With Taylor Swift’s release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), discussions of nostalgia and how we relate to our younger selves have taken centre stage. (Image source: The New Yorker

By Michelle Wakim | @MichelleWakim

12 years ago, an album titled Fearless made its way into millions of CD players around the world.

Fearless went on to soundtrack the adolescence of these millions: the “whimsical, effervescent, chaotic” age where you feel so much, about so much, so much of the time.

A week ago, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) landed in the Spotify accounts of millions around the world and sparked an enchanting response from adults who came of age with Fearless.

Taylor’s Version is a statement of ownership and authenticity. It is also a celebration and tribute to our younger selves who believed, fearlessly, in the sincerity and nostalgia of love.

In the last week, I haven’t been able to listen to anything but Taylor’s Version. While running, studying and driving, this reinvigorated album has been my soundtrack.

I’m addicted to the place it transports me to and hooked on the muscle memory it invokes.

It has been hard to relate to ourselves, this world, and the art that has come out of the last year or so. Reconnecting with artefacts of our youth can be grounding, like coming home – the rediscovery of everything that has made us who we are.

People find this sense of home in re-watching the original Star Wars films, binging Friends, and re-reading Harry Potter. I found it in this album.

In the lead up to its release, I had endless conversations with other Taylor Swift fans about their associations with Fearless.

A university friend told me Fearless was the first album she bought for herself with her own money.

Another friend told me Fearless was the album she listened to after her very first date – a daytime movie that ended with a hug, sweeping her off her feet and making her feel like an adult for the first time.

A school friend reminded me of when we would dance to Love Story at parties in our early teens, before alcohol, hook-ups and keeping up appearances complicated our fun.

This albumplayed in the car when my friend’s mum drove us to our local Westfield to buy dresses for our year seven graduation. There were three of us wedged into the back seat, singing along to Hey Stephen.

An hour after Taylor’s Version was released, my best friend, who sat in the back of that car with me, messaged me saying, “I am in tears at Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)”.

I was also in tears: a complete and utter mess.

Out of all the Taylor songs, Fifteen was our anthem. This song took us seriously, made us feel seen, and validated the overwhelmingly powerful feelings we had about friendship and relationships that were often dismissed as adolescent whims.

“In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team,” was an iconic line for us as, at 15, I honestly didn’t believe there was any greater achievement than this.

In the proceeding messages, my friend told me, “We both did greater things than dating the boy on the football team”.

She’s right. We did. Funnily enough, I am now a woman on the football team.

It saddens me to think that Taylor Swift became a guilty pleasure of mine not long after Fearless came out. This happened when the world decided that Taylor was no longer cool, that she was easy to hate and easier to dismiss as insignificant.

I’m sure others are with me when I say I felt embarrassed about my love for her music. This really translated to me being embarrassed about the person I was then. 

By releasing these re-recorded songs and fearlessly taking ownership of her story, Taylor has given us opportunity to re-visit who we were when Fearless first dropped and reflect on how this shaped the adults we are now.

As a result, I have developed a great fondness for the young woman I was when I danced around my room to You Belong With Me. With her sincerity, imagination, and determination to feel so deeply, I think my teenage self was pretty cool.