It’s almost the end of the year, and I feel like writing letters to people. Strangers, friends, people I may never meet. So I think I will start a series of letters and post them this month.
People who know me know I’m a big Taylor Swift fan. I wrote a letter to her awhile ago but never sent it. But I thought this would be the perfect first letter to begin this series.
Most likely Taylor will never read this, but if there’s ever just the slightest chance she might run across this humble blog, here we go.
I was twenty-one, and it was my senior year in college. I was struggling to get over a guy who I’d liked for three years. A guy who led me on and then moved on without giving me a sense of closure. Not only that, but I was struggling to get through my classes. I was stuck in a major I hated because that’s what supposedly would give me a job. It was a pathetic time in my life, and I felt broken and bitter, like I’d never find love, but more importantly, I’d never find me.
But that’s when you came in. I still remember driving to school that morning. Spring was about to arrive. I could tell because the air smelled more like grass and lemons rather than of musty wood. I was listening to country radio. My roommates introduced me to country music that year, and I found that I loved the stories the songs told.
Anyway, your voice came on, and I instantly found myself drawn to the words. I turned the volume up. Unrequited love. That’s what you were singing about, and just as your tears had fallen on your guitar, I felt the tears falling down on my steering wheel. “Rising country star, Taylor Swift,” the DJ announced, and as soon as I went home that day, I told my roommates about you. It just so happened that we also made a trip to Target a few days later, and as soon as I saw your album, I snatched it up, put it in my car, and listened to it over and over. It stayed in my car’s CD player for years after, with the addition of each of your albums into each of the CD slots as time passed. Your music kept me awake during tiring drives home at night after long days of school.
Though you’re four years younger than me, I felt a connection to you that I’ve never experienced with any of my friends and peers. Maybe it’s because I’ve always felt my emotions stronger than other people, or maybe it’s because like you, I can only really be truly honest through my writing.
Over the years, each of your albums has taught me a different lesson to get over certain stages of my life. After graduating college, I struggled with finding what career path to take. I’ve always been extremely shy, and it was hard for me to put myself out there, to take risks I’d never taken before. I still remember though what you said on your “Fearless” album. That being fearless doesn’t mean not being afraid, but rather, it means taking on those challenges despite your fears.
And so, I decided to stop hiding. I went to grad school and pursued something I wanted to do. I stepped out of my comfort zone, out of the familiar and into the unknown.
Grad school was another time in my life that I had to learn how to speak up. I couldn’t just sit back anymore and be the quiet girl at the back of the classroom. I had to give presentations, and I had to learn how to voice my opinions to professors and classmates. Of course, that’s when your album, “Speak Now” was released. And that is precisely what I decided to do.
When “Red” was released, I was at another crossroads in life. I was eager to find a job, disappointed that I had come across far too many frogs but still no prince, and distressed because though I was semi-content with the food industry as a career choice, part of me still longed to drop everything and pursue a full-time career in writing novels.
Having graduated and being unemployed, I had a lot of time to write and reflect. All of my emotions came out on paper, honest emotions that would probably have scared and offended my family and best of friends.
So when the critics continued to lash out on you, when the media repeatedly made fun of your dating life, I cried furiously. Each song you wrote was a moment in time that you lived and felt and experienced, and you conveyed it with honesty, from your point of view. Sure, the other people involved in those moments of time had their points of view, but your songs were not written by them. They were written by you, and you had the right to express yourself with every word and emotion you experienced in that moment.
I appreciated your honesty because it helped me move forward as well. So much of “Red” was about the heartbreaks of lost love, and I could relate to that deep, searing pain. You see, part of me still couldn’t forget that horrible experience in college. I’d been subconsciously trying to hold onto the memories of a guy who had moved on long ago. Over the years, I had unknowingly been comparing every guy I met to him, and that prevented me from giving perfectly nice guys a chance. I knew it was time to stop thinking of a boy who no longer deserved my thoughts and my attention. Probably never deserved it.
I’d been trying to hold onto the last days of summer though autumn was here already, a new season that might not feel the same, but was in no way inferior to the last. Your song, “Begin Again,” made me realize that it was time to do just that, to allow the memories to simply be mere memories in the stories and poems I’d written, but to banish the malicious shadows from my heart so they would no longer fester like poison. I finally threw away the last memento I had of him, an old napkin on which he’d written his AIM screenname. That day, I experienced a rush of relief I’d never felt before. It was exactly as you said—“for the first time what’s past is past.” On that day, “I watched it begin again.”
Then last October, “1989” came out. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive, not because I wasn’t sure if I would like it—I knew you wouldn’t disappoint—but because I knew it was going to be different, and I hoped I wouldn’t miss the country part of you. But I played the album the moment it was in my hands. And again. And again.
It was different. But it was a good different. Your lyrics were just as you as ever, honest and poignant, a flurry of color that made me laugh and cry and snarl and snort all at once. Endless emotions that even though were part of your experience, were also in a strange way exactly a part of mine.
Mistakes. Lost loves. Ghosts of memories that can’t be forgotten. Lingering echoes of past hopes and fears. But most of all, an evolution of a woman who has grown to accept herself, imperfections and all. Who knows she’s made mistakes and is bound to make more but who accepts that as part of growing up. Who refuses to allow the dark phantoms of her past to break her because in the present, she knows she’s become someone stronger.
I feel that it kind of sums up the entire experience of my turbulent twenties. I’ve grown from this shy, introverted wallflower into a woman who is now able to make her voice heard in the crowd. I’ve been able to accept myself for who I am and realize that I can’t be perfect or make everyone like me. I might be in the last year of my twenties and still single, but it’s okay. I am in love with the ones who love me. Family, friends, cat. I’m in love with life. But most of all, I’ve learned to love me.
Your stories are everyone’s stories. Everyone who has been growing and changing and learning to accept themselves and to know who they are.
Thank you for being the soundtrack to my twenties these past nine years. I look forward to the next stage in life as I continue to share the same human experience that you so eloquently describe through your music.
PS: I am certain cats will one day rule the world, as they already rule the Internet. From one cat lady to another.