I cried right before Taylor Swift came on stage. I did, I really cried. A grown woman with no kids and a corporate job, I was crying. And when I did, my best friend Kristan was sitting next to me with tears in her eyes too.

The 1989 World Tour was starting its Saturday night show in Chicago. “#TS1989” flashed on the Jumbotrons, and pop hits blasted in the background amping up the crowd. Pre-teen girls were bobbing their heads, grinning and singing all the lyrics, and their moms were busy snapping photos of their little girls. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be here.

All of us – all 55,000 piled high and low in the stadium – eagerly awaited the moment our souvenir LED bracelets would light up to signal that Taylor was coming on-stage. Bracelets that Kristan and I had to hunt down, running from our upper-level seats all the way back to the entrance because someone had neglected to give them to us when we first entered the venue. Forgoing the LED bracelets was never an option. We wanted the full experience.

That day in Chicago, there had been spontaneous, severe downpours, and even tornado warnings. With a heavy heart, I feared that the concert would be cancelled. I would have been devastated, especially because I had flown in from New York to see Taylor live.

But magically the skies cleared and the show went on. In our seats that towered over most of the audience, with excitement and anticipation building, I let my eyes water and some tears fall. I was really here! I had made it!

That night marked one month after walking away from a difficult relationship. There would be no more returning to our terrible cycle of fighting, breaking up, missing each other, and then allowing all the problems to resurface as we cobbled our relationship back together. It had taken me a few tries, but this time I was really done, and I was here to move forward with my best friend and with Taylor.

Like in her “Bad Blood” music video, when my ex and I ended things, I sought my army of friends to help me fight the battle inside myself. Don’t call him, they said. Don’t respond to his barrage of phone calls, voicemails, emails, text messages. Be ready for when he shows up at your door. They made themselves available to me whenever I felt weak or needed support. They helped me pack up my belongings from his apartment, leave my key behind, and even rescued me when he did turn up at my place unannounced. They reminded me of who I am and that I had the strength to make this time different. To make it stick.

A wise, older friend also told me that many women have gone through one of these types of relationships. The kind where you learn about your tolerance and your limits. During my time with this guy, I questioned myself a lot. I felt small and guilty about my own emotions. I felt pressure that shouldn’t have been there. I absorbed the names he called me, believed his interpretations and manipulations, and thought I deserved the actions he took against me. I lost my confidence.

Shortly after the breakup, when I told Kristan that I felt I had nothing to look forward to, and I was worried that I might lose momentum and regret being alone, she suggested we see Taylor Swift in concert – something I wanted to do but wouldn’t act upon without a catalyst. Now I had one. So why not? It would be a celebration.

And celebrate we did. We sang along to every song, especially her older country hits, dancing as much as we could in the small space in front of our seats. We cheered for and felt inspired by the empowering words and genuine emotions that Taylor shared in between songs. We shook our lit up bracelets in the air and had a wonderful time.

When I came back home to New York, I gushed about the experience to friends and colleagues. I joked with them that I teared up when Taylor Swift appeared. But truthfully, I cried because I’d been so happy to be there with my best friend, safe and whole and healing. It’s because even though I was sad, I had finally given myself the gift of self-respect.

P.S. Taylor, if you read this, know that you are a great role model, and going to your concert was once of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Let me know if you ever want to hang out or bake in New York.


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