As a thirtysomething, I often wonder about the things that were never taught by teachers, at least in the schools I studied in. But that’s what libraries are for; in my case the post-school libraries were the bookstores that allowed people to read open copies of different books and magazines. I spent hours in them, during a period divided into searching for answers, and searching for inspiration. Eventually, there was the ‘net, aside from cable TV.
Whether they’re useful information or the equivalent of junk food, the stuff I usually gravitated to were pleasant enough distractions. And I’d like to think that exposing myself to different works by people from different cultures inspired me and answered questions that I‘ve been asking myself.
But as much as I’d like to think that I’ve gotten important experiences that fill in life’s blanks, I still wonder about suffering and death, imperfect relationships, wavering self-worth, and changes in direction and purpose. The teachers barely talked about how complicated human bonds can get, and only clinically taught the technical processes of sex. The self-help books and websites only do part of the job, too, as every case is different.
I think about the things I do and the decisions I make, unsure if these are part of some genetic imperative. Anyway, I know for sure that I’m different from most of my family. I’m the agnostic guy who still has his Christmas tree up on his shelf, way past Easter. I’m the person who tries to make sense of my past, one who often wonders about the could’ve beens.
But like everyone, I find myself connecting and agreeing with thoughts that others expressed creatively or eloquently, which brings us to a particular song. I only discovered Taylor Swift recently, and I must say that she’s amazing. Some of her songs remind me of Jewel’s early work; they’re pop-folk-country tunes with really insightful lyrics. I can relate to some parts of “Fifteen,” not only because they describe how I felt then, but also because there are things there that I relate to now. The last couple of verses are especially bittersweet.
Fifteen (Taylor Swift)
You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors. It’s the morning of your very first day. You say hi to your friends you ain’t seen in a while. Try and stay out of everybody’s way. It’s your freshman year and you’re gonna be here for the next four years in this town. Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say, “You know, I haven’t seen you around before.”
‘Cause when you’re fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. And when you’re fifteen, feeling like there’s nothing to figure out. Well, count to ten, take it in. This is life before you know who you’re gonna be. Fifteen.
You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail and soon enough you’re best friends. Laughing at the other girls who think they’re so cool. We’ll be out of here as soon as we can. And then you’re on your very first date and he’s got a car, and you feel like flying. And your mama’s waiting up and you’re thinking he’s the one. And you’re dancing 'round your room when the night ends.
‘Cause when you’re fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. When you’re fifteen, and your first kiss makes your head spin ‘round. But in your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team. But I didn’t know it at fifteen.
When all you wanted was to be wanted, wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now.
Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday but I realized some bigger dreams of mine. And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind. And we both cried.
‘Cause when you’re fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. And when you’re fifteen, don’t forget to look before you fall. I’ve found time can heal most anything. And you just might find who you’re supposed to be. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be at fifteen.
Your very first day. Take a deep breath, girl. Take a deep breath and just walk through the doors.