Terry Manning

Life can be like a mixed-up playlist


I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, per se, but I’m a fan of Taylor Swift.

She started as a kid. She writes and plays her own music. She can’t dance worth a plug nickel, but she still is one of the last real superstars in the music industry.

So when her most recent album, Midnights, was released last year, it was big news. I stumbled across the lead single one day on my smartphone.

“I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser …”

Say what?

“I should not be left to my own devices/They come with prices and vices/I end up in crisis …”

This was not the bubblegum pop I was expecting. This was mature and kind of dark.

“Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism”

Ouch! I looked to see the song’s title: “Anti-Hero.”

“It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me/At tea time, everybody agrees/I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror …”

Get out of my head, Taylor Swift!

The lyrics aren’t exact matches for some of the things I’ve been thinking and experiencing lately, but doggone. What is this little white girl doing all up in my middle-aged-Black-man business?

I found articles where Swift explained the song is a meditation on her insecurities and feelings of depression, calling it one of “my favorite songs I’ve ever written.” Only a writer could call digging into their own pains and fears one of their favorite things ever.

But like the best music — the best art of any type, really — the more personally she wrote, the more universally the lyrics seemed to apply. So yeah, I found myself with “Anti-Hero” in constant rotation.

I moved home recently without a lot of forethought and planning, and the transition has been a challenge. Being gone from anywhere over an extended period creates a loss of familiarity it is tough to overcome.

As Neil Diamond sang, “L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home/New York’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.”

So I look for faces I used to know and visit places I used to go. Some are where they used to be, and some aren’t. Some are newly gone, and others have been gone for a long, long time.

I search job listings to see where I can whittle a career of doing a lot of things down to the one thing a potential employer might be looking for, typically at a wage comparable to what I was earning 25 years ago.

High school pals have their own jobs to attend to, not to mention their own families. My family members have taken turns with various ailments, so I steer clear out of caution for them and myself. I never was much of one for stopping by and hanging out, anyway.

A former coworker asked about the move, “Have you found a girlfriend yet?” I laughed. I changed my locale on a couple dating apps I frequent, and got a few notifications of interest, but I either swiped left or clicked the “X,” meaning thanks, but no thanks.

Like Stevie Wonder crooned, “I’m lookin’ for another pure love in my life,” but I would like things to stabilize before I jump back into all that.

So I stay close to home. Most days, I walk up and down the hills of the road near the house. Muscles that had grown weak and tight from sitting at a desk all day are starting to strengthen and lengthen. Arthritic joints complain, but the cold morning air feels good in my nostrils. The sounds of the creek are comforting.

Sometimes I’ll see a flock of birds flitting between tree branches or sweeping across yards looking for breakfast. They remind of another song:

“Why should I feel discouraged/Why should the shadows come/Why should my heart be lonely/And long for heaven and home …”

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Things will work out the way they are supposed to and in due time.

Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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