Turning 23: An End to Growing Up In The Taylor Swift Era

My best friend, Rachel, and I at the "Red" tour in 2013 and "1989" tour in 2015.
My best friend, Rachel, and I at the “Red” tour in 2013 and “1989” tour in 2015.

It was July 25 at Gillette Stadium. Squeezing the right hand of my college best friend and surrounded by 150,000 of my closest Swifties at the 1989 World Tour, tears streamed down my face as Taylor Swift sang, it seemed directly to and for me, an acoustic version of “Fifteen.”

I cried because I remember so vividly arriving home from my first date, and my first kiss, to my mom waiting up for me as I quite literally danced around my room as the night ended. I cried because I remember the first time a man (boy) told me he loved me only to realize it wasn’t forever. I cried because my Abigail really did give everything she had to a boy who changed his mind. We both cried, and I remember it all too well.

As I looked around the stadium, blinking blues and reds from the perfectly-timed glow bracelets, my gaze settled on a little girl in the row in front of me. I had been watching her earlier in the night, bopping around to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Trouble.” Yet in this moment, she was silent. She tugged on her mom’s sleeve, and I heard these words roll off her lips:

“Mom, what’s this song called?”

It was in that instance that I knew it was the end of an era.

An era defined by learning to drive with Fearless on repeat, words to every song forever etched in the back of your mind. Arriving at college, new relationships blossoming and free of regret, but hearing “Dear John” once and sobbing quietly for every mistake you’d made before you got there. Relationships you thought would be forever, gone in an instant and now haunted by “Last Kiss.” Turning “22” surrounded by four years of memories and dancing. Screaming “All Too Well” in the car as you drive your heartbroken best friend to Wendy’s for ice cream. Finding yourself through “Begin Again.”

Growing up in the “Taylor Swift Era” means a real-life story for every song, and people you instantly relate to every album. Episodes of your life chaptered by lyrics and emotion.

I am turning 23 this month, and to many of my friends, this new benchmark rids a person of “having a Taylor Swift song written about your age.” Though I am confident my girl will not let me down and will write a song about the next era of our lives — 25 was a pretty great year for Taylor — I walk into this next chapter of my life wondering more than I should.

Wondering if having music to define each stage of my life is something I will leave behind. Wondering if the next 23 years will be just as turbulent and incredible as the last 23 have been. Wondering if I will be capable to handle it.

And yet, growing up alongside Taylor Swift includes her latest album 1989, the contents about growing older, wiser, and yet holding onto innocence as long as possible. Dealing with obstacles as best you can, but knowing that deep cuts aren’t fixed as easily as they were at 15. Turning 23 may be the end of this era, but it’s certainly not the end of my story.

Alyssa Frey

Alyssa is a 22-year-old grad student at Boston College studying higher education and student affairs. She is a former college cheerleader, current competitive powerlifter, and forever Swiftie.

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