At six years old, I was watching music videos with one of my closest friends when she wanted to show me a new artist she had found. I spent the next four minutes watching a girl with long blonde curls hug a guitar on her bed in a pretty green dress, and then I proceeded to spend the next month singing the very few words I knew of the song, which were, "He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar."
That month concluded when my brother bought me Taylor Swift's debut, self-titled album as a birthday present. After that, I was singing a lot more than one selected line from a song I had heard one time. I became obsessed.
Anyone who knows me is probably aware of my undying loyalty to the 30-year-old icon. I wear a snake ring on the middle finger of my right hand, and for years I wrote lyrics of hers on my hands and arms.
For thirteen years, I watched a young woman grow into her current self. I watched her rise when she was awarded the Best Female Video award at the VMA's in 2009 for her "You Belong with Me" music video. I watched her fall when Kanye West took the microphone out of her hand to declare that Beyoncé had "one of the best videos of all time."
I watched her rise when she won her 10 different Grammy awards — four in 2010, two in 2012, one in 2013 and three in 2016. I watched her fall when Kim Kardashian West posted a recorded phone call between Kanye West and Ms. Swift and thousands of people took to her Instagram comments to call her a snake.
I watched her rise when she was awarded the Artist of the Decade by the American Music Awards and began her performance with "The Man," a song about feminism and the double standards between men and women. I watched her fall when Big Machine Records sold the rights to her first six albums to Scooter Braun, a man with whom she has a dark history.
For 13 of my 19 years, I have stood by Taylor Swift, and I wouldn't change that fact for anything.
I watched a girl defined as "America's Sweetheart" grow and take a stand for what she believes in. I've watched a heartbroken girl become a strong, proud woman. Without her music and her guidance, I'm not sure how different my life would be.
Throughout all major moments in my life, I have had Taylor Swift and her music. When I had my very first "boyfriend" in the fourth grade, all the love songs on her first two albums perfectly applied to our entirely nonexistent relationship. When he sent his friend to break up with me on the walk out of the elementary school one day, "Cold as You" allowed me to drown my sorrows.
When I began my fifteenth year, I listened to "Fifteen" and cried because I was scared of growing up. Every subsequent birthday after that I've made it my mission to listen to "Never Grow Up" at least once, because I'm still afraid of growing up.
When I was struggling to fit in the first few weeks of college, "A Place in this World" served as a reminder that no matter how bad things seemed, I could get through it and I would find my place, even if it took longer than I thought it would.
For 13 years I have grown up with Taylor Swift, and for 13 years we shared our experiences through the music she wrote. But to me, she is so much more than her seven albums.
Her debut LP album was released when she was just 16 years old. She wrote her lyrics when she was a freshman in high school.
For 14 years, she has evolved and found ways to stay relevant. Despite this, she still sticks to her roots.
After shows, she does free meet and greets for fans at things she calls "T Parties." Her mom, Andrea, came up with the name, T standing for Taylor. She's hosted them since the tour for her second album.
For her last three albums, she has hosted "secret sessions" for fans, where she welcomed them into one of her homes and played her album for them before its release. She'll see fans wearing T-shirts with her face on them, and she'll give them money for lunch.
Taylor Swift impacts more than her fans; she has become an important figure in politics and as an advocate for women's rights.
During a five-year-long legal battle between Kesha and her former producer, Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald, Taylor gave her $250,000 to help her pay for legal costs.
When a Colorado DJ sued her after he lost his job because she came forward about him of groping her at a 2013 photo-op, she counter-sued for one single dollar. She won, which felt like a win for women everywhere.
For a majority of her career, she stayed away from politics, but her recent documentary showcases her transition into political involvement.
In 2018, she endorsed two Tennessee Democrats. In 2019, she advocated for the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, pregnancy and more.
In the second single — "You Need to Calm Down" — off her latest album, she advocated for gay rights, including the lyrics, "shade never made anybody less gay."
For 13 years, I have had the honor of watching a woman grow into her own person. I've seen her find genuine happiness and pride. I've smiled with her, I've cried with her, I've felt lost and found with her — while never even physically being with her.
She has found a way in her life to prioritize her fans, her friends, her family, her relationships — all while facing scrutiny from the public. She has impacted the lives of millions of young, impressionable people who have grown up with her.
I'm proud to be one of them.