Tonight my sister Kellie and I went to the opening of the "Taylor Swift Experience" in the South Street Seaport. It was a museum-like collection of old dresses, guitars, photos, and handwritten lyrics courtesy of Swift herself. I'll be honest—I wasn't dying to go. I had seen photos of most of it online, I figured we'd have to wait forever to get in, and I've been consistently hungry and tired for the past three weeks regardless of how much I eat or sleep (First World problems, I know). I told Kel we were obligated to go. It was only $9 a ticket, it was a fifteen minute walk from my apartment, and I feel forever indebted to this pop star because she once invited me to her apartment and laughed at all my jokes.
So we went.
At the suggestion of my dramatic and needy stomach (just like my personality!), we decided to eat first. We each came from our jobs in our respective New York City boroughs and met at a nearby restaurant with plastic mermaids and swordfish and string lights decorating its mismatched walls.
And we talked. A lot.
We didn't know it when we arrived but we each had a heart full of recent events we needed to share with someone we knew would listen. Of course, there's been the E-word— the election—now said in my social circles the way families refer to simultaneously universal and personal events, like the divorce and the accident. This has left a relentless grey hanging over both of our heads. Our conversation felt like the first time since it all happened that we were privileged enough to be able to acknowledge it cordially but not dwell, after mourning publicly and personally for nearly two weeks. We felt ready to continue standing up for what we know is right whenever an opportunity presented itself. Kel has already been doing this for what seems like her entire life and I have envied her every step of the way. She has specifically been a champion for immigrant rights and education as well as the more general concept of "don't treat other human beings like shit"—a sentiment I'm very fond of. And I have been trying to emulate her for as long as I can remember.
We didn't know it until we walked in, but our lists of stories to share with each other were overflowing. We discussed Kel's students and her ability to handle them with a level of patience and compassion I do not even attempt to achieve (I'm the patron saint of sad teenagers, not 6-year-olds, remember?). We're both excited to meet our new dog-niece Zuzu over Thanksgiving break next week. We both have burgeoning and unrefined feminist ideas we're struggling to articulate to each other and to ourselves and I plan to spend the rest of my senior year trying to figure out if that is harder or easier to do after a few Cowgirl Seahorse margaritas. I have to write a thesis and pass some finals and come to terms with moving on from the first place that ever felt like home outside of our parents' house. We are perplexed by how we feel we've changed so radically yet stayed exactly who we've always been as we've grown up. We can't believe how long we've been listening to Taylor Swift—we note how my middle school fangirl heart has played an essential role in my becoming the person I am today. Neither of us have savings accounts. We're both trying to figure out how much longer we can continue living in New York. We are aware of and take time to examine all the ways in which we are privileged and not. We are both trying to figure out what makes us happy.
After dinner we walked over to the Seaport museum only to be told that it would be closing in fifteen minutes. We laughed at our impulsive decision to eat beforehand but did not regret it. Still feeling fearless to a degree that only Taylor Swift and tequila can spark, we entered a simulation of a recording studio and sang "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" with the same passion we had at our very first Taylor Swift concert in 2009, when we sang karaoke to "Picture to Burn" in the lobby of Madison Square Garden. We put our faces up against the glass cases in the museum the way our mother would warn us not to and poked fun at the costumes that looked significantly less glamorous in person than they had on TV. We danced on a light-up floor while "Shake It Off" played. We took pictures of a teenage boy who was there alone. We made small talk with him as he bought two t-shirts, a keychain, a mug, and a calendar plastered with Taylor's face. I walked out without any merchandise but still feeling full. We split an Uber home.
Kel and I do not know where we'll be in two years. We flirt with the idea of moving to Rhode Island together—we can join our sister and brother-in-law in Providence, Kel will teach in a charter school, I'll go to Brown, our parents can retire to a nearby rural town not too far from the three of us. At one point during dinner, we remind each other that we were raised by parents who know that happiness doesn't come from money or material possessions or crossing radical adventures off of a list. It comes from who you surround yourself with. Though they taught us this as kids, we admit that we each had to learn this lesson on our own—for both of us, it was in fits of homesickness and loneliness during our respective time abroad. We use our conversation as a testament to how right they were all along.
We are working to piece together all of the lessons we've learned so far. Right now, all we know for sure is that sharing margaritas with our sisters and confiding without hesitation, fearlessly, makes us content. Oh, and Taylor Swift. She helps too.
Hi, Kel. I'm sorry I didn't post a pic of the two of us. We look really awkward in the ones that the teenage boy took in front of the pink sign. You wouldn't want them on the Internet. And I would've planned better but I had no idea I'd end up writing about this. I should've known. ("Dear John" reference, anybody?!)