Dear Asian Youth,
On the first day of eighth grade, I whipped out my new white leather Converse, the iconic star-stripe combo on either side of each shoe. I specifically remember sitting in ELA, tracing my hand on a piece of paper and covering it in treble clefs and characters from musicals.
I wore the same pair when I was in the ensemble of Grease, the front of the sole stained from when we would slide downstage during “Summer Nights.”
I slipped on those trusty sneakers every morning. They were comfy and simple, and they got the job done. They went with everything, and I could always depend on them to bring an outfit together.
On the infamous date of March 13th, 2020, I wore the very same shoes as I said goodbye to my friends. All I expected was a longer spring break, a “Coronacation,” if you will. But the two-week respite quickly turned into months spent confined in the walls of my house. I put my favorite pair of shoes away, never wearing them again for the next few months.
I spent these months listening to the same songs over and over again: “Y U Gotta B Like That” would blast in my ears as I walked around my lifeless neighborhood, and the original Broadway cast recording of Legally Blonde would play as I sat on my bedroom floor doing Algebra. At this point, all of my favorite music had grown stale, and I longed for everything to return to normal, for people to be at my side rather than miles and months away.
Then, on July 24th, 2020, Taylor Swift released Folklore, her eighth studio album. I had always been too staid to listen to Taylor: All she does is write meaningless songs about her exes, I’d believed about her music for the past couple years. But the amount of praise this woman received, and the interest that I developed as a result of her spontaneity, compelled me to listen to this song cycle crafted in a time of loneliness for everybody.
I loved it. The lyricism, the instrumentation, everything about this record was immaculate. Listening to “The 1” became a part of my daily routine, and my home screen layout with the new iOS 11 update was centered around Taylor’s new aesthetic.
A rainy day a couple weeks back, I slipped on my trusty white Converse. As I trotted to the tune of “Betty,” I stepped in a puddle; I felt water leak into my shoe, drenching my sock, and when I sat down in P.E., I noticed a tear found between the leather and the sole. I had never realized what my shoes had been through.
But now that I look back on it, the wear-and-tear on this one pair of shoes just reminded me of how much I love them. We’ve been through everything together, and now, the stars on my sneakers match the stars on the new Taylor Swift cardigan that’s wrapped around my Folklore-loving heart. Now, I just tie the laces around each other and play a new song.
2020 was a year of change. It severely deviated from anybody’s expectations. But I found new things to love and grasped them in my palms. As sung by Swift in “Clean” from her album 1989, “When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe.”
So for me, this year was not about deviation.
It was about growth.
– Sebastian Paragas
Cover photo source: https://brandcentralsolutions.com/work-playlists-for-your-work-day-at-home/