Another Taylor Swift Article

By Julia Kemp

From the day my parents surprised me with 1989 concert tickets in fifth grade until now, with high school graduation just around the corner, Taylor Swift has been a major part of my life. At every low and every high, I knew that there was a Taylor Swift song out there that I could relate too. Energetic, windows-down car rides with my best friends, stressful study sessions late at night, tearful moments with the people I love—Taylor Swift was always blasting. As I changed and grew as a person in high school, I realized that my experience in each year reflects a specific era in Taylor’s music:

Freshman year: Fearless

I had the best day on my first day of ninth grade. As I stepped through Westmont’s gates, with LIFE Crew cheering and red pom poms waving, I had absolutely no fear. My absolute bravery was surprising, as I came from a middle school with only 75 students in my grade, but I walked on to campus with that Fearless level of audacity; I had no doubt that I would thrive in high school. When the 8:25 bell rang, I ran off to my first class, and settled into my seat in room 58, ready to learn in Honors English I with the superstar himself, Andy Evans. Completely dumbfounded by the energetic intro to high school classes, I turned to my desk partners, Amelia Lipcsei, Avalon Kelly, and Olivia Pocat, and we bonded over our shared excitement. I will remember my freshman year forever and always, and won’t ever let go of that shy little fifteen year old who thought she knew everything. 

Sophomore year: Folklore

Enduring a school year online taught me how to embrace my introvertedness and enjoy time alone. Pushed into exile in my tiny, chaotically messy room, I learned how to create my own peace and entertain myself. Like in Folklore, with both calm and melancholic songs, I felt both relaxed and downcast in my sophomore year. Though I enjoyed the tranquility of alone time, I truly struggled this year. I felt overwhelmed in my classes, and struggled for pretty much the first time in school. I felt claustrophobic and stuck in my house, and I missed the comfort of my best friends. Luckily, my closest group of friends started to spend more time together on porches and in parks; I’ll be forever indebted to this group (Isabel Kikoshima, Eliana Birnbaum, Ally Havasy, and Amelia) for keeping me sane in this period of struggle; we had a marvelous time ruining everything. 

Junior year: Speak Now

After a year of seclusion, I was ready to find my voice again as I walked through Westmont’s gates once more. During my junior year, I learned to speak up more in classes, I made myself seen in rallies and during games on the dance team, and began to express my opinions in The Shield. Though I found immense joy through my extracurriculars, this year was definitely the most difficult academically. Like Taylor in her Speak Now era, I was absolutely chaotic this year. I would roll out of bed after getting three hours of sleep, chug cold brew, maybe cry a bit, study for the exam I had that day during study hall and lunch breaks, and end up with decent grades out of some miraculous stroke of luck. With three APs and an honors class, and “Dear John” level trauma from APUSH notes with Chris Mock, I had to juggle my coursework and after school activities, all while sensing my high school journey crossing the halfway mark. Though I had the typical junior year stress levels (crippling and insurmountable), I finally got to understand the joys of being an upperclassman. I went full out for spirit days, finally understood A/B scheduling, led Freshmen in LIFE Crew, and wore a “gown shaped like a pastry” at prom. Junior year is one that definitely had its ups and downs, but I believe that this year was extremely transforming, and I probably needed some character development anyways.  

Senior year: Reputation

After learning to “speak now” in my junior year, I was finally able to be my complete self. For me, senior year was the year to unashamedly do the things that I loved, and not to let fear of embarrassment stop me from unapologetically involving myself in school activities, expressing myself in my style, and speaking my mind in class. Though senior life at Westmont was my best yet, my biggest road bump this year was college applications. Initially, I didn’t get into any of my top schools. I was absolutely devastated—I watched as my friends took pride in their schools, and questioned whether or not my high school journey (and the stresses I put myself through) was actually worth it. I questioned by own reputation, and wasn’t sure if I was really the strong student I thought I was. However, the emotional rollercoaster continued, as I was accepted off of the waitlist at UC Berkeley. Though I learned that my school does not define me, I’m excited to challenge myself academically in college. I’m so overjoyed to have had such an amazing experience in high school, and to have gone through it with the most amazing people. I will miss all of the late night moments with my best friends, the laughter that filled the cafeteria during Dance Team practices, and the excitement that filled Room 58 on Journalism mornings. I’m so grateful for all of my friends and teachers (especially my sister, Cat Kemp, who screamed Taylor songs with me on early car rides to school). Though I’m nervous in anticipation of the loss of my comfortable, known world, I’m so excited to move on to college, and I think I’m ready for it.