I hope it’s nice where you are, Taylor Nation.
There might be a time when you don’t feel like yourself. Perhaps you’ve had one of those already. It is World Mental Health today, and I’m going to tackle that most rocky of subjects. I know that a lot of you have an ongoing battle against depression. I still remember the old days when the musical duo called the Civil Wars formed. Their name comes that quote often attributed to Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” It is my interpretation, but I’ve always see that battle as everyone’s internal struggle with their own demons. Coincidentally, I’ve always found something both sad and soothing about a lot of the music from the Civil Wars.
I feel I have to put a huge disclaimer here and say that I’m not claiming that music is by no means a replacement to a consultation with a professional. I am adding my two cents on how music tends to play a role in my own life, something that you might share but it’s not a cure by any means. Mental health issues should always be discussed with a professional.
Fast forward to Taylor’s 1989 and you find “Clean”. This track, co-penned with Imogen Heap, tackles a little more than a break up. It feels like the character in this song is overcoming something deeper. Honestly, I’m not sure what was the original inclination of the song but in concert this performance is preceded by a speech in which Taylor’s intro turns the song into a cathartic and healing experience. Again, I must insist, this is not a replacement for a professional consultation. If playing a song helps, that’s all the better. Just don’t stop there.
Here’s Tay’s intro to “Clean” the first time she came up with it in Tokyo, Japan.
Maybe you lost someone you never expected you would lose. Maybe you lost yourself. That’s even worse. When you have bad days that just won’t let up, I just hope that you will look in the mirror and remind yourself of what you are and what you are not.
You are not your mistakes.
You are not damaged goods or money from your failed explorations.
You are not the opinion of someone who doesn’t know you.
You are a product of the lessons that you’ve learned.
You are wiser because you went through something terrible.
And you are the person who survived a bunch of rainstorms and kept walking.
I now believe that pain makes you stronger. And now I believe that walking through a lot of rainstorms gets you… Clean.
– Taylor Swift, May 5 1989, Tokyo, Japan.
Here’s how it evolved for St. Paul, Minnesota:
I was in my meet-and-greet tonight, and I met this amazing guy, who was just thanking me for writing one of the songs on the album, and it’s the song I’m gonna play…after I’m done talking for a hundred years. But he said that it helped him get through a breakup, and it got me thinking about the concept of what it’s like to have someone in your life, to let someone into your life, and share all your secrets with them. And all these wonderful things happen, like wishful thinking and daydreaming, and kind of imagining maybe your future with that person in it, and trusting them and letting them see things that you used to think were your flaws, but letting them accept those things about you. And then if you have to lose that person and all of a sudden that person’s not in your life anymore.
You know, heartbreak is such a general term for all these other things that happen to us: the unbearable letdown, the embarrassment that you let this person in and it was all for nothing, the humiliation of having introduced this person to everyone in your life and now everyone knows that it didn’t work out, feeling like you failed. All these things happen to you when you get your heart broken, and then the horrible thing is they make you then regret all the wonderful things that you did in order to let that person into your life. Wishful thinking is beautiful. Daydreaming is beautiful. Being a hopeless romantic is beautiful.
So then you get your heart broken, and you walk around through this world like time is moving in slow motion, like you’ve got some open wound that only you can see. You feel like you’ve got writing all over you that says, ‘I am in pain. I have just gotten my heart broken.’ You feel like you’re haunted by the memories of what this could have been and what would this day be like if this person hadn’t left my life. And then one day, you start to replace the old habits with new ones. And you stop checking your phone in the morning for a ‘good morning’ text. And you start replacing what used to be someone you were in love with, with time with your friends. And maybe you pick up some new hobbies, and maybe you start living your life the way you would want to live it if no one else had any influence over it.
And then one day, for me, you find yourself walking down the street and you get this idea in your head for a song about how all the struggle and feeling like you’re tarnished by love, feeling like heartbreak defined you for so long. That cloud is finally lifted, and then there’s this day that comes, and I promise you it comes no matter how heartbroken you are. There’s a day that comes when all of a sudden all that writing that you thought was on you is gone, and you look in the mirror, and you’re clean.
-Taylor Swift, September 11, 2015, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Now, if you don’t mind I want to take a slight detour. Personally, I’ve often find myself traveling roads I’ve already travelled. In this day and age, it seems everyone has to have a position on every topic. Worst is when people are quick to box you into a particular corner. I’m guilty of doing this as well. Don’t be afraid to take a third option. If you find something unfair, it doesn’t mean you necessarily must side with the opposite side. It might be you actually can see some truth in two sides of a debate. And you also find yourself disagreeing on some other subjects with both sides. Don’t get bullied into compromising your point of view. You don’t have lump in with anybody. We’re all individuals after all.
As for looking for wisdom in pop lyrics… I’m going to say, never read just one source. Never read just one book. Read often, listen to other people, make your own mind up.
Coming up next in the Calendar:
- October 22: Taylor Swift headlines a special concert at the Formula 1 US Grand Prix.