Each month I hold the 22nd close to my heart. My favorite number happens to be the day of my birth as well as the number of the Michigan highway I grew up on, and it has seemed to follow me everywhere in life.
As “22” came on my iTunes today, I thought about the transformation of Taylor Swift. Reinventing herself with each album era, the world has watched her blossom from a curly-haired teen singing about high school heartbreak to an edgier, more guarded adult.
Staying true to herself and authentic to her growth, personal experiences, and musical interests, Taylor has continued, over and over, to nurture her relationship with her fans. No matter what her music style, haircut, or wardrobe, Swifties care about her, and she understands the importance of maintaining that personal connection.
This all made me wonder how I can love her so much today when it used to be so hard for me to understand her.
Was it the seemingly staged looks of surprise at award shows? Was it her fairy tale imagery and once-optimistic view of young love?
I thought about this for a while as I listened to her older music the other day. Then, it clicked: She had an innocence that I was never able to experience.
Somewhere along the way I became jaded.
I saw the brutal realities of life at an early age. Once I became a teenager, I was immediately on the defense- and in turn, I was the girl who was the one to leave. I dated older boys, played games, and manipulated them. Taylor may have been singing about heartbreak at 15, but I would have been singing about being a rebel. I was the girl who kissed, got scared, and ran away. The one who was hurt by a boy, so she dated his friend. Deep down, I probably never truly believed in love- so I didn’t take relationships seriously.
When I graduated college and heard a young girl with ringlets’ first single, I thought, “this girl can’t be serious.” It was just so sweet and pure- something I never experienced. Sure, maybe when I was 7 or 8, but thanks to puberty, bullies, and a broken family, I feel I never had a true childhood.
However, is something refreshing about Taylor’s innocence; I just didn’t understand it back then.
I understand the young Taylor now- because it’s the person I have wanted to go back to. Even though I used to think the objectification of women was the norm, today I don’t need to accept it. I don’t have to be rude and aggressive any longer, either; I can react gracefully, ignore it, and move on.
Today I know I have a choice as to what I allow in my life. As old flames have attempted to reconnect with me over the past month, for some baffling reason they found it appropriate to jump right into being creepy.
I will no longer accept that. Today I want to be courted. First of all, if it didn’t work before, why would it work now? Second of all, do you think you are special? Do you think you’re the only one attempting?
Because, well, there’s five of them (and counting), and I said no to each one.
If you keep allowing junk in your life, that’s what you will continue to get. It’s time to break the cycle- and today I finally respect myself enough to move on.
The universe has certainly tested me, so I thought about setting my intentions for what is next. I won’t be looking back, but I am open to what is in front of me.
I have also been taking steps to nurture myself, have another chance at innocence, and live life through enchanted eyes. I have been going back to the 7-year old mindset I had when I was growing up along the creek, feeding the swans in my backyard, and reading books on a tree swing. The mindset of believing anything was possible, from whimsical tales to achieving my dreams. However, somewhere, somehow, I lost my whimsy along the way. I grew cynical and hard, cold and distant from other people.
I covered it up with an interest in fashion and New York sophistication, which I quickly lost thanks to my deep love for dive bars and dating. Losing my better self, I fell even further from grace and innocence- so in July 2016, I left the city to re-evaluate my life.
Just like Taylor did in 2016.
I know, I know- it’s a stretch to say our situations are similar. She met Joe Alwyn, became harder, and created an award-winning album during that time, while I moved to Boston and began a self-discovery journey.
While she became tougher, I became softer- and I’m excited to have another chance at embodying a sweet, more innocent persona.
It’s interesting when you learn that you don’t always need to put up a shield of protection. I spent far, far too many years with a wall up- and today I am excited to see what the future brings without it.