Let's bring it back to 2007 for a minute. I was an awkward 7th grader from a small town in Connecticut who happened to stumble across the newest act in country music. I instantly fell in love, although she only had one album and two music videos out at the time. I listened and watched religiously, even though no one else had any idea (or interest in) who I was talking about. That act happened to be Taylor Swift.
After releasing her album, Fearless, in 2009, she said that "...being fearless does not mean you are completely unafraid. It does not mean you have no fears. Being fearless means living in spite of those fears and jumping anyway."
This notion quickly became my mantra. I wrote it everywhere, listened to the songs on repeat and went into things headfirst because that's what being fearless was all about. It was not until a year later that I realized how much Taylor, and the words she spoke, would really impact my life.
It was a cold December morning, just a few weeks before Christmas break. I awoke before school to my mom standing at the doorway of my bedroom. I glanced up at her through groggy eyes as she whispered, "Do you want a corned beef sandwich for lunch?" My mom knew this was one of my favorites; we were the type of family that never felt it was just a March 17th meal. As I tiredly answered, she pushed her walker to the stairs and slowly maneuvered herself down, one by one. She was recovering from a broken femur and had to be careful not to put too much weight on her leg.
This simple exchange of words about a sandwich became the last conversation I had with my mom.
Ten minutes later, I heard my dad yell from downstairs, "Girls! Help! I need your help!" My sister and I rushed downstairs to find my dad clutching my mom in his arms, lowering her to the hardwood floor as her body convulsed. This was the first of two seizures that took my mom away from me.
The weeks and months that followed were unbelievably painful, but my family and I were supported by so many people. The outpour of affection from our community was awe inspiring. It was during these times of heartache that Taylor kept my head up. My sisters and I took comfort in listening to "The Best Day," a song that Taylor had written about how her mom had always been there for her when she needed it most. We all instantly related to this sentiment as our mom had always been one of your best friends. For me, it was not only in listening to her music, but also seeing the way she dealt with criticism so gracefully and used hard situations as fuel for her music, that inspired me to do the same with my artwork. I continued on to make many pieces that memorialized the memories I had with my mom, always coming back to the idea that being fearless was my only option.
I was afraid of moving on, afraid of forgetting and afraid of the future, but I could not let these fears hold me back.
The past six years have proven that Taylor and her music would always be there for me, whether I am having the best day of my life or the absolute worst. Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being able to tell my story to Taylor in person. I was personally invited to her home in Rhode Island for a secret session of her new album, 1989. We got to spend a few hours listening, dancing and talking to Taylor. It was an unbelievably amazing and emotional experience, unlike anything I could have even imagined.
If I could go back in time, I would do two things. I would thank my 7th grade self for choosing the best possible role model in the world, and I would hug my mom a million times.
Originally submitted to and posted on TooDamnYoung.com.