I still remember driving down the highway, scream-singing along to “We Are Never Getting Back Together” with my closest friends during my freshman year of college. I remember dancing on tables on my 22nd birthday to (you guessed it) “22”. I remember crying on my bedroom floor to “All Too Well” as I realized, with a heavy heart, that some loves are destined to leave scars when they go.
There was so much about Taylor Swift’s album Red that spoke to me as a woman in her late teens and early twenties. It was as if Taylor herself understood the highs and lows of my own life—about new loves and fresh breakups, about the absolute messiness of what it meant to be a young woman in a world where you are both revered and belittled. Even though I hardly considered myself a fan at the time, I look back and realize that in many ways, her songs were the soundtrack to my life.
Listening to Red (Taylor’s Version) nearly 10 years later is surreal in a way that’s hard to describe. I’d like to believe I’m older and wiser now, but there’s something about listening to Taylor sing “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath” that dredges up all those old feelings of what it means to be so young, so vulnerable, so in love but hurting. It’s painful and bruising. But also, it’s beautiful.
Many people have mocked Taylor for how she writes about her exes, but the truth is, so many people can relate to the yearning for a better time, to the nostalgia of a love that went wrong, to the continuing ache of a long-ago heartbreak. It’s easy to sing along with her songs with all of your heart because chances are, you’ve felt exactly the way she did when she wrote that song. In many ways, she uses her music to honor those feelings—hers and ours.
The truth is, there are some people in life who will always have a hard time letting go. It doesn’t mean that they’ll never move on, but there’s always that echo of the past that lives deep inside their hearts. It’s easy to let it haunt you, but I’ve grown to cherish it. All these little hurts have cut me deep, but they’ve allowed something beautiful to grow between the cracks. And maybe that will never manifest into a 10-minute song or even a whole career, but it has created a depth in my life that I’m forever grateful for.
I am not that girl I used to be. My friends from college have moved away. My 22nd birthday is difficult to remember these days. I no longer cry on my bedroom floor over boys who never knew how to handle my heart. But listening to all these same songs that once defined my life made me realize that in some ways, I’m not so different. I am still the woman who loves too hard, who breaks too easily, who holds on too tightly when it’s time to let go. I still reminisce about loves that are long gone. In truth, I’m not sure I’ve ever “gotten over” anything—not entirely, at least. But I’m tired of telling myself that’s a bad thing. Like Taylor, I think it’s time I choose to honor these feelings.