It’s always interesting to look back on your life three, five, or ten years ago and try to remember what it felt like. In the span of just a few years, we can simultaneously feel like nothing and everything has changed. It’s always in those moments, looking back, when I notice how many changes I’ve gone through. And considering how much different my life would be if this or that had never happened at all.
In some ways, it’s kind of scary to realize how much one day or one moment or one decision can change the course of our entire life. What if I had never answered that phone call, interrupting me from studying, asking me to fly to New York City? What if I had never bought the ticket? What if it was all a big hoax, banking on blind faith and optimism? What if I hadn’t come down the elevator when I did, or gotten on the bus when I did, or walked in the apartment door when I did? What if I had never been able to make it? What if I had never been invited at all?
I guess the beauty of the present is that often you never recognize when a moment is going to change your life. It’s only years later, when you stop and look back, that you can see the effect of one decision, one mistake, or one word. I think it’s very rare, in the span of a lifetime, to recognize a moment that will ultimately change the course of your life forever. But this day, three years ago, was one of the rare ones. It was one of those days where, in an instant, I knew I would never be the same. The effect though…that was always going to be a mystery.
Leaving the apartment that night, I remember feeling confused. I was happy. I was in shock. But underneath all that, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Call it imposter syndrome, or maybe self-doubt, but it’s weird to receive the ultimate gift when you never really asked for it. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there in the world who dream for something like this to happen to them. I wasn’t one of them. I never believed I could be. There wasn’t a fragment of a second where I believed myself lucky enough to meet the person that shaped my life since I was 12.
And yet, I was one of the lucky ones. In fact, I felt like the luckiest one. And still to this day, I wonder what I ever did to deserve it.
As the days went on, as the Tumblr follows rolled in, and as my small online community and friendships grew, I continued to feel like the luckiest person alive. I got followed and tweeted at by Taylor herself, who somehow managed to remember me among the masses. I got contacted by newspapers and old acquaintances who just had to hear more. I got messages from friends of friends who couldn’t believe they knew someone who met Taylor Swift. And all the while I wondered why in the hell this was happening to me.
Who was I but a college student, crippled with anxiety and a recent diagnosis of an autoimmune disease that I was struggling to handle? Who was I but a scared little 20-year-old, living at home, writing essays and journals and hiding them in the nightstand? Who was I but a lonely girl in a new city with a cat but no close friends?
Finally, I settled for an explanation decided by my father that I had just been saving up my luck. All this time, all these years, someone had been, in a sense, setting aside coins of luck in a piggy bank to spend on me when I really needed it. Whoever that someone was, I figured maybe I should thank them for not blowing it on little things here and there to keep me going. Or maybe I should ask them why they decided now was the time to spend it.
Either way, I accepted the explanation so as to let it go and just enjoy the experience that I was lucky enough to live.
As with most euphemisms, the relief only lasts as long as you’re willing to keep fooling yourself.
By the next year, I had fully let go of the belief that I had been saving up my luck. If only because, in the aftermath, I started to feel like I hadn’t been lucky at all. As time went on and the past moved further in the past, I began to feel detached from it. Those memories were exactly that—memories. I would never be able to step foot in that apartment again. I would never be able to hear those songs for the first time. I would never sit on her couch or pet her cats or be in the forefront of her mind ever again.
It’s like Cinderella, going to the ball just once…and then being sent back to her normal life. Take away the ending where the Prince goes looking for her, take away the happily ever after, and you’re left with nothing but a great memory that you have to move on from.
And some days you feel worse because you wonder, deep down, if you will ever feel that happy in your life again. You may have hit your peak, 20 years in, that you may never be able to top for the rest of your life. It’s a weird feeling to wonder if you have anything left to hope for.
Because maybe that someone, who you thought had been saving up your luck, had actually just spent your lifetime amount. What if that was all you had—or all you were ever going to have—and it was just gone. Undoubtedly, it was a great moment that I will never forget. But was that luck worth a lifetime of nothing in return?
It was only recently when I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t that I was lucky or unlucky—it was that I had been thinking of luck in the wrong way.
Maybe the luck wasn’t meeting Taylor Swift. Maybe it wasn’t going to her home or hearing her soon-to-be Grammy-winning album. Maybe it wasn’t petting the cats. Perhaps it was what I was left with. Not so much the confusion or the emptiness. Not the happiness or the excitement. But the fire that it lit, somewhere deep down inside me, where I couldn’t feel its slow burn until years later when I almost wouldn’t recognize what it was.
It was that feeling of belonging. Of inspiration. Of what it felt like to have something you’ve loved for eight years love you back. And wanting more than anything to pass that feeling along to anyone I could.
I used to feel like I was saving up my luck. Later, I began to wonder if maybe I had a limited supply that I used up by the time I was 20. Now, I think it was just one of those moments, lucky or not, that was supposed to change my life forever.
If that experience gave me nothing else, it gave me something to work for. It gave me a feeling to hold on to. It gave me a vision for something to create. Because if one day I can make someone else—even if it’s just one person—feel the way I did walking into that apartment on October 3rd, then I think I will have done something right.