"All Too Well"
The Five Minutes, Twenty-Eight Seconds That Changed My Life.
When I was in the eighth grade, Taylor Swift came out with her fourth studio album, RED. At this time in my life, I was a die-hard Swiftie (that's the name of Taylor Swift fans in case you didn't know) who knew all there was to know about Taylor Swift, her music, her tours, even her pet cats. I still know all the lyrics to her songs, but that's beside the point. When the album first hit the market, I was eager to listen to the music, to hear what new content she had created over the past few years since her last record was released. What I didn't know, however, was how much impact one song in particular would have on me over the next six years of my life.
"All Too Well" is the fifth track on the RED album with a length of five minutes, twenty-eight seconds. The song was originally double its released length and according to co-writer Liz Rose during a 2014 Yahoo interview, "With that song, when we got together, she had it all in her brain, and it was probably 10, 12, or 15 minutes long! She had a story to get out, so we just sat down and started going through it piece by piece, and as she sang all these things, I just wrote down what I thought were the important pieces that hit.” I'm saying all of this up front to say that in those five minutes, twenty-eight seconds, I see my ever-changing life in that song a different way each time I listen to it. A lot of times when people ask me what song has impacted me over the years, I haven't had a reply. I always give the question a thought, but never an answer. I think that deep down, I've always known the answer, but have never had the courage to say it because with Taylor Swift being the artist, she has a public image of sometimes only "writing about her broken heart" or writing to destroy her dozens of "boy toys" that she's had. In my opinion, that isn't cruel; instead, it shows vulnerability. It shows the audience that even though someone can go through such a difficult time, they can still find a way to cope with their emotions, the highs, lows, romance, & heartbreaks. I am going to face my fear of talking about this song now though and share with you how "All Too Well" by Taylor Swift has taken me from a broken, confused middle schooler to a confident, growing young adult.
This song came out only a year after I had moved from my lifelong Tennessee home to North Alabama. I was in middle school, which was an awkward time to begin with, but also a time of loneliness for me, a time where I truly felt like not many people wanted to be my friend- so this song became my friend. That may sound odd, I know, but as a music geek in a town full of sports and rockets, I was pretty much alone. In the bridge, Swift sings, “Time won't fly, it's like I'm paralyzed by it. I'd like to be my old self again, but I'm still trying to find it.” For me, the days seemed to drag on in middle school. I never had many people to talk to and if I did talk to people, most of the time it was just a “fill-in friend” (one I would talk to just to say I had a friend, but not one that I could really count a friend now that I’m looking back on it). This line in the song reminds me of when I first moved, when I thought that I would never be 100 percent happy again because I was not home; rather, I felt alienated in a place where all I did was sit in my room and play music like this. Sometimes I would cry on the floor at night, and my mom would find me there, sad. I didn't know what was happening then, but it turns out that that move was one of the best things to happen to me.
Going through those lonely years opened me up to a world of possibilities. I found myself getting more creative musically, dove into learning more musical instruments, training myself to become a more versatile musician. Once I got to high school, I joined the high school choir and found my forever friends, the ones that my future kids will call their “aunts and uncles” one day. The line, “It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well” started to ring out to me more now than the line in the bridge did. Once I found my group in high school, I found myself truly happy again, wanting to work harder than ever on my creative projects. I had people surrounding me that believed in me, not people who were just there because I was the goody-two-shoes who they used to get on the teacher's good side, then dumped me after they got what they wanted. My friends that I made in high school and I have a rare friendship that holds through thick and thin, one that I feel many people cannot say about a friend group our size, and I think that is something special in itself.
Now, let’s flash forward to 2017. In the bridge, there's another line that says, "But you keep my old scarf from that very first week cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me." When I graduated high school, my family moved back to Tennessee and I was without my friends yet again, but this time it was because I was starting a new chapter in my life. I didn't get to go back to visit for a few months, but once I did, I found myself relating to this line in the bridge. To me, this line wasn't about a scarf; instead, this scarf was me. This scarf was my past, a part of myself that I wanted to hold onto, to remember forever. When I first started to visit Huntsville again, I was thinking I could "relive" my high school glory days once again. I quickly realized, however, that it was impossible to go back and try to recreate something that was already so near-perfect to begin with. Instead, I found myself holding on to the memories instead, much like the guy in this song does with Taylor Swift's scarf.
Once I got to college, I was still the scarf. I was holding onto my past, but in a way, I was looking forward to my future. I was at a new school with not a single person on campus who knew me. I could create a life of my own, a life that I wanted. I started talking to more people who came from different pasts, different lives than me. In the second verse of the song, there is a line that says, "You tell me 'bout your past, thinking your future was me," and to me, this was true in many ways. I also started talking to people and me being a trusting person, thought we were better friends than we really were. After some things happened, however, I realized I was being used for other's benefit and that wasn't okay with me. Taylor sings "You call me up again just to break me like a promise" and I understood that more once disappointment from those former college friends started to set in. These people were users, players and I never opened my eyes to the truth until it was too late and I got hurt by it.
I had a rough patch there towards the end of my first semester, but once I realized that it was okay to let go of them, things got better. I also leaned on my old group of friends from high school during this time, too. This helped me realize that being the scarf wasn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, we need to be the scarf in order to build the bridge between your past and your future. Since this song's initial release, I have found not only a great song, but a friend. Taylor Swift starts the song by singing, "But something 'bout it felt like home somehow" and to me, that's what this song is. Through all the loneliness, happiness, and heartache, I have found a home in a song that six years ago, I never knew could have so much impact on me.