The Story Of Us: Just Another Transition

While listening to Taylor Swift’s more recent single The Story of Us, I couldn’t help but think about how relationships (whether platonic or romantic) tend to come in stages. In the song, Swift sings about a once-iconic relationship that ended badly. She begins with the idea that the “story of us” is this effortless love story that she and her boyfriend will be telling their grandchildren, but then reveals that she and the former love of her life are no longer on good terms. Soon, that “story of us” becomes the story of how “I was losing my mind when I saw you here,” not about how sparks flew when they first met.

The lyrics and theme of The Story of Us reminded me that our relationships are constantly in a state of transition, and so are the stories we tell about the people in our lives. The guy you met in your bio class and instantly connected with might soon become the guy who took you on the perfect date, then the boyfriend everyone envies you for having, then the boyfriend who cheated on you with that girl down the hall, and finally the ex you run into on a plane and hardly speak to. All relationships begin and end differently, but most of them will have their beginnings and endings, and your perspective will certainly differ depending on the point you are at in that relationship.

It is important to accept that things are always going to change in some way. (Tweet this!) Even if you do find the love of your life, chances are your relationship will hit some bumps or adapt to the way you start to grow up. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everything in your life can become a learning experience, a story you share with your friends and your children in the years to come, even if the story manifests itself differently at different points in your life. One day, your life might feel like a bad teen soap opera; the next, like a page out of an introspective Sarah Dessen novel; and maybe even one day like a really poignant memoir that gets all the glowing reviews.

“The story of us” could be, as T. Swift puts it, a “tragedy.” It could also turn into a comedy a few months or years down the line, when we finally start to ask ourselves, “What was I thinking?” Maybe the lessons learned in one relationship will help us recognize when we’ve actually found our perfect match in another, and will lead us to that happily ever after. Or maybe what we take away from a failed relationship will lead us to a greater understanding of ourselves.

Bottom line: Change can be good. Without it, we wouldn’t survive. The stories we tell about our life experiences will constantly be in a state of transition, because we ourselves are in that same state of transition, and we have to be prepared for the curveballs life will throw at us. Taylor Swift’s love story with so-and-so might be over, but that doesn’t mean that you have to look at your own ended relationships as tragedies. Look at them as transitions, and embrace the change as the catalyst that will lead to better things.

Getting Stuck in December

As I listen to my latest mix CD for the road (which perhaps breaks a few of these rules), I find myself listening to Track #4 quite often. It’s Taylor Swift’s latest single, Back to December, one of the first songs I’ve heard from her that really wasn’t all sunshine and “boy in the corner, please notice me.” (I’m not a hater, trust me… I have a soft spot for those songs too!) Of course, my friends make fun of me for this — “It’s the most depressing song on the album!” they laugh, insisting we play Better than Revenge or Mine instead — but I still love the song nonetheless.

For those of you who live under a rock and haven’t heard it on all the pop radio stations in the past few months, Back to December is a song about heartbreak and regret — probably, more specifically, about her ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner. She sings about how she wishes she hadn’t treated him the way she had, and that if she could go back to December and change her actions, she would.

Anyone who has made a decision they regretted could easily find the appeal in this song. Swift expresses those feelings in such a relatable way, and it is easy to apply them to many situations one has been in. However, the more I think about this, the more I wonder how helpful this song really is.

On the one hand, careful consideration of the decisions we have made in the past allows us to make better choices in the future. On the other hand, the more we think about our mistakes, the harder it can be to move forward. Instead of simply changing our ways, we sit around and dwell on the fact that we didn’t change our ways when it really “mattered.” We find ourselves looking at the past as a black-and-white photograph, one without blemishes, and forget the beauty of where we are today.

While listening to this song, I realized that every time Swift and I went back to December, we both got stuck there. With a new year ahead of me, I don’t want that to ever let that happen again. Instead, I want to begin each month — each day! — anew.

Speak Now (Or Forever Hold Your Peace)

Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize just how important it is to be honest to yourself and to others. It may sound like I’m merely stating the obvious, but my closest friends know just how hard I try not to hurt other people’s feelings — even going so far as to forget about my own — and how little I really do speak up when I feel injustice. Slowly but surely, however, I’ve vowed to make assertion and honesty a much bigger part of my life.

The idea has hit me from multiple directions in the last few days. On Tuesday, as I was getting my fix of The Office, I revisited the “Beach Games” episode, in which the sweet-but-often-stepped-on receptionist Pam Beesly (who often reminds me of myself) finally sticks up for herself. After feeling ignored, unappreciated, and taken advantage of by her boss and coworkers, Pam confesses her discontent to the rest of the office on their beach day. She doesn’t do this at all in a mean-spirited way, but she does stand her ground and states her relief of getting everything off her chest.

Pam wasn’t the only person set free by her honesty. For her upcoming album Speak Now, Taylor Swift has explained in interviews that “track by track, each song is a different confession to a different person.” What I learned from these latest articles was that the theme of coming clean to others was at the very core of Swift’s newest CD, and that she too found the experience of writing these songs cathartic.

While I still don’t think it’s classy to voice every opinion you’ve ever had and believe that it’s better to choose your battles wisely, I do think that when you keep your lips sealed shut, you’re hurting yourself and the people around you. If you’re not happy with certain aspects of your friendships or relationships, and you’re not speaking up about the things that matter, then how can you expect the situation to improve? If you see your friend doing something that isn’t in his/her best interest and you don’t want to hurt them by telling them, then how can you help your friend?

Takethe movie He’s Just Not That Into You as a prime example. Although Gigi the Protagonist has about ZERO chance of settling into a relationship with most of the guys she dates, her friends at work are constantly reassuring her that those guys will call, and then they make up excuses as to why nothing has happened thus far. Or look at the season premiere of Jersey Shore, in which Snooki tries to convince Sammi that Ronnie still has feelings for her, right as the camera cuts to Ronnie, piss drunk in a club, making out with two girls at once. (More on that show in another post!)

The lies we tell ourselves and others, even for the “right reasons,” can hurt us more than they help us. Tweet this!

Whether we’re harboring pent-up frustrations that we just aren’t letting out, or we’re trying to shield others from the truth, it’s important for us to be aware of what’s real and to try to open ourselves up to whatever that may be. It may hurt, yes, but it’s better than living in an illusion. Maybe each of us needs to practice affirmations, or maybe we just need some sort of outlet to express our innermost feelings candidly when we’re afraid of offending others. Maybe this blog is to me what Speak Now is to Taylor Swift — a way for me to convey, as Swift said in her interview, the “things that I wanted to say in the moment that I didn’t.” Hopefully, as time goes on, we can all start saying those things in real life. : )