The former boybander has accomplished a lot since he left One Direction a year ago

By Laura Cohen
Updated October 05, 2016 06:19 PM
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Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The fateful day has finally come.

Today marks one year since Zayn Malik left One Direction – and it’s also the day he’s releasing his debut solo album, Mind of Mine. (Insert: feelings.)

The past 12 months has been filled with lots of exciting (and sad) Zaynisms that require much thought and reflection.

1. HE CONFIRMED THE TRUTH
Just admit it: There was a tiny piece of all of us that thought this was just one big prank (I mean, the 1D boys are totally goofy, and we love them for that). But shortly after announcing his departure on the band’s Facebook page, Malik told The Sun, “I’ve never felt more in control in my life. And I feel like I’m doing what’s right – right by myself and right by the boys, so I feel good.”

2. HE GOT A MAKEOVER
New career, new you: Just 23 days after leaving the group, Malik showed up to the Asian Awards in London in April with a newly shaved head and a nose piercing.

3. HE REMINDED THE FANS HE LOVES THEM
Malik kept a relatively low profile in his first month after leaving 1D, but in late April, he began to re-engage with the fans.

In another tweet, he jokingly cleared up what the above “x” really meant.

4. HE REMOVED ONE DIRECTION REFERENCES FROM HIS TWITTER
But his Twitter wasn’t all full of love. In May, Malik finally removed all mentions of One Direction from his social media presence. Previously, his username had been “zaynmalik1D,” and his bio contained a link to the band’s official website.

Of course, this did not go unnoticed to the fans of both Zayn and One Direction, and “#YouWillAlwaysBeZaynMalik1D” became a worldwide trend on Twitter almost immediately following the change.

5. HE FOUGHT WITH LOUIS
It all started when Naughty Boy tweeted this photo, which Zayn retweeted. It seemed to be a nod to an unsubstantiated rumor that One Direction might replace him following his departure from the band.

Louis Tomlinson, likely in response to the photo, wrote this:

Naughty Boy then replied:

Tomlinson responded:

THEN, Zayn fired back.

Phew. That was a lot. You still with us?

6. HE WON A BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARD
One Direction won the 2015 Billboard Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group, and in the acceptance speech, Liam Payne said, “There’s one more person to share this with, and that’s our brother Zayn.”

7. HE SIGNED A SOLO CONTRACT

Malik also took the opportunity to shed a little more light on why he left.

8. HE CONGRATULATED HIS FORMER BANDMATES
After One Direction dropped “Drag Me Down,” Zayn tweeted a congratulations message. Because that’s what former boy band bros do.

9. HE ENDED HIS ENGAGEMENT
In August, Zayn called off his engagement to Little Mix fiancée Perrie Edwards, whom he had been engaged to since August 2013. “She’s been putting on a brave face, as Little Mix have had promotion to do, but she’s obviously devastated,” a source told PEOPLE at the the time. “Perrie’s being supported by her bandmates, but she’s really in pieces about this.”

10. HE DROPPED HIS LAST NAME

After releasing his first solo single, we noticed he was just ZAYN. Not Zayn Malik. He went full Beyoncé on us!

11. HE STARTED DATING GIGI HADID
One of the first times these two were spotted together was after the American Music Awards in November. Despite maintaining that they’re “good friends” for a while, it seemed just a little bit obvious there was something else going on.

They didn’t open about it much, until that time …

12. HE RELEASED THE STEAMIEST MUSIC VIDEO OF ALL TIME
Yep, obviously we’re talking about the video for “Pillowtalk” – which starred Hadid, as well (and confirmed our beliefs they they are definitely not just friends, because, I mean, just look at them).

13. HE SHOWED OFF HIS SOFT SIDE
His next music video release, “It’s You,” featured a lot of slow-motion, black and white filters and sad, sad eyes.

14. HE APPEARED ON TV SOLO
For the first time ever, Malik was on a talk show by himself. In February, he chatted with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. We were so used to seeing him flanked by the other four guys (and as fans know, he usually didn’t talk too much), so it was a big deal to just have all Zayn.

15. HE CHOSE A THROWBACK PIC FOR HIS ALBUM COVER

Awwww, baby Zayn!

16. HE KEPT ON DROPPING NEW SONGS WITH NO WARNING
Most of his singles haven’t had long-built-up releases, which means we’ve been losing a lot of sleep waking up in the middle of the night wondering if we’re about to be #blessed with another Zayn original.

17. HE DYED HIS HAIR A LOT

In the last year alone, he’s gone bleach blonde, gray, green, platinum again (with a buzz cut), and, in the span of two days, white and then purple. It’s even more exhausting than keeping up with Kylie Jenner’s hair.

18. HE GOT A TATTOO ON HIS HEAD
Malik debuted three new tattoos on Instagram a few weeks ago, but the one on his head really struck us as interesting? While many presumably thought his new head tat was a nod to his mom, the letters “M.O.M” actually mean “Mind of Mine,” the name of his album.

19. HE SAVED HIS 1D MEMORABILIA
If you look very closely at his Instagram photos, you might see the One Direction logo in the background. It appears he’s kept a surfboard memento from his boy band days, and that makes us feel everything, all at once.

20. HE STARTED TYPING LIKE WE ALL DID IN MIDDLE SCHOOL
If the songs “BeFoUr” and “iT’s YoU” are any indication, it’s clear that Malik is taking us back to those good old AIM profile days; we’re not mad about it.

21. HE APPEARED ON A LOT OF MAGAZINE COVERS

Zayn’s been everywhere, including on Interview, Billboard, Fader, NME, and L’Uomo Vogue – and this time around, he didn’t need to share the space with four other guys.

22. HE GAVE US LOTS OF RELATIONSHIP GOALS

Their happiness is our own.

And that time he used his lyrics to say she inspires him.

23. HE CUDDLED WITH DOGS
Zayn has also used his time as a one-band-man to hang out with man’s best friend, which means our heart has officially exploded into a million pieces.

24. HE TOOK SELFIES

In greyscale, obviously. It is #Art.

25. AND, FINALLY, HE GOT ANOTHER HAIRCUT

Honestly, this was the year of Zayn’s hair changes. He just started sporting a fresh new look right before his big album release day – we’d say that’s a pretty good occasion for the new ‘do.