We listened to every single song on every single album. It was late and we were heading home from a day spent in the wind and rain at the coast. It was cold outside but we rolled the windows down anyway. We stopped to for ice cream before hopping on the freeway- lavender flavored for me & coffee for her. Our cones were our microphones as we sang each song with more passion than the last and talked about which green-eyed ghost from the past encompassed each one.
“They all have a song, don’t they?” I asked her. She laughed and nodded.
We spent the rest of the car ride in silence, listening to Taylor eternalize the ghosts of her past with smooth strings of stinging syllables. It was so effortless the way she twisted the love and the heartache into tragically beautiful ballads, every line filled to the brim with passionate emotion. Every line a brutally honest account of all of the trials and triumphs.
I could imagine the kinds of nights she spent writing those songs. The sleepless nights. The rainy ones. The Up Until 3am Because I Can’t Stop Thinking About Him But I Want To ones. Some of her words were so harsh. Clearly written from places of pain and anger. Written before she had given herself time to mature and use her experiences to learn and let her heart stretch and grow in grace.
I wondered how they must feel to hear her songs and know those words were meant for them. She left so little room for redemption in those lines. The spaces between each word weren’t big enough to fill the emptiness created by the heartbreak. They were true and honest accounts of her feelings, but they were hurtful.
I took a writing seminar from my favorite author over the winter and I distinctly remember her talking to us about the art of Taylor Swifting. The art of crafting stories out of our life lessons & ghosts of our past. She talked about the importance of pausing before publishing, especially when writing about other humans. Because words have the ability to eternalize. Words are significant. They hold weight. And although we are humans and we are allowed to have feelings and share those feelings with others, as writers, we have a responsibility to refine those words and intertwine them with love and grace.
Her exact words were, “I think the best kinds of writers, whether they see it or not, are the ones who give grace that expands on the page. The ones who understand that writing about the life of someone else—no matter how boldly they touched you or how much they hurt you—isn’t just the maniac workings of a Taylor Swift burn song.”
And I remember vowing never to Taylor Swift anyone. I even underlined it in my journal.
But five months passed by after that seminar and I was still in love with the same boy and I cared more than I wanted to and the months and months of highs and lows culminated in a post filled with exquisitely scathing syllables intended to bruise the source of hurt.
I Taylor Swifted him. In the same exact journal that I had bolded and underlined my vow not to Taylor Swift. And then I tried to defend it and claim that I hadn’t written the post out of sadness or pain. My friends told me it was beautifully written and I thought I had finally found some amount of peace with everything. But I hadn’t.
I had written out of an unhealthy place. One of sadness and bitterness. There was no “pause before publish” moment, just a burning desire to make my pain known to the rest of the world. My intentions weren’t rooted in a desire to cultivate and build up & I quickly realized that the seeds of bitterness I’d sown would only produce regret.
Later that week, one of my best friends told me that although my words were beautiful, they were clearly written from a place of pain and they were hurtful. In that moment, I felt shame.
I want to be a good writer, but more than that, I want to be a good person. I want to build, inspire, and cultivate. I want to use this space to breathe words of life. I want to be known for my desire to take the tough stuff and stretch it into something beautiful for the big picture. Words are important & even more so when they are published for the whole world to see. They aren’t meant to be eternalized based on temporary feelings. We have to remember that. We have to avoid carrying out actions with eternal implications based on temporary feelings.
This world is filled with people who will become characters in our stories. Characters whose parts will be big and oh-so-life-changing or small and not so life-changing at all. But whenever we give someone permission to play any type of role in our lives, we are also giving them permission to step into our hearts in some capacity. Some stay and make a home and some only stay for a short while.
The boy I love was the big and oh-so-life changing kind of character and with that comes a lot of the “feel a lot of feels” kind of stuff. It’d be so easy to write a million and one Swift-like love ballads about him, but I think Taylor gets it wrong when she spends rainy nights sealing the fates of her past relationships with lyrics void of grace.
So this is my “I’m sorry for Taylor Swifting” post. I think I’ll leave the damning to the queen. As for me, I’m going to try to remember that we are only human. We make mistakes and touch each others lives in all sorts of ways and we need an abundance of grace- all the time- and we must always always leave room for redemption.