This past weekend, I had the most incredible experience. It was part religious experience, part Met Gala, and part traveling art piece.
I am talking, of course, about The Eras Tour.
It was the single greatest concert experience of my life. If I’m being honest, it’s one of the greatest experiences of my life, period. The music was incredible. I was there with some of my absolute best friends. And I felt refreshed and renewed in a way that I haven’t since 2019.
You’re beautiful, every little piece love
I have never been somebody who struggled much with my body image until recently. But, especially in the past year, it has gotten bad. I know part of it is just the compounding that happens when you’re a person who lives with depression. And, as I mentioned in my reflection of life with Covid, I have been in a years-long depressive episode. While I’ve been managing with medication and therapy and prayer, it’s still been hard.
I never intended to get into all the Eras Tour shenanigans. I’m not a person who typically dresses in costume or anything like that. I’ve never planned an outfit for anything in my life. But this time I threw caution to the wind, and I got caught up in the community of it all. The TikTok and Instagram posts of people’s Eras Tours costumes inspired me to get in on the action too. I learned to do eye makeup so I could play along; I bought bright colors I normally would never wear. I learned how to apply glitter and even considered putting on false eyelashes. (I ultimately passed on the eyelashes.)
I became part of a community I had only been watching from the periphery and I enjoyed it.
And when I got to the concert, people were so kind. They complimented my clothes. They loved my eyeshadow. They loved the glitter heart. They were complimentary, and I felt they truly meant it. And I meant it when I complimented them, too. So many people had gone above and beyond, wearing beautiful dresses and intricate costumes. It was a community of pop star cosplay that could rival any anime convention I’ve attended. It was beautiful.
I felt connected to these strangers. Their costumes were special to them and represented parts of who they were, parts of themselves that Taylor Swift had touched with her music. They were baring their souls to the world, wearing their emotions for all to see. It was a kind of shared vulnerability that was beautiful and cathartic and amazing.
So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment, and taste it.
Another thing I didn’t expect to get into was friendship bracelets. I had never made a friendship bracelet before in my life, and going into The Eras Tour, I had no intention of making any. But between the peer pressure of TikTok and the throwing caution to the wind, I allowed myself to get swept up in it. I didn’t make anything exceptionally beautiful or special, but they were quirky and fun, and my wife and I had a blast making them while listening to true crime podcasts for a couple of hours one night.
I had some organza bags left from my failed venture as a business owner that I threw the bracelets in and they suddenly became special. They became these bound-up little gifts, full of hope and promise to share with complete strangers at this once-in-a-lifetime event. And walking around at the concert, it became like a fun game — it was like recapturing some kind of magic that I lost in my childhood — to find other people with friendship bracelets and trade. We each had chosen different lyrics or songs or albums to represent. We all made bracelets in different ways. And we all bonded with people we will never see again, but will always feel connected to.
It was truly special.
You’ve got a smile that could light up this whole town
Looking back at videos and pictures from the night, I found myself crying. True tears streaming down both my cheeks. I didn’t recognize the person in my pictures. I didn’t think I would ever see him again. I wrote in a post on TikTok and on Instagram that I felt free and open for the first time in years (a message that some took to mean my wife and I were separated? Fear not. We’re fine.)
Aside from the image issues I mentioned earlier, my depression hit me in other ways. It robbed me of my smile — the genuine smile that I’ve always thought was one of my most attractive features. It took from me my belly laugh. I missed those things about myself. But the past three years have been hard for an extrovert. I described myself once on What Should I Read Next as a mega-extrovert, and I stand by that. So to be in a during- and post-Covid world where connection was difficult for many reasons, I struggled. My social battery drained in March and April 2020, and it never refilled. There wasn’t enough energy in the world to fill me up. Everybody was tired and burnt out. Nobody had anything to offer me. And that’s okay — it’s nobody else’s responsibility to fill my cup. It’s just a statement of fact.
But entering a room with nearly 80,000 people riding the high of this social phenomenon, this historical event, I felt myself coming awake. “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” got my blood pumping, and by the first chorus of “Cruel Summer,” I. was on my feet, screaming with a renewed vigor. I felt myself come alive, and the videos and pictures showed it.
It was so nice to see me again.
Long live all the magic we made
The most magical thing of all, though, was the absolute unity I felt in a world of complete disjointment. I snapped a picture at a Cher concert I attended three years ago (you can see it in the post I referenced earlier) of the unity at that concert. Everybody with their phones in the air, feeling the same emotions, living the same night.
There’s something about concerts that unite everybody. They’re magical that way. They make us feel as one. And this was no different. Taylor Swift has worked hard to culminate a community of fans. Swifties are something else. They band together. They support each other. They comb through her music and album notes. and social media posts for Easter eggs.
And they feel things with their whole hearts.
So when I looked up and saw all our armbands glowing in unison, connecting us, I know I wasn’t alone in the tears I cried. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt irrevocably connected to nearly 80,000 other people that night. I know that I wasn’t the only person experiencing healing right then.
I hope you remember today is never too late to be brand new
Am I saying The Eras Tour cured my depression? Absolutely not. Am. I saying Taylor Swift solved my newly developed struggles with my body image? Of course not. But I am saying that I left feeling like I’ve experienced a reset, a fresh start. That I am brand new, at least for now. And for that, I am grateful.
There’s not much that a good concert with some of my best friends won’t fix. But this? This was next level.
So, even though she’ll never read this: thank you, Taylor Swift. Thank you for the healing. Thank you for the music. Thank you for the memories. You will never understand what it means.
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