*Not related to prompt*
I heard “Love Story” by Taylor Swift for the first time in the car, driving to school in the 5th grade. My mom was complaining about how much she had to work to take care of me and my younger brother, Jeffery, like usual. Jeffery was in the back, zoning out.
I was ignoring her and counting the stop signs as they passed by, when my ears caught a melody starting to play on the radio
I turned the song up, even though my mom was still talking and I was instantly captivated by the intro and fell in love with the creative heart wrenching lyrics. My mom was yelling to turn it down and Jeffery was complaining about how the song was cheesy, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to listen to the beautiful lyrics.
My head started bobbing along to the beat and I closed my eyes, letting myself get absorbed with the song. The world seemed to drown out and I wanted the song to play over and over again.
When it finally ended, I asked,“Who was that?”
The Radio DJ answered my question.
“That was the new up-and-coming artist, Taylor Swift’s, hit song, ‘Love Story!’” He announced.
I had heard of Taylor Swift when my mom occasionally played the country station, but I hadn’t really listened to one of her songs until then.
I mentally noted to look her up when we had computer time later that day.
“Autumn Grace Jones, I told you not to turn on the radio when I’m talking!” Mom yelled.
“Sorry.” I mumbled.
I didn’t mean it. She needed to shut up at some point.
She started a rant about how she deserved more respect and blah blah blah until we pulled up school.
I jumped out of the car and pretended not to hear her called after me. I had a goal that day: find anything and everything about Taylor Swift, like other music by her and how to listen to it.
From that moment on, I was obsessed. I saved up for an iPod and downloaded every song by her. I watched her destroy at the 2009 Grammys and that jerk Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech. I even learned guitar, hoping to one day be a famous singer-songwriter. It didn’t work out, but it’s fun to play all the songs from Fearless on it when I’m in a bad mood.
Speak Now (2010)
I had my first kiss to “Back to December” with Scott Rodriguez.
It was the Middle School Spring-Fling, 7th grade. Kenny Wilson had asked me to the dance, but he ended up spending the entire night playing kissy-face with Courtney Miller.
Not having any friends to hang with or the self confidence to dance by myself, I mostly stood in the corner, with occasional trips to the snack table to eat stale chips.
I was about to call it a night when Scott walked over.
“Oh hey, Autumn.” He said.
I raised an eyebrow. “Hey, Scott.” What was he doing here?
We stood in awkward silence, which was probably my fault. I’m really bad at making people feel comfortable socially.
“Back to December” started playing and I felt my eyes close, like they do whenever a Taylor Swift song comes on. It was the best apology song to an ex-lover and it was different from her usual stuff where she was either mad or the victim.
Scott cleared his throat, reminding me he was there. “Uh, do you, um, like this song?”
I smiled wistfully. “I love it.”
“Do you, uh, wanna dance?” He asked.
I shrugged. “Sure.”
I studied him as he took my hand and led me to the dance floor. He seemed so shy and nervous, but also brave. It must have been hard asking me back then. I wasn’t the most warm or nicest person in the world. Maybe that’s why I said yes.
(I’m just kidding. I was a pretty shallow kid when it came to love. I said yes because he was pretty cute and I was bored.)
We slowed danced, which is one of the most awkward things if you don’t know the person too well. Scott wasn’t sure where to put his hands and I didn’t know how much eye contact to make.
But, for some reason, he still kissed me when the last chorus of the song started. It wasn’t movie worthy, or song worthy, or anything worthy, but it was still a kiss. That’s really all a thirteen year old can want for.
We didn’t talk or hang out much after that night, but whenever I hear “Back to December”, I smile a little.
My first few years of high school weren’t my greatest years. Freshmen year was a living hell full of demons who’s main job was to torture me. I didn’t have high hopes going into my first day, but armed with an iPod downloaded with all of Taylor’s songs, I thought I was ready for anything.
Turns out, I wasn’t.
Walking into school on the first day, with “Fifteen” blaring from my headphones, I planned on trying to get through the year with as little screw ups as possible. Maybe become a new me or something. Maybe get a senior boyfriend, like Taylor does.
The exact opposite happened.
Let me tell you that tripping and spilling all of your food on a couple of seniors is a horrible idea. I became the main inspiration of their teasing and taunts. I learned quickly to keep my headphones on and try to draw as little attention to myself as I could. I became an emo girl who was always listening to music and only spoke when necessary. I’m pretty sure they all thought I was listening to rock music instead of Taylor.
The only one who gave me a chance was Gabi.
It was English class sixth period, day two of my four year stay in that hell hole. I walked into the room and made my way to the back, taking a seat beside a dark haired girl wearing pink jeans and a batman t-shirt. She stared out the window, chewing gum loudly and tapping her foot to an uneven beat.
It took five seconds for it to get annoying and make me say, “Hey, could ya stop that? It’s incredibly annoying.”
She turned her head towards me, revealing a pair of hazel eyes.
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” She said and stopped.
“Thanks.” I muttered before putting me headphones on.
I had three minutes of silence before I felt a tap on my shoulder. Batman girl said something that I couldn’t hear over my music.
I lowered my headphones. “What did you say?”
Batman girl smirked.“I said what are you listening to?”
“Oh.” I pulled out my old crappy iPod to check. “Um, ‘Mean’, by Taylor Swift.”
“Omigosh, I love Taylor Swift!’”
“Yeah she’s my most favourite artist ever.” Batman girl scooted her desk closer to me. “I thought you were listening to heavy metal or something.”
I laughed. As if.
“No, I’m a Swiftie. Heavy metals to. . . heavy.”
It was Batman girl’s turn to laugh. “That’s a very accurate description of it, alright. Hey, did you hear Taylor’s new album is coming out in October? I’m so excited for- '' She was interrupted by the english teacher walking in.
“Everyone, quite!” He barked. He said something else about his name and the type of behavior he wanted in his class, but I was only paying attention to the Batman girl, who had leaned toward me.
“My name’s Gabi, in case you were wondering.” She whispered.
“Mine’s Autumn.” I whispered back.
Gabi smiled. “Nice to meet you, Autumn.”
And a lifelong friendship was born. We got closer over the next couple of months, especially staying up until midnight for Taylor’s album drop of “Red.”
Highschool sucked and only got suckier over the next four years, but Gabi was a good thing that came out of it. One of the best things that came out of my life, actually.
“Mom, you can’t keep doing this! How the hell did you get fired this time?” I screamed at her.
It was 2014, the year that “Age of Ultron” came out and the last season of “How i Met Your Mother” made me and hundreds of people cry. It was also the year Taylor released the groundbreaking album, “1989”.
“I don’t know! I showed up to work and they were just like, ‘you're fired.’” My mom yelled back.
It was the fifth job that she had gone through since the summer and I was getting sick of it. I had been the one paying the bills, putting food on the table and taking care of Jeffery, all on top of school.
“Probably because you never get to work on time and when you do you're super drunk!” I snapped, not caring about what I had done.
Mom hates being wrong and when people call her out on it. . . Let's just say that there’s some shoe throwing and name calling.
She turned the same colour as a rotten tomato and started reaching for her shoe. “I work so-”
“I’m gonna stop you right there, Mom.” I interrupted. Anger having built up for years exploded from me. “You don’t. You just don’t. You act like you do stuff for me and Jeffery, but you don’t. I’m the one who makes sure Jeffery isn’t bullied at school and I’m the one who makes sure this house doesn’t collapse!” I gestured to the small apartment we called home. The walls were stained with what looked and I hope wasn’t blood and the floors were torn in the corners. It was always messy and dirty and smelled like a failed life. Everytime I walked through the door when I came home from school, I wanted to turn right back around and pretend I never lived there.
“How dare you!” She screamed. “I-”
“No, how dare you.” I interpreted again. “Like why did you have to screw up parenting so bad? Yeah, being a single mom is hard, but you suck at it. All you do is not try and then complain about how your life is so hard while I’m stuck doing all the work. And I’m freaking’ sick of it!”
We stood there, glaring and breathless.
I wasn’t sure what she was thinking then, But I knew what I was thinking:
I wanted to run.
And never come back.
So I did.
I ran into my room and started grabbing and stuffing things into my gym bag. I loosened a floor board under my bed and pulled out two-thousand-something bucks out, my journal, and some other personal items.
“Are you leaving?” A small voice asked.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw Jeffery standing in the doorway. He looked scared and sad and confused and angry all at once.
“Oh no, Jeff, no, I’m not leaving.” I rushed over and wrapped him a hug. “Well, I am, but only for a little while.”
“Can I come with you?” The plea in his voice was so raw, it broke my heart.
“Not right now.”
He pushed away and shouted, “What, so you’re going to just run away and leave me here?”
“No, Jeff. I need to find a place first and I can’t take care of you properly until I do. You need to stay here, okay?” I held out my hand in a fist bump, like we always do when we made a promise.
He stared at my fist. “You swear?”
Jeffery nodded his head and softly bumped his fist against mine.
I hugged him goodbye before running out the door. I stayed with Gabi for a few months before finding a place. Luckily I had “1989”, one of my favourite albums, to help me get through it.
It took a year and a half to get into a stable position to take care of Jeffery. I went to court with my mom and gained custody of him. The last time I saw her she was yelling at me as she left the court house. I can still picture her face, full of anger and shock, but also hurt. Like I had ruined her life, not the other way around.
I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. She made her choice. I made mine. We can’t turn back the clock, but I wouldn’t want to. I have my life now and she isn’t in it. That’s the best I can ask for.
Ok, I’ll admit it; I turned a little rebel during my university years.
Everyone changes in university, learning about themselves and how they work in the adult world, because High school apparently wasn’t enough time. They become their “true selves” or some crap that the movies are always preaching about.
That’s why I like Taylor’s music. It doesn’t judge you about your love life or how you’re living. It isn’t trying to guide you or give advice. It’s like that friend who if you’re feeling sad, they’ll sit and listen and sacrifice their shoulder for you to wipe your snot and tears on.
I didn’t need anyone telling me how to live my life. I worked two full time jobs and was still keeping up with my classes on environmental science, all on top of taking care of Jeffrey. And in spite of it all I still was able to have an active social life.
I had moved on from my emo kid style to more of a badass punk who looked amazing in ripped skinny jeans and a black jacket. I cut my dirty blonde hair to shoulder length and kept it up in a messy ponytail half the time. Thanks to moving out, I finally got the self confidence I had been missing when I was younger.
Gabi and I would walk into clubs and it seemed like all heads turned our way. We would tear up the dance floor and drink like we didn’t have exams or work in the morning.
God, I miss those days.
Between work, school, Jeffrey, and clubbing, you’d think I wouldn’t have any time left to get a boyfriend, but, like most things, I found a way.
I met August at the Jaded Time bar, right after I finished midterms in my second year. I was throwing back shots with Gabi, giggling and laughing like a drunk idiot while “Getaway car” by Taylor swift played. I had turned around to go grab more drinks when I crashed right into some jerk.
“Hey!” I exclaimed. “What the-” I was about to start swearing in drunk slurs at the guy when I looked up at him.
His navy green eyes were framed by glasses and his dark hair was brushed to the side in wild curls. His pale handsome face was flushed slightly pink and he had the esc of a smart, but cool kid.
“Sorry,” He said, trying to steady me. “Are you okay?”
I gulped. Oh my gosh why was he so good looking?
“Uhhh.” I blubbered. Come on, Autumn, say something!
“What’s your name?” I asked.
The handsome boy gave me a sceptical look. “August,” he said slowly.
“Nice name. I’m Autumn.”
“Okay. . .”
“Um, can I buy you a drink?” I don’t even know what gave me the courage to ask that.
We stood awkwardly for a few moments before he said, “Uh, yeah, sure.”
So I bought him a drink.
When I asked him about the whole situation a couple months later, when we were dating, he said that he was slightly freaked out by my straight (and drunk) forwardness, but that all faded when he saw how cute I was.
It was nice when we were dating. August was an amazing boyfriend and I loved him through it all, but any love born to a break up song from “Reputation”, one of Taylor’s angeriest and rebellious albums, isn’t going to last forever.
Not a great year for me.
Everything that could go wrong went wrong.
I had graduated university, but I had a hard time finding a job in environmental science and was laid off from my job as a waitress.
Jefferey was having troubles with highschool and there was nothing I could do. It killed me knowing that he was hurting and I couldn’t fix it.
Gabi and I got into a big fight. I don't even remember why, but it was something big. It kept spiraling and spiraling until old wounds were torn open and we both left feeling more pain than we ever meant.
And on top of it all August and me broke up. He wanted me to move across the country with him for work, but I couldn’t uproot Jeffrey just like that. Even if I didn’t always have the best memories living here, it’s still my home. Sometimes you just can’t leave your home.
Even if it means letting go of other things.
It seemed like Taylor wasn’t having the best year either. Or at least her music wasn’t. To me, it felt like the fake pop that I heard all the time on the radio. The cheesy emotionless crap that wasn’t masterly written and didn’t feel personal. It wasn’t the Taylor Swift songs that I fell in love with.
Sure there were some good bops and a couple of them dealt with big issues, but still. Wasn’t her best album.
I guess everyone has a bad year at some point in their life. We have It becomes more likely there’s going to be a bad one.
When New Year’s Eve came along, I was more than ready to welcome it in with open arms. As the clock struck midnight, I thought, 2020 is going to be my year!
Folklore and Evermore (2020)
COVID19 felt like someone pressed the reset button on the world.
It felt like everything changed in a moment. The whole world closed and poof. No more social interactions or normal life.
I wasn’t too upset about it all. I needed to take a break from the world after the year before.
I spent my days sitting in my apartment, making sure Jeffery was doing his online schooling, working, bingeing TV shows, and trying not to get too bored.
I was so happy when “Folklore” dropped in June. I finally had something new and amazing to do/listen to. It changed the whole pandemic for me. The power in each song, the flowing lyrics that had been lost in her earlier albums, and the feeling of melancholy within each one. It definitely deserved the win at the 2021 grammys.
It was the same with “Evermore”, the sister album to “Folklore”. I was so shocked when the album dropped in December. It was a way better surprise than COVID was.
She said that she wrote “Folklore” because it felt like everyone just needed a good cry. And boy was she right.
I totally cried through those albums. It was the thing that tipped me over the edge of the iceberg I was balancing on since I was eleven. After everything I’ve been through, I had never looked back and realised everything that I losted over the years. All the things I’ve seen and done. I finally got the closure I didn’t know I had been needing.
I also, realizing my mistakes, called Gabi to apologize. She, along with Jeffery, was the one thing I wasn’t going to leave behind. I’ve always had the reserved and I-don’t-need-anyone-personality, but I needed Gabi back.
Tragedies really do always make you realize who you love and care about.
Fearless (Taylor’s version) (2021)
I sit alone, in my room now, listening to “Fearless” (Taylor’s version), surrounded by the memories each of the songs bring up.
I look back at it all with some sort of newfound wisdom. I mean, I’m twenty-three, I should know something. I’ve loved, cried, lived, drank a lot, felt heartbreak, and overcome some hardships even I’m surprised I got through.
It’s been a hard couple of years. Like how did I ever find the courage to leave home at seventeen? Or survive high school? Or, after everything from my crappy childhood, found people who loved and understood me? It all seems insane seeing it from the other side.
I smile as “Love Story” (Taylor version) starts playing on my old iPod. It captures young Taylor Swift breaking into the music world, but now sung by her older self with the maturity of thirteen extra years of life.
I close my eyes and lay my head down, letting the song whisk me away into the memory of sitting in my mom’s car, driving to school, not knowing who I was, where I was going, or who I was going to meet and hearing “Love Story” for the first time and realizing that this song was going to change my life forever.