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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A letter to Taylor Swift

Dear Taylor,

I don't want to say that we are never, ever getting back together. I really don't. I want to remain one of your most avid fans. I've always defended you from people I know who don't like you. When these people say that your songs are all about your exes, or that they're just catchy but not that great, I tell them that your songs, of course, tell your stories and speak of your own experiences. Because isn't it the magic of any creative output--to tell our stories through something beautiful, like a work of art?

I don't feel this way because of the Hiddleswift that so swiftly happened. I'm not even counting the whole Kim K-Kanye brouhaha into the equation. I feel this way because of what you have become. Gone are the days when the Taylor that we know is someone relatable and approachable. Gone are the days when the Taylor that we know is the Taylor who leaves an encouraging message on a fan's Instagram account because that said fan was bullied in school. Gone are the days when the Taylor that we know is the Taylor who bakes cookies for her beloved fans when she invited them to an exclusive listening preview of her 1989 album that (at that time) was yet to be released. Gone are the days when the Taylor that we know is the Taylor who makes a surprise appearance at a fan's wedding to make that said fan happy on her wedding day. Gone are the days when the Taylor (oh, the sweet Taylor) that we know makes jams and makes embroidered gifts to Ed Sheeran.

Because all of these--as recent articles, opinion pieces, and online comments have pointed out--are part of a grand PR stunt that you orchestrated very well. And as a fan, it saddens me, because when I first heard your songs (Love Story, White Horse, You Belong With Me), I felt that you could relate to us, your fans (and we, your fans, could relate to you). I've had my own time spent in Loserdom when I was an adolescent. I've had my fair share of experiences of not being well-liked, of not being cool in the Ms. Popular/Cheerleader kind of way (which was a big deal when you're a teenager, or when you're simply surrounded by mean girls in school). When I first heard your songs, I felt that we were in the same boat, and you were out there telling our stories and standing for us who were (or still are) in Loserdom.

And your songs about your exes? They were all about heartbreak, and haven't we all had our hearts broken at some point in our lives? For us, your fans (or at least for me), that was another reason to like you even more.

So I followed your career, supporting all your albums--from Fearless to Speak Now to Red to 1989. I saw how you transitioned from being this sweet, country singer to a bombshell pop star. And that, perhaps, was when it all started to go wrong. Or maybe that's just how I felt (or should I say, feel right now).

You've pretty much achieved almost everything--Grammy Awards, a roster of A-list stars whom you have dated, a swanky New York apartment, a #squadgoals circle of friends, among others. And why wouldn't you have them? You deserved all of those, I told myself, because you worked so hard in writing those songs that we pretty much gravitated towards you and made you famous.

So upon the realization that all of these have "PR Stunt" stamped on them, I feel like you've played us all along. You exploited our experiences of being in Loserdom, of having our hearts broken, of having been rejected at school, and a host of other unpleasant experiences. You taught us that "haters gonna hate", so we were like, yeah let's "shake it off!" You taught us that the one on the bleachers, the one who wears sneakers, the one who wears T-shirts will eventually win over the girl who's cheer captain, the girl who wears high heels, the girl who doesn't get a special someone's humor like we do. Now, where is the girl who taught us all of these? Oh, maybe chillin' out in her New York apartment in the company of her squad of white girls who are stars themselves or supermodels.

And then, you become defensive whenever shade is thrown at you. Well, we can't reach you anymore. Do you even know how tickets to your concerts cost? Girls are literally running to get their hands on your tickets, even getting angry at a dad who's buying a ticket for her daughter because it's taking him a bit long to choose a seat (as what my sister witnessed during the selling of tickets for your Red concert).

So, is there still a Taylor with a soul beneath all the fame, the wealth, the enviable list of "friends", and the swanky New York apartment? Is there still a Taylor who's authentic and sincere? And, to borrow our very own Ms. Pia Wurtzbach's words, is there still a Taylor who's confidently beautiful (and talented) with a heart?

I'm hoping you won't get out of style though, what with all your (alleged but seemingly true) pretentiousness. Otherwise, we might have to shake you off for good.

A fan

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lost stars

It has been a year and three months since I started seeing a psychiatrist. It has been eight months since I started sharing my experiences in dealing with bipolar disorder here in my blog. And in those eight months, several friends have messaged me on Facebook--some to offer support, and some to ask about my experiences in seeking help.

I appreciate all of those. When friends message me to ask questions, I welcome them. If I were to be asked to describe dealing with mental illness, I would have to say that it is not a gray cloud with a silver lining. It is what it is: difficult, exhausting, and expensive. A psychiatrist's professional fee is a four-digit figure, and don't make me start talking about the cost of medicines prescribed. Sometimes, I ask myself: Are the means to help me get better also make me feel worse because of the high levels of anxiety brought about by the cost of these means? Yes, I've asked for financial assistance from one of my aunts, and I couldn't be more thankful. However, there's not a silver lining to see when you see the amount (or the absence of it) left in your bank account every month.

Will this make me stop taking my meds? No. I will (and I do) take my meds as prescribed. I often compare my current self with my pre-treatment self, and I see the difference. Maybe it's not a big difference, but still, it counts. I don't regret seeking treatment, even if I have to move mountains to be able to pay for everything.

Whenever friends message me on Facebook because they feel they have similar concerns, I can't help but ask the universe (quoting the song "Lost Stars"): "Are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?" Maybe we are. We are one another's candle. We perfectly understand each other because we are going through the same things ourselves. We may not find a silver lining, but we can always light a candle so we can make our way through the dark.