Again ahead
18 Again recently joined the ranks of binge-worthy K-dramas like Start-Up and The Uncanny Counter on Netflix. Based on the Hollywood movie 17 Again starring Zac Efron, 18 Again is both a heart-warming drama about familial love and an unconventional coming-of-age story.
Starring up-and-coming actor, Lee Do Hyun, in his first lead role, 18 Again revolves around a man navigating life after being trapped in his 18-year-old body, helping his family and friends along the way. Here are 13 takeaways from this hilarious yet tear-jerking drama.
1. There is no age limit for chasing your dreams
Due to her teen pregnancy, Jung Da Jeong (Kim Ha Neul)’s dreams of being an announcer are completely derailed. She never gives up on her dream however, constantly practising over the years by sitting in front of the TV screen narrating new stories, all while raising her family.
Fast forward many years later, at 37, she is considered by many to be too old to kick-start her career. Despite this, she lands a job as an intern announcer at broadcasting network, JBC, after her 24th interview.
She excels at her work and proves her talent as an announcer in various situations.
Da Jeong’s age and maturity also enable her to be a better announcer. She is not easily fazed, as demonstrated by her handling of many unexpected situations, like being splashed with water during an interview. Drawing on her life experiences, she adds valuable insights to programmes that she hosts, such as a variety show on divorce.
Eventually, she becomes a successful announcer and is the host of her own sports show, proving that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.
2. Make the best out of difficult situations
Hong Dae Young (Yoon Sang Hyun), Da Jeong’s husband, finds himself in a pickle when he transforms into his 18-year-old self. His family doesn’t recognise him and he is unable to save his crumbling marriage.
However, resolving to make the best of the situation, he enrols in Serim High School and becomes classmates with his children under the moniker of Ko U Yeong (Lee Do Hyun). As their friend, Dae Young (as U Yeong) looks out for his daughter’s safety and happiness, encourages his son to overcome his bullies, and even lends a helping hand to their classmates.
When we meet with challenging predicaments like Dae Young, we can choose to wallow in self-pity, or we can strive to make the sweetest lemonade possible from life’s sourest lemons.
3. Be a good role model to those around you
We never know what behavior those closest to us will pick up from our actions.
Following the death of his mother, Dae Young’s father (Lee Byung Joon), a bus driver, develops a drinking problem and neglects Dae Young. Similarly, Dae Young “inherited his life exactly the same” and later becomes dependent on alcohol to cope with his struggles, driving a wedge between him and his kids.
While it might be difficult, we must be wary of our actions and make a conscious effort to do the right thing, at least for the sake of those closest to us.
4. Don’t be swayed by naysayers
The public immediately turns on Da Jeong once they find out she is a mother and divorcee, even though they sing her praises at first for her good performance on television.
The same thing happens to pro baseball player, Ye Ji Hun (Wi Ha Joon). When the public finds out that he is a single father, they are livid. But their tune changes just as fast when he divulges that the child is actually his niece whom he adopted after his brother’s death.
Society can be harsh. One moment someone is celebrated, the next, they’re cancelled. Haters will hate and we should not let the flippant opinions of the public based on stereotypes affect us. If what you’re doing is right, carry on!
5. There’s always more than meets the eye
Tears certainly fell from viewers’ eyes when Si A (Roh Jeong Eui), Dae Young’s daughter, transfers money she receives from her father into her bank account. She discovers that all the deposits were made on days of significance in Si A’s life, such as the first time she walked. With this knowledge, she realises her father’s immense love for her and comes to regret how she thought of him previously.
Dae Young also finds out that his estranged father always makes it a point to visit his mother the day after her death anniversary, so that Dae Young is able to visit her in peace.
The people we love often go out of their way to do things for us without seeking recognition. If we don’t learn to appreciate our loved ones, we might come to have regrets once we learn of all the things they have done for us.
6. Don’t be afraid to travel the road less taken
Si A’s determination to pursue her dream of becoming a makeup artist is worthy of our admiration. She comes to the decision not to go to college, despite it being the less trodden path. In order to save up for a makeup academy, she takes up a part-time job.
If you’re passionate about something, don’t let conventions sway your convictions. Of course, proper research and the willingness to live with your decisions are a must.
7. Communication is key to lasting relationships
The main reason for the initial collapse of Dae Young and Da Jeong’s marriage is due to a lack of communication. Both parties never open up to each other about their struggles. Da Jeong is unaware of Dae Yeong’s struggles at work, and constantly chastises him for drinking instead of being there for him as he sorts out his issues.
On the other hand, as Da Jeong never tells Dae Young why she wants a divorce, he assumes it is because she is having an affair.
Misunderstandings happen as a result of a lack of communication. For healthy relationships to last, we must make an active effort to open up about our struggles and ask for help from our loved ones whenever we need to.
8. Don’t be ashamed of your guilty pleasures
One of the more light-hearted subplots of the drama is the romance between Dae Young’s best friend, Ko Deok Jin (Kim Gang Hyun), and Si A’s teacher, Ok Hye In (Kim Yoo Ri). Teacher Ok is ashamed that she is a hardcore gamer geek, hiding it behind a sophisticated disposition.
Ironically, what she desperately tries to keep hidden ends up being an avenue to build a meaningful connection. By the show’s finale, she accepts Deok Jin’s advances and begins a relationship with him, someone who is equally as nerdy as her.
In the wise words of Deok Jin: “Everyone who’s cool is abnormal.”
9. Life won’t always go as planned, so count your blessings
By the end of the show, Dae Young comes to the realisation that the moments with his family made him happier than basketball ever did. He concludes that choosing to give up a career in basketball for his family was the “best decision” he made.
Da Jeong has the same sentiments, regarding her children to be the “biggest blessing” in her life.
Both Da Jeong and Da Yeong’s lives are turned upside down when they have their children as teenagers. However, they take stock of their blessings and learn to treasure those around them. In the same vein, we should always look for the silver lining as we can never control everything in life.
10. Faith in a person can make or break them
The basketball coach at Serim High, Choi Il Kwon (Lee Ki Woo) gets caught up in a college admission scandal by accepting bribes from parents. One of the reasons is because Il Kwon witnesses his father bribe his own coach in the past, due to a lack of faith in his abilities.
Conversely, Da Jeong refuses to bribe Il Kwon to let her son Si U (Ryeon Un) play knowing that he has the merit to make the starting team on his own. In the end, Si U ends up receiving a basketball scholarship at a prestigious university.
The parallels between Si U and Il Kwon’s stories show us how extensive the effects of having faith in someone can be.
11. There are no picture-perfect endings in life
In the finale’s ending montage, we are given a depiction of the life of the now remarried Dae Young and Da Jeong. They continue to have bad days where they fight and get pissed at one another, and good ones filled with familial joy. Da Yeong assures us that though there are still conflicts, he and Da Jeong now “understand each other more”.
Happy endings are not picturesque conclusions. Happy endings come only if we work through our conflicts, grow from our mistakes, and treasure the sweet moments.
12. Learning is a lifelong process
Lessons abound in all forms throughout the show. Dae Young learns to see his decisions not as sacrifices but as blessings. Da Jeong learns to communicate her grievances and confide in Dae Young.
In spite of all they go through, from being young parents, a difficult divorce, unfair treatment at work, and even being trapped in an 18-year-old body, the show ends with the couple being more optimistic than ever.
Being open to learning and experiences regardless of age will allow us to lead a more positive life. Instead of treating challenges as roadblocks, we can treat them as lessons that we can grow and gain from.
13. There’s no use living a life of regrets
We see in the show that regret is the main source of resentment for Dae Young. He initially regrets the decision he makes to give up basketball for his family, creating a rift between him and Da Jeong.
We must live with our decisions, there is no way around it. Once we see our decisions as a source of growth rather than regret, life will be full of hope again.
18 Again Teaches Us To Cherish Our Loved Ones
If you enjoy dramas with fantastical elements that are grounded in everyday life, then 18 Again will be worth the screen time. Just remember to keep a box of tissues by your side for the inevitable waterfall of emotions.
All images courtesy of Netflix.