The first time I heard Taylor Swift, I thought nothing of her. She was just another "grown-up" singer my seven-year-old self paid no attention to when an icon such as Hannah Montana was there to bop to.
Soon after, I would think much differently. I would go out of my way to buy the physical copy of each of her albums (even when it was free on Spotify.) I would find out what shade of red lipstick she wore so we could match. And I would even go so far as to get bangs in the same style as hers.
Years after my obsessive fangirl stage fizzled out, Taylor has become somewhat of a friend, if not a role model. No, we are not catching up about our crazy lives (her more so than mine) over a cup of coffee, but I feel as if I almost know her.
In times when the world was uncharted territory to me, Taylor had already explored it.
She was the one to tell me what it felt like to fall in love.
She was the one to tell me what it felt like to go through heartbreak.
She was the one to tell me I sometimes have to be the one to say "sorry."
She was the one to tell me I still had time to grow up.
Sure, she has her rough times, but don't we all? We would be fooling ourselves if we pretended we didn't all go through the iconic breakup stages of grief, anger, and pure envy. Taylor is just more comfortable sharing her experiences with these things.
I have recently heard of parents preventing their daughters from listening to Taylor's music because of the less-than-model-citizen content in each song. I respect this decision. In fact, if I were a parent, I would likely do the same.
Even so, I think there's something to be said about how her public self-improvement can be a helpful image for girls of my generation, as well as those younger.
When Taylor was singing about "never ever getting back together," I had yet to even go on my first date. That didn't mean I wasn't taking notes on her experience. I saw her mistake in going back to a bad relationship, and I knew I should avoid such a situation when I did begin dating.
Much like a big sister, Taylor went through the murky waters first, making the path a little clearer for when the rest of us followed behind. This is not to say the trail of heartbreak was nonexistent, but it was traveled along with fewer problems. And when trouble did come, I was not alone. Instead, I had big sis Tay's playlist to drown out the drama of my teenage life.
Over the years, I have watched as Taylor's image and music evolved from one of dissatisfaction in relationships to one of hope in herself as an individual, friend, and potentially a girlfriend. In a way, I feel as if my fellow college girls and I are taking a similar path, finding who we are before trying to find someone else.
At nineteen, I can now look back on most songs and relate it to a past experience. (I don't know if it's just me, but "Teardrops on My Guitar" just screams "seventh-grade crush.") At the same time, I look at songs like "New Year's Day" and "Delicate" and dream of the day when I will feel that way about someone.
Taylor Swift has changed a bit over the years, but so have I. Much like her, I have let the bangs grow out and learned there are lipstick shades other than "firetruck red." I have had a boyfriend, and I have been alone. I have learned to lean on my own "girl squad," and I have decided I have better things to do than draw hearts around some guy's yearbook photo. (Don't pretend like your middle-school self never did it too.)
Most importantly, I have learned I can always bounce back.
Heartbreaks are going to happen.
Friendships may get ugly.
Life may hit me out of nowhere.
But no worries. Taylor got through it, so I think I will too.