What Ifs and Taylor Swift(s) | breakinglove by Camilla

by Erica Surace

If you enjoy reading while listening to music like me, here’s the perfect playlist


If you’ve been listening to my previous playlists, you know by now that I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan! Her latest album Folklore is a great masterpiece, not only because it combines Taylor’s songwriting with the sound of the Nationals, but especially because her lyrics, unlike previous albums, are not focused on a certain love story, but on all of the feelings we feel in-between those stories. 

‘Betty’ is about a guy who wants to apologize to a girl he cheated on and does not know if she could ever forgive him and accept his apology. ‘August’ is about unreciprocated love and what it feels like when you look back at a relationship and realize that your partner had feelings for someone else all along - “August slipped away like a bottle of wine, cause it was never mine.” ‘Invisible string’ is all about the feeling of an invisible string attaching you to a person, even when you were complete strangers - the famous yellow umbrella of How I Met Your Mother. But among all those album tracks, my absolute favorite is ‘the 1’: A masterful piece about living our best life while occasionally still wondering about the person who we thought was the one, and asking ourselves what would have happened had things been different - “And if my wishes came true it would have been you.”  

Being a great overthinker, I often wonder about what would have happened if. What would have happened had I sent that text? What would have happened had I been brave enough to tell that special someone the truth about my feelings? Or simply dwell on about my past relationships from a new perspective and ending up discovering more about why someone behaved a certain way or treated me disrespectfully. We all have our what if stories. That person who we felt was perfect, when the timing wasn’t right. Or those times when our equal really wanted to be with us and we totally clicked, but we could simply not open ourselves up emotionally and had to reject them. 

When Ben and I fell apart because of bad timing, I asked him, "But what if we met in a different phase of our life?" and he answered, "There’s no point in thinking about the ifs and buts". I partially agree. It's true that we cannot constantly think about what could have happened, but at the same time we can understand a lot from rationally looking back to our past love stories with a different perspective and maturity. Of course, it doesn’t change the past but at least it can help us to learn from our past behaviour and allow us to get it right, or at least try to, next time. 

We often think that all of our decisions have a big impact on our life, especially the things we do and say ‘yes’ to. But life is also the choices we don't make. My life would have been so different if I had done certain things rather than saying ‘no’ to them. Just as much as my life is what it is today because of the things I did. Saying ‘no’ to something is also a choice that will keep you from (doing) certain things in the future. And it might be for the best. Sometimes I read interviews with famous people who say, "You only need one yes", while sometimes the only thing we need is one ‘no’, and everything can change. 

For instance, in my case I said ‘no’ to keep on working after I had finished my bachelors, and this decision led me to start a master’s degree. And yes, a masters was always my backup plan in case I had no job, but I actually got a job offer and still declined. If I hadn’t done that my life would probably be different now. I said ‘no’ to someone who wanted to move with me to another country because we only knew each other for a month, and that decision changed everything for both of us. I’ve recently bumped into his IG profile and he’s been happily in love with someone else for many years now, therefore things worked out for the best for him as well. As Ted - from How I Met Your Mother - says in the episode where he sees Stella with Tony and their daughter, “What I thought was the story of how I got left at the altar is actually the story of how their family got back together.”

It’s extremely painful to think back to your past, to old relationships or events, and face your wrongdoings. For example, when I had to re-discuss the on/off relationship between Francesco and I with my therapist, I realized that he was definitely not the only one who made mistakes. While Francesco was often mean to me by choice, I was mean to him without even realizing it. I spent a lot of time being indecisive and unsure about what I wanted from us, and I really hurt him with that. Because I was so focused on my degree and ‘career’ and being independent, I often excluded him from all the important decisions in my life I had to take during our relationship. Of course, knowing this now does not really change how things went and I am still glad Francesco and I went our separate ways, but at least I can see now what mistakes I made and change the way I behave in future relationships. 

So even if I understand that thinking about the what ifs can be painful and we can get stuck in nostalgia, and I also agree with Ben saying that we should definitely not wish for things to be different, sometimes looking back can at least help us grow and become better human beings. Maybe that’s what Taylor Swift's latest album can teach us: Sometimes we should not only look at the events that happened to us, but also focus on why we felt a certain way before or after these events took place. Maybe those times between one relationship to another, the times we regret how we behaved and the times we think about the what ifs can actually teach us the most about ourselves and the way we want to relate to others in the future.

“I'm doing good, I'm on some new shit. Been saying "yes" instead of "no", I thought I saw you at the bus stop, I didn't though, I hit the ground running each night, I hit the Sunday matinée You know the greatest films of all time were never made… But we were something, don't you think so? Roaring 20s, tossing pennies in the pool And if my wishes came true It would've been you In my defense, I have none, For never leaving well enough alone But it would've been fun. If you would've been the one