When friends ask me what my favorite Taylor Swift album is, I say that while I believe I’m currently in my “reputation” era, I’ll forever and always be a Fearless, Speak Now, and Red girlie at heart. Because of these three albums, I saw love as eliciting the highest of highs, but also the lowest of lows—and if it wasn’t that, maybe I didn’t want it. Or at least that’s what I thought before.
I was in high school when the first version of Speak Now came out in 2010. Not a lot was going on at the moment, but by then I’d been growing up with Taylor Swift’s music and desperately wanting my life to play out like one of her songs.
I was always hopeful for that Sparks Fly moment, the one where there’d be fireworks and kissing in the rain, so much so that I’d tailor (no pun intended) each seemingly romantic encounter to fit the fairytale storyline I’d always pictured in my head.
Each time I felt an ounce of kilig from whoever was my crush at the moment, Enchanted’s bridge, “Please don’t be in love with someone else, please don’t have somebody waiting on you,” would play in my head on a loop. Let’s not even get into the whole “2 AM, who do you love?” spiral of overthinking.
Those thoughts would keep me up at night—as Taylor’s 22 goes—in the most happy, free, confused, and lonely, but best (or worst) way. Because that’s how crushes are, right? They give you five minutes of kilig, only for you to get sucked into a black hole of overanalyzing their every move and second-guessing their every intention for days on end—or at least until your next encounter with them, no matter how seemingly insignificant or fleeting.
Admittedly, among my friends, I was that one who always had her head in the clouds; the one who maybe felt a little too much, a little too soon; the one whose expectations of love were a little too unrealistic, and sometimes maybe even borderline delusional. And I have Taylor Swift to blame (or thank) for my blind optimism.
I’m quite ashamed to admit that not too long ago, I met a pandemic “situationship” (if you could even call it that) for coffee for the first time. All went well (or so I thought) and Enchanted played on repeat in my head—and I, as if I knew all along I was that lyric personified, blushed all the way home.
And though we saw each other again, I slowly felt him slipping away. I wondered what I had done wrong. In my most Taylor-esque manner, I couldn’t stop thinking, “I miss your tan skin, your sweet smile, so good to me, so right,” even though those two date-like non-dates and daily conversations ultimately amounted to nothing. In reality, I had just crafted a love story in my head, painting a picture to make it better than it seemed.
In what was a huge conclusion based on my gut feel and weak online evidence, I felt someone else had entered the picture. Friends tried to talk me out of it, saying the little I’d found out had been pure coincidence, but lo and behold, my instincts prepared me for the truth—something I didn’t expect to be pleasantly surprised about, but actually was.
Despite my being a hopeless romantic, my friends seemed more heartbroken about this twist of fate than I was. For me, it wasn’t a moment of weakness, but of silent strength—of finally having that peace of mind and realizing life and love didn’t always have to mirror a Taylor Swift song.
I can’t pinpoint that one pivotal moment that brought me to this realization; it was more like puzzle pieces coming together to form a bigger picture of what I now know and believe: that life, in its most unexpected ways, can teach us many beautiful things.
And that’s the funny thing about life and love. Taylor said it best when she sang, “Life makes love look hard”—I believed it, even when I thought I played by the rules. But as I’ve lived and loved, I’ve learned to slowly let my guard down and let the pages of my story fill themselves in as I go; no template to follow, no eager anticipation of what’s to come next. Just simply letting life and love be.
Gone are the days of wanting a Sparks Fly whirlwind romance. In its place rests the quiet comfort of reveling in the little things: his arm around me for the first time, learning each other’s secrets, and having nothing figured out but taking things day by day.
After all, if there’s anything I’ve picked up from her previous re-releases of “Fearless” and “Red,” it’s that there is a calming sense of self-assuredness in Taylor that I could only wish for myself. Love need not be like the movies; maybe it can be quiet, peaceful, comforting, and a series of sweet nothings.
I know that Speak Now wasn’t always just about grand gestures and fairytale romances, but also about finding joy in the simplicity and ease of connections. I’d love to live the rest of my life searching for and reveling in that.
And so with the re-release of Speak Now today, when it comes to how I see life and love, gone are the days of wishful thinking and mindless dreaming. Now, I can confidently say: next chapter.