We met in college.
I knew of Taylor Swift before then, but the girl in the dress and cowboy boots, daydreaming about castles and white horse rescues, was a little much for me.
I was raised by a single dad in a rough part of St. Petersburg and I had no rose-colored glasses through which to view the world. I didn't listen to country music. I could rap all the words to Go DJ and had a poster of Lil Wayne on my wall.
But then my mom, who lives in Idaho, priority mailed me a 2-year-old CD.
Crazy, curly blond hair spiraled across the cover. Taylor Swift's Fearless. She was the kind of person whom mothers would love their daughters to befriend.
After listening, I realized we had a lot in common — something I couldn't comfortably say about Lil Wayne.
We both were 20, only a month and a half apart. We both had a younger brother. We both had friends named Stephen. We both spent time on bleachers, eyeing our athletic crushes and eyerolling the cheerleaders.
We were both white but grew up with different privileges. She was traveling the world and I was getting a journalism degree on scholarship. But we were there for each other. She taught me how to survive the mean girls at my first job. And I cried with her when a guy named John broke her heart.
And that's when I knew I'd totally be best friends with Taylor Swift.
After a bad day, I'd throw her catalog on iTunes shuffle, looping through the extensive playlist. I kept a mental note of patterns in her lyrics and felt like I had stumbled upon her secrets.
Over a three-year period, I studied every single one of her songs. I kept napkins and notebooks full of tallies and half-baked connections, time lines and word counts, wondering all along why I cared so much.
I'll get to that Swiftly.