Growing up with Taylor Swift

Published 7:55pm Saturday, July 19, 2014

Say what you will about Taylor Swift, I have a soft spot in my heart for her. If Facebook is the friend, I love to hate, Taylor Swift is the friend I hate to love.

It all started back in 2007. I had just gone through my first breakup, which at the time seemed like the end of the world. My friend Talyr and I were stopped in her red mustang at West Chippewa and Becker streets when she said she had the perfect song. She then proceeded to play Swift’s “Picture to Burn.”

If I had to describe the song with one word, it would be awkward, but really what 15-year-old girl is not awkward. Maybe it’s that she captured the quintessential heartbroken teenager, but something about that song helped quench that teen angst bubbling up.

Now fast forward a few years. I’m 22, and yes, I am listening to “22″ by Taylor Swift. Once again, I’m in a car, this time riding to New Orleans with Bryce and blasting it. Disclaimer: he did not appreciate this for a single moment. But in that moment that was how 22 felt. She describes 22 as being “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.”

In that moment, I felt every single one of those emotions. If 21 was about discovering who I was, 22 was about just being that person. I wasn’t worried about trying to impress anyone. If I wanted to do something, I did it. If I wanted to go out and stay up way too late, I did. If I wanted to stay in my pajamas and eat my roommate’s cookie dough (her recipe is fabulous by the way), I did. That was the happy, the free, the magical.

But for every perfect moment with my best friends, there was another moment looming over me about my future. My future stood in front me, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. And the scariest part was that I had to do it alone. No matter what I had done before, my next step would be solitary. That was the confused, the lonely, the miserable.

Now, though, that door is closed. It closed the day I graduated. The future wasn’t a hazy prospect. My future became the now. And even as the feeling has passed, a little part of me misses it.

Now, I must insist that you not judge my musical taste on this column alone. I guarantee if you go through my iPod you’ll find at least one song you’ll get excited about. Granted, there are 4,000, so it might take a while.

What I’m getting at is that maybe Swift’s demographic is extremely tight, but she hits it pretty dead-on. In fact, I would argue it reflects the prevalence of extended adolescence. My generation is given more time to grow up, whether it’s for the better or worse.

And isn’t that really what art is supposed to do – reflect society, or at least a portion of it?

Now, 22 is gone, and I am the much more mature 23. And by mature, I mean I kind of have a plan that I may follow, which is more than I can say about this time last year.

So here’s to 23 and many more.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.