I am and have always been a firm believer in the magic of possibilities. I think the promise of an indefinable something happening on any given day, something that might have the power to change my life forever, is what makes me get out of bed every morning.
It’s why I look back on the period between late 2008 and early 2009 with the utmost fondness. Back then, I had just finished college and was waiting for the exam results that would give me full license to practise as a nurse in my country. It was an in-between time where I no longer had the daily pressures of school work to keep me busy and stressed, and before there was any real pressure to find a job.
it was a time for dreaming and making plans, for self-examination and reinvention. I went on a diet, started an exercise regime and slowly started to shed the excess weight that have somehow accumulated through four years of eating away my mental and emotional stress. I had started the process of getting over the One Great Love of my life and have come to accept that there are some things you just can’t get through sheer will and effort.
I had just started to realise that really, you shouldn’t have had to work that hard to get someone to love you.
I cleaned out my closet to make room for clothes that would reflect the new me (special shout out to Ms. Bullyshanty for giving me my first makeover!) and I read books that i didn’t have the chance to read before because I was too busy studying for one exam or the other. The Twilight series had just come out and, like everyone else (ANY WOMAN WHO CLAIMS ANY DIFFERENT IS EITHER IN DENIAL OR A LIAR) I became obsessed with sparkly Edward Cullen and his borderline toxic relationship with the intrepid Bella Swan.
More importantly, in 2008, the great Taylor Swift released her smash hit Love Story for the first time, and it was a song that seemed to capture everything I felt and everything I dreamed about during that time period. I dreamt about my future and yearned for a starring role in my own love story, as opposed to being just a bit part in someone else’s story. Hearing those banjo strings and fiddle melodies, and that slightly nasally voice T.Swift used to have back then, always takes me back to that period, when I fully believed that anything could happen.
Fast forward 13 years later and Taylor Swift has re-released a 2021 version of Love Story, and I find myself wanting to put into words what it means for me to hear this particular version at this particular point in time. 2021 could not be more different from 2008. Its not overstating it to say that for most people the well of possibilities surrounding life has just about run dry. It has been the most dreadful couple of years. Most of us have been too busy surviving this virus to even think about things like romance and starring in our own love stories.
Even without the pandemic, it would have been hard to maintain the same wide-eyed belief in fairy tales that we used to have when we were younger. Taylor herself has gone through a turbulent time in the intervening years since she first released Love Story. She, along with the rest of us who have grown into adulthood in the past decade, has realised that love stories have teeth. They bloody well can bite you in the ass if you’re not careful. Oh, and Prince Charming? That dude has more baggage than a Chinese heiress on holiday. That castle that you’ve always dreamed about? It comes with a monthly mortgage and repair bills that you’ll have to work extra shifts in a busy hospital ward in order to afford.
Happily-ever-afters are not a given. The scene doesn’t fade to black after you find The One. Relationships are hard work. After the glow has dimmed and that halo surrounding your partner has been tarnished by the number of times you fight over keeping the toilet seat up, or the amount of hair that accumulates on the carpet on a daily basis (enough to make a wig if you’re anything like me) or who gets to throw the bins out this week, you’d probably be scratching your head wondering, is this love? Is that what they fought wars over and write songs about?
In a way, thought, it kinda IS. What I hear behind the more mature version of Love Story is the wisdom that comes from knowing that, more than the fireworks and ballgowns, its the life you build with someone that really makes up the fairy tale. Because at the end of the day, you want something real instead of something ideal. You want someone there for you when you feel like the whole world has turned against you. You want the quiet laughters over inside jokes that only the two of you would find funny.
And you want someone who will clean the flat with you when the party is over and everyone else has left.
You don’t always get the kind of love story you dream about when you were younger. But if you’re lucky, you get something better. I think mine is in a perpetual state of rewrites and is still under construction, but I’m mature enough to not cry a million tears over it, not even today, on the holiest of days for couples (and the most dreaded for those who are, as Emma Watson would say, self-partnered). I still believe its out there. And you might spend ages trying to find it, but goddamn the whole messy, terrifying, painful, contradictory pile of shit that is love is worth searching and waiting for.
P.S. To everyone who is single today and perhaps feeling like the weight of that is just a little bit heavier when you see other people receiving flowers or kissing on the streets for no reason, ITS OKAY. It’s just a day. You will still be single tomorrow. Lol.
And you know what, the very definition of what love is (and what love stories are) keeps changing every day anyway. To me, every day you live your life is a love story, regardless of whether or not it has Prince Charming in it. Your story will have friends, laughter, adventures, growth, and best of all, it will have possibilities.
It always comes down to possibilities, and that indefinable something.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!