Speak Up, Speak Now

There’s something that’s been weighing a lot heavier on my head and heart recently than I think it needs to, and I think that’s because I’m not talking about it. In a lot of ways, it feels trivial, or like talking about it will paint me as hopeless or victimizing myself, which is not what I want to do.

But I’ve gotta speak up, and speak now: I freaking love Taylor Alison Swift.

This isn’t news to most people. Everyone who knows me knows that. In high school, I was that “Taylor Swift girl.” I had the twitter fan account–in fact, I had two because I couldn’t keep her off my personal (or FB or insta). From the age of 10, I was not embarrassed to do things like write lyrics on my arms and upload photos to Facebook. There was an entire summer that I drew a heart on my foot every single day. I went years wearing my Speak Now bracelet every day, and I really believed Taylor was the best thing that had ever been mine (though of course she has always been shared).

I was quick to defend her, to serve people facts and educate them on her philanthropy. I gave several school presentations on her. I attended the Speak Now and Red tours with my mom while in high school, and had floor seats to 1989, the first show I planned to share with my boyfriend. We ended up being unable to attend, which I talked a bit about in my Rep tour post. It meant so much to me to spend my 21st birthday with her this year, especially with the guy I love–he makes the lyrics make sense in a way they didn’t before, but anyway..

A lot has happened in the last 11 years of looking up to Taylor. Her albums have gotten me through tough experiences and helped me celebrate the best moments of my life. I appreciate who she is as a person and who she is as a songwriter. I’ve gotten to watch her grow as an artist and individual while the art she’s created has affected my own growth. Her writing makes me think and inspires me to work on my own. I’ve gone from that small town girl who wanted to write to studying writing in my favorite city, filling the pages of a notebook with her face on it with my own words while working on cool, professional projects I’m really proud of.

That’s a connection that can’t be broken, and I’m one of the millions of lucky people who get to identify Taylor as a lifelong role model and friend–with or without meeting her.

However, meeting her is an especially huge thing right now, as she’s trying very hard to meet fans she hasn’t before. The process isn’t really explained, but the gist is that Taylor and her team try to find deserving fans based on their social media accounts and how hard they show up for her at her concerts. They get invited to secret events where they finally get to hug her, take a photo, and tell her how much she means to them.

This era has been full of thousands of people shouting their love and subsequently getting to meet her. And though my love for her feels very clear to me, I haven’t shouted it as loudly as I could have in the last several years.

I’ve made heartfelt posts when I was feeling it, but I’ve been quieter on social media. I can cite two reasons for this: the first is because I was afraid of annoying or upsetting others, and the second is because I was trying to allow myself to feel okay in knowing that my love for her was there whether or not I tweeted about it constantly.

I still think the second reason is a big mood. The internet fandom culture has always been bizarre to me, though I used to be a lot more involved/obsessed with being involved. Like real life, it can be so cliquey and based a lot on socioeconomic status and what I’m going to call extrovertedness (I just mean willingness to put yourself/your thoughts out there). Those parts of being a fan don’t come easily to me; I think friendships are hard to create and I can’t fathom being able to buy every single version of an album the minute it comes out. And posting every single Taylor-related thought that occurs to me just feels like too much. These aren’t excuses; I love the community around Taylor and everyone who seems to create content effortlessly. I just didn’t want stanning her to feel like my whole life. But there’s a difference between balancing your love for something and holding it inside.

Which brings me to the first reason–16 year old me should not have been bothered that I lost followers after tweeting with abandon during music award shows or album releases. Nineteen year-old me should’ve been okay with having a discussion with the girls in one of my science labs that were concerned about Taylor and appropriation. Because the biggest thing I can take away from my time of holding back, and maybe not feeling as connected with her, is that it’s okay to criticize the artists we love.

In real long-term relationships, you have discussions about things that bother you and it doesn’t diminish your feelings one bit. You acknowledge that people aren’t perfect. One of my pet peeves about fandoms is that it can seem like the artist can do no wrong, and that isn’t true. Artists are people, too. For example, I wish Taylor would be more outspoken politically, but I know where her heart is (and it just so happens to be the anniversary of her sexual assault trial).

Anyway, I’ve been overthinking my relationship with Taylor because of the current stress on meeting her. Recently, everyone (literally everyone!) I know IRL who also loves her has met her. Met her!! I don’t know the exact details of their experiences, but somehow they’re all shooting their shots and it’s paying off. That’s so beautiful for them, and instead of feeling bitter about that, I want to admit that I think I’ve been too timid to.

That stops today. I love Taylor Alison Swift, and I want everyone who knows me to know that because I want her to know that someday too.

21st & T Swift

A year ago, 20 made me reflect on time and how I would qualify mine thus far. My conclusion was that I had withstood and come to understand some of the more difficult concepts of growing up, and that 20 was the year of finding opportunity and stability. The transition to 21 has only proved that I am still working on those things–but I’ll get into that in posts soon to come!

For now, I want to reflect on how amazing my actual 21st birthday was. Not because of drinks or bars, but because of people and experiences I will have to remember in all the years to come.

On June 1st, my day of birth, I saw Taylor Swift at Soldier Field. The fact that I got to attend her first night in Chicago on her Reputation Stadium Tour is a huge deal to me for a lot of personal reasons. For one, the obvious: I got to spend my birthday (of all days) dancing and singing every single (genius) lyric with 52,000 other people just as excited and passionate and present, ready to appreciate every moment of Taylor’s time that we were able to share celebrating music that hits home to all of us for different reasons.

It’s been five years since I’ve done that, since The Red Tour, where I watched my two all-time favorite artists, Taylor (obviously) and Ed Sheeran, play at Ford Field (with my momma) on 5-4-13. Almost exactly a year later, on 5-3-14, I went on my first date with my boyfriend (I wholeheartedly believe in the magic of 13s). Another year later, I bought him and myself floor seats to The 1989 World Tour at Soldier Field. I was very excited to introduce two of my best friends: the young man who was teaching me what love was (through an ldr, no less), and the woman whose own experiences had gotten me through my own since I was ten. Instead of this magical night happening as planned, in an awful turn of events, the former, my (nineteen y.o.) boyfriend suddenly suffered heart failure caused by myocarditis (a pretty rare condition where your heart muscle becomes inflamed). Despite my sweetheart of a bf boldly telling his doctor that he had plans the following weekend, we did not attend that concert (and he’s since made a full recovery).

So after all of that, and then Taylor’s hiatus where most of us worried she’d finally chosen her rose garden over Madison Square, Reputation came out. I felt reconnected with my childhood hero, and I saw an opportunity to finally bridge the connection between JT and Taylor when the tour was announced.

I could write a separate review of the concert experience itself (and maybe I will), but really, all you need to know (if you somehow don’t) is that T Swift Puts. On. A. Show. It is an event. There were fireworks and giant, moving snakes, and there was the acoustic version of Dancing With Our Hands Tied and the mash-up of New Years Day and Long Live– It was emotional and positive and interactive. The kind of genuine experience where all you feel is happy to be alive and so invested in enjoying this moment that you completely forget any negative feelings, like self-consciousness over how tone deaf you are, and sing at the top of your lungs.

The best part was that I got to lose myself in this magical moment while holding hands with my best friend and dance partner, the guy who’s been patient and loyal and loving to me for over four years now. The guy who bought me the green Reputation t-shirt to use as a blanket because Soldier Field, on a windy, sixty degree day, was too cold for the halter-top romper I insisted on wearing. The guy who also pinned on the sash that said “Finally Twenty-One,” and took me to get my first legal drink.

We met up after the concert with a small group of my friends at the same bar that we had celebrated his 21st in. I sipped my drink and smiled at the people chattering amongst themselves, in another moment of feeling nothing but love and realizing that there was nowhere else I would rather be.