Taylor Swift. What did you do to me?
The “Out of the Woods” video is one of my favorites of any song. Swift stands in a beautiful blue dress in the beginning, lost and dejected on a beach, hair did and looking lovely. Threatening vines grow out of the sand and she finds herself “In the Woods,” a dark and gloomy forest, surrounded by a pack of wolves. She starts the song running from challenges — wolves, cliffs, blizzards, mud-soaked storms, forest fires — but soon you realize she’s actually fighting and embracing the challenges: walking along the mountaintops, pushing through the mud and vines, fires and earning the respect of the pack. At the end, after a montage of Taylor picking herself up after innumerable falls, the hardened, dirty, and fierce Swift walks up to the old one, still standing on the beach in her dress, and taps her on the shoulder.
She Lost Him, the video begins.
And it ends with: She Lost Him, but Found Herself, and Somehow that was Everything.
Okay, corny. After all, as one YouTube reviewer put it (paraphrasing here): isn’t finding yourself the basic drive of every human, ever, since the dawn of time?
To the story:
A few things happened to me over the last few years, starting with the months preceding (undergraduate) college graduation.
After being dumped, like in a way that I saw coming the way you see a car coming but don’t think to move out of the way because of the shock, I didn’t believe in love. I did believe in control — having it, needing it, exercising it over others — whether that was kicking them out of my room at the end of the night or denying a relationship.
I also didn’t know myself anymore, having completely been lost in the other person. You know the feeling — you slowly abandon the things you love, trying to please the other person, never feeling good enough unless you heed their advice, eat what they tell you, adhere to their hobbies and see their friends. Captain Awkward calls it the Geek Relationship Fallacy #4: “Love me, Love my Obsession.” Like our relationship couldn’t sustain itself unless I was as unequivocally obsessed with the same things. The right things.
As a first-generation college student, I picked my college specifically to be the opposite of big university life. I wanted small classes. A private, liberal arts college, traditional, a comfortable home where I could be my introspective, introverted self and not be expected to attend 300-person parties. I am comfortable being my own little self without validation from groups or others. I am currently attending a second private college, this time an all-women’s school. So I think I can vouch for myself and say “hey, I don’t like big universities, or care about their athletics, and I could do without the parties. There are more important things,” and the person I date should accept and understand that, even if they believe differently.
There’s a difference between sharing a love of something and forcing it upon someone. For instance, I love watching Pretty Little Liars, reading, and archiving. Pat loves none of these things and works on cars. We share these things with each other like this:
Pat: “What are you reading?”
Me: “Oh, the Yellow Fever epidemic in Memphis and how scientists found out that it was actually a virus!”
Pat: “Cool! I love science.”
Or, I tell Pat what I’m learning in class and he tells me about the cars he worked on and towed that day and all kinds of things I don’t really understand but try because hey, that’s called partnership. As a bonus, we both are obsessed with hockey and play video games together. We have things that we like separately, and things that we like together. The end.
Throughout college, I read “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace several times. It advised me that the “day to day trenches of adult life” are filled with petty chores and meaningless duties, and the key word that I cherry-picked was loneliness. Going to work was lonely. Going grocery shopping among strangers was lonely. In that essay, there was no room for workplace friendships, laughter, or happy hour with old friends.
What a wonderful 60+ years I have to look forward to, I thought. Lonely, in some far-off place. My career will be challenging but numbing, and I will be miserable. This was a direct follow-up to me reading Into the Wild, which goes one of two ways: the reader realizes how tragic it was that Chris took off Into the Wild (roll credits) and how much of life he missed, or, the reader feels that Chris’ life was inspiring — career? Don’t want one. I want to be free.
David Foster Wallace, after battling depression most of his life, hung himself in 2008. Chris McCandless, as we know, died from starvation in Alaska, alone.
I didn’t want to be either of those things. Of course I understood Chris’ love of the wilderness (you might have noticed I wrote 10 blog posts about ONE Arizona trip). But I also understood the need to balance your place in society with your love of the wild. There are plenty of ways to do this, but that’s not what this post is all about.
The only time senior year of college I felt like myself was when I was working in the archives at Higgins Armory. I felt electric, alive, like I was connected to the documents with wires. I was also a good English tutor. I felt like every time I went to work, someone was holding me and saying:
…the opposite of how I felt in my last, ill-fated relationship.
I graduated and said good-bye to college, ex boyfriends, ex flings, ex everything. I felt like I could be myself, that I mattered, that what I did mattered, even if I was just going home to a summer job in my hometown library. I was near my best friends and family and entire support system again. No one would ever tell me what to believe — politically or religiously — no one would tell me how to live, or where to find meaning in my life.
I was Out of the Woods.
“Okay,” you’re saying. “You found yourself and live your own life now. So, why not title this post ‘Out of the Woods?'”
Taylor Swift’s song, “Wildest Dreams,” refers to a short relationship and her feelings on it, knowing that it will be over soon, hoping that the man in question will remember her and their time together, whether they see one another again or not.
“Say you’ll remember me // Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset // Red lips and rosy cheeks // Say you’ll see me again // Even if it’s just in your wildest dreams,” and so on.
The title only refers to that final line.
Even if it’s just in your wildest dreams.
That’s it. That’s all I take from it, removing the relationship part, and leaving it open-ended.
It refers to the fact that I could have it all — love, happiness, a career, travel, everything, “even if it’s just in your wildest dreams.” I think of all the things I have, and all the things I’ve accomplished, which probably seemed impossible a few years ago. Even my Arizona trip seemed like a dream at the time, something unattainable, and now it’s a valuable memory.
When I listen to the song, I don’t picture myself in a nice dress hoping some ex remembers me (in fact, I hope they don’t). I picture myself after an actual accomplishment — standing in a graduation gown, staring at the Boston sunset, hand-in-hand with my boyfriend, Pat, after receiving my MLS diploma.
While in college and not working on some type of homework, I was thinking about “careers.” I was an English major who did not want to teach or be a journalist. Actually, I loved my library job, and loved history, but didn’t know of any career path for someone who had a fixation, until a coworker mentioned that I could be an archivist. I promise, I did give journalism a chance, but I knew from my first class that I detested it. It wasn’t right. So, I started looking at MLS (Masters in Library Science) programs. From the time I was 19, I had my eye on Simmons and didn’t know how I would get to a $40,000+ private masters program, or whether I wanted to move to Boston or go to class online. Coming home after graduation, some friends who already joined Masters programs warned me that scholarships and other financial aid would be impossible to attain, that a Masters is more selective.
Here I am, almost finished with my second semester, nearly halfway through the program I first set eyes upon 5 years ago — Library Science and Archival Management. My stellar undergraduate record, which I slaved over and sacrificed for over and over, did in fact earn me a generous scholarship — proving everyone wrong that said it couldn’t happen. The rest, I pay for with the revenue from my first two, now three jobs (thanks to my parents for creating a good work ethic in me).
And working hard in undergrad was worth it, not just because I got a scholarship, but because it prepared me to handle everything else. All the “Wine Wednesdays” I skipped, all the game nights, bar nights, parties, and evenings in the dorms. All the passive aggressive texts saying that I should take time off of the library, to take a break from writing my thesis, to do something more important — to “hang out” with friends that felt abandoned, or to take time out of an intense editing session in the newspaper office. They tell you to foster your social life and to average out in class, but I say that’s a lot of bull. Do the best you can, and it’ll pay you back. If your friends would rather you, an intellectual at heart, abandon your first love — work– to spend time with them, then they are selfish, and aren’t your friends.
And to round it all out, the girl who three years ago couldn’t possibly imagine believing (or falling) in love again is now 2.5 years deep into the best relationship, something that you just can’t predict happening, something that you just fall into and it just works. We live together. We have two babies (of the feline variety).
I started dating simply thinking that we were good together, and soon enough I learned a little more. We met in January, 2013, at a birthday party my friend begged me to come home to attend.
“You’ll like Patrick,” she said. “He likes hockey.”
At first, I was skeptical, because I really didn’t like her current boyfriend and I had my doubts about dating within the upper-crust of Connecticut. We stayed friends for many months and I helped him with his relationship problems while he helped Laura (my best friend) and I through ours. I soon found that my fears about him being a trust-fund baby were unfounded, and so was my assumption that non-college graduates who worked as blue-collar mechanics were no good for me. Patrick seemed like an incredible person. He proved me totally wrong: he was not arrogant or a blue-collar nobody. He was intelligent, respected intuition, loved science (and SPACE!), we had great conversations, and he liked playing and watching hockey.
Our first date was mini-golf.
I won. We stayed together.
“Want to go to a Stanley Cup Party?” Pat asked me toward the end of July, 2013, shortly after we started dating.
“Sure,” I said. Pat was a Chicago fan and I was a no-team-really fan. My assumption was that it would be a party with snacks at someone’s house.
“It’s with the Blackhawks Coach,” he said.
“Cool,” I said. It would be neat to have a party for the Blackhawks’ recent Stanley Cup win.
“One more thing…” he said. “We’re going to Chicago. And Stanley is going to be there…and some old Whalers players.”
Meeting Whalers players? Touching and drinking out of THE STANLEY CUP? I grew up with hockey; my dad and his brothers played, my brothers played, we went to Whalers and later, when the Whalers left, Wolfpack games almost every weekend. Dad was an off-ice official, working in the penalty box. Before I was born, he waited in line for hours to get a jersey and puck signed by Gordie Howe (another friend of my boyfriend’s family). So, needless to say, having grown up going to at least a couple games a week, I was a big fan of going to Chicago in 2013, regardless of the team.
And the city was just awesome. We burned it down in Chi-town twice so far; the first was in 2013:
We did so again this past August, 2015 after the Blackhawks’ third victory in five years.
Celebrating with the Quennevilles, meeting players that my dad idolized for years…VIP treatment at hotels and bars, free drinks flowing, invitations to rooftop parties…this was truly something out of my wildest dreams.
Really, out of all sports, I truly love hockey. Always have. Always will. It’s a respect thing. To me, there is nothing more exciting than watching talented (and sexy) men ice skate, sometimes backwards, at top speeds with expert stick handling skills, or to watch a goalie’s gymnastics to stop a 90mph puck. Hockey players fight. Play stops, but not for a half-hour. In football, there is nothing stopping a guy from running across the goal line. Pssshh. Try earning those seven points one at a time.
So to date someone with the same love as me, who I could take to games and who could take ME to events like this, it was like, well, unreal.
So, here I am, living a life that you would probably think is like, impossible for your average somebody. I didn’t go to special schools or meet any special people. I just happened upon some great opportunities, partly out of coincidence, and mostly from hard work.
So, that is why this post is titled “Wildest Dreams.” Because I’m living mine.