Life Lessons with Taylor Swift: Navigating Cincinnati’s Twists and Turns

It’s August of 2008 and I’m about to start middle school. I’m nervous – I’ve never had to ride a school bus before, outside of field trips. I pull on my peach-colored Taylor Swift T-shirt and think, maybe someone else who loves her, too, will notice and be my friend.

Last year, as a fifth grader, I sang “Our Song” for my school talent show. It was the first song I taught myself how to play on my kid-sized guitar. I cut out a picture of Swift from a Tiger Beat magazine and taped it to the body of the instrument.

Why is she my favorite artist? I relate to her. She’s not that much older than me, and she writes her songs herself. I write songs, too. I fantasize what it would be like to play her some of the songs I’ve written, to know if she’d like them. Maybe we could sing together.

A girl at school does notice my shirt. Her name is Katie. She has frizzy hair, like me. She’s just as obsessed with “Teardrops On My Guitar” and we instantly become best friends. After school one day, she comes over to my house and I show her my guitar. We sing songs together from Swift’s newest release, the “Fearless” album, and even write a song together. We want to be just like Swift when we grow up.

At the end of the school year, Katie and I and another friend, Samantha, make matching shirts with the number 13 and our favorite “Fearless” lyrics on them, and we blast Swift’s songs from a speaker in the backyard.

Taylor Swift will bring her Eras Tour to Cincinnati's Paycor Stadium June 31 and July 1.

Taylor Swift will bring her Eras Tour to Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium June 31 and July 1.

Taylor Swift in Cincinnati: It’s a big deal

That was my childhood (Taylor’s Version). Since the beginning of Swift’s career, I’ve been hooked. She has written the soundtrack to my life.

Like thousands of other Swifties, I’ve stayed up for midnight album releases, pored over each lyric and learned more than 100 of her songs on my guitar. I’m like a Swift jukebox at family campfires. Just shout out a song title, and I’ll strum.

So if it’s not clear from the dozens of recent Enquirer articles and the rest of the hubbub around town, let me tell you: Swift coming to Cincinnati is a big deal.

First off, Visit Cincy and the Cincinnati Regional Chamber’s Center for Research and Data estimates Swift will bring in $48 million to the city. The concerts are also a hat tip to the folks at Paycor Stadium for the fact that Swift chose Cincinnati over other, bigger cities in driving distance like Columbus, Louisville or Indianapolis.

And for the fans? For us, this tour is everything. We get to relive Swift’s eras, and in doing so, relieve our own past selves, too. Because longtime fans can define phases of our lives through her music.

I know I can.

When girls in eighth and ninth grades discarded me because I wasn’t “cool” enough to hang out with them, I played “Mean” from the “Speak Now” album on repeat on my iPod Touch. “Red” and “1989” took me through all of the heartache that came with my unrequited high school crushes.

Enquirer education reporter Madeline Mitchell modeled her Eras Tour outfit after the dress Taylor Swift wore to the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. Swift won album of the year for "Folklore" that year.

Enquirer education reporter Madeline Mitchell modeled her Eras Tour outfit after the dress Taylor Swift wore to the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. Swift won album of the year for “Folklore” that year.

I remember bonding with new friends in college when “Reputation” came out, and the “Lover” album dropped right after I graduated college and needed some encouragement as I entered real adulthood. Then, of course, Taylor gave us “folklore” and “evermore” when nothing in the world felt right. And “Midnights” came to me as I was entering a lavender haze of my own and falling for my boyfriend (who happily endures listening to my every Swiftie thought and theory).

At The Eras Tour, we get to flash through all of this in a 3 hour, 30 minute dance party unlike any other. And we get to do it right here, at home in Cincinnati.

Revisiting Taylor’s eras − and our own

I have lived in Ohio for eight years now, but originally, I’m from the Chicago suburbs. And, as the oldest of three girls, I had and have certain responsibilities. As a tween, I was the designated babysitter. Once I turned 16, I was an occasional chauffeur. And at 25, during the November Ticketmaster presale for The Eras Tour, I was in charge of securing five tickets for myself, my sisters and our childhood best friends.

It took nearly eight hours, several bouts of crying and more profanity than I use in a typical day, but I got them: five nosebleeds for the Chicago show. Our group chat erupted in cheers at the news, and light teasing for how “bad” our seats were.

But it didn’t matter. We were going.

Our first concert together – and my first concert, ever – was Swift’s “Red” tour in 2013. We had nosebleeds then, too. My youngest sister, Mia, was only 9 at the time.

Mitchell's first concert was in 2013, when she saw Taylor Swift's "Red" tour with her sisters Mollie and Mia, and best friends Allie and Lauren.

Mitchell’s first concert was in 2013, when she saw Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour with her sisters Mollie and Mia, and best friends Allie and Lauren.

Bev Guidish, my best friend’s mom, came with us to the “Red” concert. She “won” the ticket (that she purchased) by being the highest scorer of our four parents on a “Taylor Swift Exam.” The five of us spent hours creating it. The test had multiple choice questions about Swift’s personal life; a matching section pairing song titles with who the songs are about; and a “what would you do?” short essay section asking how they might handle various make-believe scenarios, like if one of us needed to use the restroom right when Swift was about to come onstage.

Part of the last couple eras of my life has been realizing that things aren’t the same as my debut or “Fearless” years. We’ve grown up. Mia couldn’t make it to the Chicago Eras Tour, so Mrs. Guidish came with us instead. She knows most of the lyrics, too. The night was magical in the way only a Swift concert could be. It was nostalgic and full of adrenaline. I did my best to take in every moment as I danced and scream-sang the lyrics to my favorite songs with my favorite people.

Enquirer Education Reporter Madeline Mitchell and her best friend, Allie Guidish, at The Eras Tour in Chicago.

Enquirer Education Reporter Madeline Mitchell and her best friend, Allie Guidish, at The Eras Tour in Chicago.

Long live all the magic we’ll make

This era – my Cincinnati era – is magical, too. I’ve been with The Enquirer for nearly four years now. I’ve learned and grown so much, and I have fallen in love with the Queen City and the people who live here.

On Friday, I’ll attend the Eras concert with coworkers and friends I’ve made as a young adult, and hope to keep as I move into my next era: my late 20s.

I’m older now, but I still write songs sometimes and daydream always. I still get nervous when entering new phases of life. And when I meet another Swiftie, I still instantly want to be their new best friend. (I’m taking friendship bracelets with me to Friday’s show and can’t wait to see so many of you there!)

Madeline Mitchell and friends wrote Swift's lucky number, 13, on their hands in sparkly blue and wore friendship bracelets for The Eras Tour in Chicago.

Madeline Mitchell and friends wrote Swift’s lucky number, 13, on their hands in sparkly blue and wore friendship bracelets for The Eras Tour in Chicago.

In 2019, Swift was interviewed by Clara Amfo on BBC Radio 1. She said: “The worst kind of person is someone who makes someone feel bad, dumb or stupid for, like, being excited about something.”

So get excited, Cincinnati. Count to 10. Take it in. May these memories break our fall.

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