what feeling 22 means, looking back

I know that some people like to make fun of Taylor Swift, her look, her lyrics, her relationships. After her Grammy performance, which I hated, I could understand that her music isn't for everyone. I think that's okay. We don't all have the same tastes in music or clothing or TV shows. My mom used to say, "wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same?" whenever I would complain about not understanding someone or not being understood. She's right; it would be. 

What I like about Taylor Swift is that she seems, as much as someone who makes at least part of her living as a celebrity, like a real person. Her songs, same as they may be, are about real experiences. She's young and she sings about being young, about having her heart broken, about breaking boys' hearts, and about the yearning, searching, trying to figure life out experience of her twenties. There are times her songs come on the radio, on the rare chance I'm listening to the radio, that I change the station. Yesterday, however, there weren't a lot of stations to choose from on my drive and so I listened, for the first time, to the lyrics of her song "22".

Yeah,
We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It's miserable and magical, oh, yeah
Tonight's the night when we forget about the deadlines
It's time

Uh oh!
I don't know about you
But I'm feeling 22

And it struck me that that's exactly what 22 feels like. I've written many times about the in-between-ness especially in my 20's and silly or catchy, that's what I think Swift's song captures.

I was 22 when I went to Europe, looking for answers, for comfort, for healing. What I found was complex and messy and while my experiences changed and deepened my understanding of life, they did not change all the grief and sadness I had to face.

At 22, I was trying to figure it out. I sat on back porches and patios, drinking wine or whiskey, depending on my company which should say something about that time in my life. I was still struck by the magic of fireflies, and one night a college friend and I tried catching them the way we'd both done as kids, but then we let them go because it made us sad to see such lovely creatures in jars. 

When I was 22, 9/11 had not yet happened.

I worked two part-time jobs, attended classes, and drove a 1992 Toyota Corolla with a sunroof. I loved that car. I remember nights after work, leaning on its hood, while we figured out the night's plans which sometimes meant going to bars or a pool hall but more often than not meant hanging at someone's apartment or house. Plans almost always changed at a moment's notice, or when the person driving decided to go somewhere else.

I dyed my hair platinum blonde. It looked kind of awful.

I hung out with lots of people, only a few of whom I still talk to today because the kinds of relationships I had at 22 do not last.

I kissed in parks, in clubs, in backseats. I never went on dates.

22 was eating pizza over the counter or sometimes sitting on top of it but rarely at the table and always at the insistence of my Gran who said it was bad for digestion to eat while standing.

I was in love with words, poetry, and my best friend.

I was conflicted, about who I was, about how to be who I was, about relationships. About life, in general, and what mine was supposed to be like.

And while I sometimes wish I could revisit that time, just see myself from a distance or tell the 22-year-old me that it's going to be okay, I would not want to be 22 again.

It was confusing and freeing and lonely and miserable and magical; Taylor Swift got that right.

What does feeling 22 mean to you?