Being in my ‘Nothing New’ era at 22
Ten years ago, I was 12 years old listening to Taylor Swift’s newly released single 22. It fed into my fantasies of being a big girl. At the time, I had big dreams and wanted nothing more than to already be the accomplished girl similar to the professional women I kept seeing in romcoms.
Playing the song and watching the party-themed music video on repeat was a formative experience for me. I thought becoming a young adult would be what the song promised: happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. I looked forward to having fun and becoming carefree at 22.
Spoiler alert: being 22 is nowhere near what I thought it would be. I feel more confused and lonely instead of happy and free; I cannot afford to forget about deadlines and I am afraid of heartbreak. It can often feel more miserable than magical, especially with the realization that I’m not as special as I hoped I would be. Nobody told me about how plagued with uncertainty one would be at this age. p>
Before college, I was a starry-eyed girl who thought I would change the world by telling stories that mattered. But as time passed and I changed, I was suddenly hit with the harsh reality that I was not going to change the world just like that.
This harrowing realization came as I was stuck taking classes from home at the height of the lockdown. Instead of working towards my perfect plan of becoming a journalist, I ended up having no idea what I wanted to do. I knew this much: I loved to write. But I also wasn’t sure if I still wanted to make a living out of it.
Alongside these feelings of uncertainty, I was persistently plagued with impostor’s syndrome. As a Type A person who valued having everything planned, figuring out that I had no idea what to do after I graduate – in my junior year of college, no less — I was devastated. With so much uncertainty in me, I kept asking myself: How was I going to change the world when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do?
Being at an age full of promise in an ever-changing world is perhaps one of the most daunting events, yet we continue to go through the motions of it in silence. When I began to question what I was meant to do with my life, my friends were already beginning to figure out what their calling was. As much as I was ecstatic for them, I was also worried for myself. When I looked at them partying every weekend, traveling the world, discovering their own passions, and finding love, I ended up breaking down, wishing I had the same certainty they seemed to have. But I chose to tuck my fears at the back of my mind and continue pretending like my dilemma wasn’t eating me up.
When Taylor released “Red (Taylor’s Version),” I remember listening to 22 with a feeling of anxiety – I was 21 at the time, and all I could think of was that my life did not seem to be what the hopeful track promised. A few tracks later, Nothing New, one of the songs from “The Vault,” came on. With its somber instrumentals and candid lyrics, I found myself resonating more with another song Taylor also wrote at 22.
In the brutally honest track, Swift sings: “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22? / And will you still want me when I'm nothing new?” Though it wasn’t the first time I cried over a Taylor Swift song, Nothing New hit me in ways I didn’t expect as it verbalized emotions I couldn’t describe.
When we’re young optimists looking to change the world, the future seems bright, and it feels like we fit right into it. There is nothing scarier than not amounting to anything once we’ve worn ourselves out. With Swift’s lyrical genius, she perfectly encapsulates the haunting question every bright-eyed teenager-turned-ordinary adult asks themselves: “Lord, what will become of me once I've lost my novelty?”
But here’s a realization that took me ages to accept: the world is changed by ordinary people who are good. Some might have a stroke of brilliance, but the true game-changers are the regular people with good hearts and a whole lot of passion.
In these lyrics, I found comfort in some twisted way that my predicament seemed to be a universal experience. Even Taylor Swift herself, almost every girl’s role model, felt the same at one point.
I’ve put so much pressure on myself to keep up with everyone because of how hustle culture has forced us to believe that we need everything figured out at such a young age. With all the success stories I’ve read, I unconsciously deluded myself into believing that the only way my life would have purpose is if I was a prodigy of sorts. Being a straight-A overachiever in school juggling a bunch of commitments, I villainized the idea of being ordinary.
But here’s a realization that took me ages to accept: the world is changed by ordinary people who are good. Some might have a stroke of brilliance, but the true game-changers are the regular people with good hearts and a whole lot of passion. Think of Taylor Swift, for example. Though she has a stroke of brilliance in her, what’s gotten her this far is her love and passion for creating art and telling stories through music.
And even if I am miles away from what Taylor Swift is as an artist, I’d like to think that I have a good heart with a passion for creating things. And even if it will take me a while to figure out what exactly I am going to do, I will choose to let love guide me.
With Taylor’s new album “Midnights,” it seems uncertainty and doubt are here to stay in our lives; they just evolve into new forms as seen in the self-loathing title track Anti-Hero. We will never entirely have things figured out, whether it be at 32 or 22 as we see in Swift’s life. And that’s okay. For now, I’m just going to learn to accept the fact that being nothing new is all right. But as I try to figure things out, I’ll follow Swift’s advice and just keep dancing like I’m 22.