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Plaid Shirt Days: Thoughts on Red (Taylor’s Version)

Does anyone else have the lyrics from Taylor Swift’s song “All Too Well (10-minute version)” playing through their head on a constant loop?

I hear it when I drink my morning coffee.

I hear it while reviewing courses in Blackboard for work.

I hear it when I go to sleep.

I hear it when I nurse Leo at 2am.

I’m obsessed with the longer song, because even though this is a sad, revengeful story of a rough breakup, it transports me to one of the happiest seasons of my life – when I met Kyle.

Taylor’s 4th album, “Red,” was released in October 2012, a couple weeks after I danced with this blue-eyed, blonde-haired dude all night at my friend’s wedding. I was hooked on Kyle Barichello after that, and while we didn’t have a first date for another few months, the Red album was the soundtrack to my daydreams. Songs like “State of Grace” and “Starlight” and “Holy Ground” took me to that dance floor every time it played in my car, and I’d wonder what Kyle was up to. We were going to date eventually, I just knew.

via Unsplash

Fast forward 9 years and Kyle is the one sitting next to me at the kitchen table reminding me that it’s November 12 – shouldn’t I be listening to Taylor’s new version of the album?

Of course he knew what he was getting into – a weekend of Taylor on repeat. A weekend of 21 songs he’s heard me play a million times plus 9 new ones that would need repeating until I knew all the lyrics. And the anticipated 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” plus the 15-minute short film. All Taylor. All weekend.

Red, Taylor’s Version launched at a time when I needed it. In a few ways.

There’s a lyric from “All Too Well” that summarizes how I’ve felt about life this year:

I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it.

I couldn’t be more proud and shocked, honestly, about how I’ve stepped into the mom role. Leo’s got it quite good! And he’s a mama’s boy to prove it.

Leo and me in high chair

But I’ve sucked at everything else – at least in comparison to pre-mom Michelle. I’ve dropped the ball as a friend, wife and daughter. I just bought my mom a birthday present 4 MONTHs after her birthday.

I’m an unmotivated, undisciplined writer, who’s afraid to touch the book I spent all last year writing. I’m an overcaffeinated zombie with a short fuse, and I’m sometimes so cynical that I don’t recognize myself. This new person is a hormone cocktail of Mom-Michelle, Breastfeeding-Michelle and Sleep-Deprived-Michelle.

But old Michelle? I remember her all too well.

“Red” takes me back to a good, naive, childlike season. A season of falling in love. A season of boldly starting my career in writing. A literal season of autumns in the Midwest. It takes me back to immature 23-year-old days, that as a responsible 32-year-old, I enjoy visiting.

As a writer, it’s embarrassing to read things I wrote 9 years ago, sometimes even as little as 5 years ago or 1. With a long tracklist like Taylor’s, I’d imagine she’d feel awkward or embarrassed revisiting some of those things she wrote a decade ago as well.

Who knows, maybe she is – but instead of squawking at them and filing them away in her trash folder, she’s re-releasing them, re-recording them with her more mature voice, putting her current self’s spin on them, and celebrating the songs that didn’t make the cut the first time by throwing them out there now. And the new songs are AWESOME. She’s adding minutes to her songs that weren’t even top singles. She’s making videos out of them.

I have so much material that I’ve given up on because I’m not “there” yet with my skill level. But Taylor doing what she does inspires me to be more confident about my history, to revisit my writing and put my current spin on it. To celebrate how far I’ve come.

Marriage changes after baby, too. While Kyle and I are still dancing at weddings 9 years later, our googly-eyed vibes might reflect freedom from adult responsibilities for a night more than romance. This album re-recording is a pulse check for me to be more gaga over that blue-eyed, blonde-haired hunny. I want to revive those feelings rather than bury those past seasons of my life.

kyle and me dancing
How can you not fall in love with those dance moves?

My writing deserves the same.

Even though our autumns in Phoenix aren’t quite as crisp, I want to bring back cozy, plaid-shirt days. They work well for both cuddling and writing.

How about you, reader friend? What embarrasses you about your past that you thought was awesome at the time? What seasons do you want to bring back? How do you feel about Red, Taylor’s Version and the 10-minute “All Too Well” update? Tell me everything in the comments 🙂

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