Please don’t ever become a stranger


Nearing the final semester of my high school career, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to Taylor Swift, looking through old photos, and traveling down roads that have led me to my motley of homes throughout my time here in Grand Rapids. 

In other words, I’ve been ripping out my own heart and stomping on it with Taylor Swift’s gut-wrenchingly accurate lyricism that somehow always applies to whatever my current situation is. And my current situation is a bit clouded, a bit, for lack of better wording, all over the place. There is, simply put, a lot going on, but the one thing my brain has decided to fixate on is my future—a future in which I am not in high school anymore, which is a reality that is not so far away anymore. 

I didn’t grow up here, I was born in Indiana and lived near Chicago for eight years, but I’ve surely grown up here. And it’s hard to imagine just… not living here anymore. Sure, I’ll be back to visit my family, but it won’t be the same. I won’t spend my Wednesday afternoons screaming to Flo Milli down Cascade, I won’t spend my late Friday nights illuminated by the Christmas lights of downtown Ada, I won’t spend my evenings in my dark-blue room that either suffocates me or finally allows me to take a breath. 

I won’t be here. And that’s a strange, strange feeling to comprehend. It’s hard to envision a future outside of Grand Rapids, outside of Michigan, when I haven’t even heard back from all of my colleges yet—but it’s even harder to imagine leaving. 

A lot, especially these past few months, has come full circle, and it all signifies the end of a chapter yet the beginning of a new one—as cliche as that sounds. I seem to be grasping onto fragments of what I have here, whether that be the familiar comfort of the Forest Hills Foods candy aisle or the sense of home that my 2003 Subaru Outback brings me—the air fresheners littering the floor, my old work badge still sitting in my middle console, all the people who have taken up space in the passenger seat next to me. 

I so desperately cling to what I know I won’t have next year because, as much as I just want to get out of here, I don’t want to leave. And I know it’s bold of me to prepare for a departure that is still months away, but if there’s a Taylor Swift lyric for it, there is a way. 

And there always is one. 

Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere. — “New Years Day,” Taylor Swift.