Opinion: What Taylor Swift teaches us about healing

Writer-director Taylor Swift attends a premiere for the short film “All Too Well” at AMC Lincoln Square 13 on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

It’s been a successful, record-breaking last few days for Taylor Swift. Red (Taylor’s Version) came out late Thursday night, along with talk show appearances, a short film and Saturday Night Live performance.

Highly-anticipated and well-received was Taylor’s 10-minute version of “All Too Well” — the story of a whirlwind romance and downfall between her and actor Jake Gyllenhaal (as rumored). It’s been 11 years since the pair dated and they are both in new relationships today, but the song continues to resonate with fans around the world. Why?

Heartbreak is a universal experience, but not many people can so eloquently put it into words as Taylor does. The song tells a story all too familiar — meeting someone and wondering how they are even real because they are so perfect, but for whatever reason, it’s not meant to be. The song captures the hopefulness of a new relationship and the desperation that comes when it ends too soon.

“And I was thinking on the drive down, any time now, he’s gonna say it’s love — you never called it what it was.” This lyric, one of many new additions to the song, has a familiar theme, one in which the relationship means something more to one person than another. In today’s dating culture, it particularly resonates with those who end up in “situationships” where there isn’t a title (“And there we are again when nobody had to know, you kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath.”)

But what I’ve learned is that it’s OK to mourn what used to be, even if it was short-lived. Small, intimate moments can mean a lot and become what we remember all too well.

“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,” Taylor sings. Heartbreak can make us feel like we are stuck and will never be the same again — but that’s not the case.

Taylor took the time to mourn but has now turned her pain into art. My TikTok feed is filled with people relating their own experiences to the song and its heart-wrenching lyrics. Healing through art and shared experiences with others is very possible, as we have learned from the evolution of All Too Well.

Initial performances of the song have a much different feeling than they do today. Taylor performed All Too Well at the Grammys in 2014, which has a very vulnerable feel to it — the emotions are fresh. As the years went by, the All Too Well performances became more and more powerful — acknowledging the heartbreak happened but moving toward healing. Take this weekend’s Saturday Night Live performance, for instance. Taylor sings in front of scenes playing from the short film she directed for the song — an artistic win. Moving on from a painful experience and turning it into something meaningful for others has been Taylor’s specialty.

We may not have our relationships publicized like Taylor does, but we all deal with breakups and needing to move on. Taylor shows us we can see the silver lining in times of heartache and eventually look back to see the big picture and lessons learned. In the moment, it seems as if you may never find anyone better or be happy again. But you will one day.

So be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to mourn what could’ve been. But remember that the pain doesn’t last forever.

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