I was in the car the other night and I put on Taylor Swift’s 1989. Not a revolutionary beginning to the story, I know, but bear with me. I remember when that album first came out, October of 2014. I ordered it instantly from Target and waited impatiently for it to arrive. When it did, I played it in the car on the way to my job as a cashier at a sub-par grocery store chain.
At first, I missed the old romantic country sway to her music, the innocent artist and melodies I connected to at 16 when I first heard “Teardrops On My Guitar” and she wore that green dress. But as I really listened to her new sound, I realized that Taylor was speaking to me again, even though I was 22 and almost a woman. Almost. I started crying when I heard the parallels to my most recent breakup in “Clean” and again when I listened to “You Are In Love” and realized I was.
But more than all of that, I put the song that asked the most important question on replay. The song that my best friend can’t stand but I need to listen to over and over again when I am running and when I am driving and when I just don’t have the answer. It is asking a question over and over, a question I ask my millennial self every single day.
Are we out of the woods yet?
I thought I was out of the woods when I earned my degree and realized homework, professors, and bad dining hall food were manifestations of the past. I thought I was out of the woods when I returned to Europe after two years, stepping on foreign streets and feeling the cracks beneath cobblestones heal the cracks in my heart. I thought I was out of the woods when I officially began freelancing and getting paychecks for words. I thought I was out of the woods when my boyfriend and I said yes, we are in love and yes, we are a couple.
I thought I was out of the woods when I gave my notice to the sub-par grocery store to start doing a job that has value and growth and a purpose.
All of these moments gifted a temporary sense of security, one that boasted I had my shit together to the rest of the world. Such a delicate illusion that I really love to play up with lipstick and foundation and a clean bedroom, when in fact, I don’t feel like I am out of the woods yet. I am still floating somewhere between pine trees and foggy mornings, almost stepping on the trail to the sunrise but still so far away. There is always a black wolf standing before me with a haunting moon howl, keeping me in skinny birch shadows.
Taylor asked the question a year ago as I drove to the job as an almost woman, an almost something. She asked it again, a week ago last night.
Are we in the clear yet?
I’m not. I’m not in the clear yet. I don’t even know what clear means.
I just know I’m tired of foggy mornings and black wolves without a name.