Growing up with Taylor Swift

Kelly Riopelle


27 marked the beginning of a new era in my life, the start of my transition away from Harvard-Westlake into, well, the real world. No, I didn’t submit my application to college or receive an acceptance letter, but something more significant happened: Taylor Swift’s album “1989” came out.

To be honest, at first I was a little underwhelmed by the album. I missed my girl Tay who wore cowboy boots, had long curly hair, and played the banjo in all of her songs. She was replaced by a more fashionable Taylor Swift, who now wears crop tops and shorts, has shoulder-length hair, and wears her “classic” red lipstick. Needless to say, my country girl Tay is so passé.

At first, I couldn’t even listen to “1989,” so instead I listened to one of her old albums, my personal favorite, “Speak Now.” Flashbacks to my eighth-grade self appeared in my mind while listening to the album. This was the album that single-handedly got me through my awkward stage at Harvard-Westlake. I clearly remember listening to my favorite song on the album, Sparks Fly, while sitting alone on the bus to the middle school campus. A lot has changed since I would sit alone, listening to Taylor for some reassurance that everything was going to be okay, that I would have more friends and be more confident — of course she was right.

After listening to the entire “Speak Now” album, I went back a little further into my Taylor Swift dossier, and I listened to her album “Fearless.” Memories of bat mitzvah parties from seventh grade appeared in my head, where I would belt out “Love Story” at the top of my lungs, or sing “You Belong With Me,” secretly hoping some seventh grade boy would realize I was singing to him. I guess I was just a little naïve at the time. I was confused about what a variable in PreAlgebra was, I was confused about who I should be friends with, and I was confused about the person I wanted to be overall.

Of course, “Red” was next. I vividly remember the day that “Red” came out during my sophomore year. This was the toughest transition for me at Harvard-Westlake. Juggling being on a team that I was not happy on and schoolwork that got drastically more difficult, I became pretty depressed.

When “Red” came out, it sort of grounded me. I heard a familiar Taylor, but something was different. She was more grown up. She was no longer 15, but 22! She was my steady force when I was struggling with myself, and all the changes that quickly occurred. But she was changing as well. We were growing up, together.

After listening to all of Taylor’s albums, and reminiscing about my times at Harvard-Westlake while doing so, I finally succumbed and played “1989.” I was pleasantly surprised, and to be honest have not stopped listening to it.

When I think of 1989, I think of the album as the beginning of the end for me. It’s the beginning of a new era in my life—me growing up and going to college, but it is the end of my time at Harvard-Westlake. I see myself as a happier person now. This is my era of confidence, of being who I want to be and not letting anyone change that.

Each Taylor Swift album has gotten me through a period of my time at Harvard-Westlake, and it seems fitting that 1989 will help me transition into a new era of my life outside of Harvard-Westlake, just like Taylor is transitioning into her new era, and is leaving the banjo behind. Throughout my time at Harvard-Westlake, Taylor has been by my side, “Forever & Always.”