Solving the Mystery of My Taylor Swift Dreams

Since last fall, I have been dreaming about hanging out with Taylor Swift.

And I’m not talking about, like, wishing she and I might one day spend time together. No. I’m being literal. I’m talking about the fact that every time I’ve closed my eyes and drifted into REM over the past four months, one Taylor Alison Swift has somehow found a way to insert herself into the picture.

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan. I was a fan before she became a global phenomenon who sold 1.287 million albums in a week—back when it was only like 1-point-zero-something million, even! Her entire canon, from her self-titled debut on, has nursed me through more breakups and life crises over the past eight years than any grown man should ever admit to on the Internet. (And yet here we are.)

So it is not without acknowledging the creepiness of my current situation that I share it with you. I’m vividly dreaming about a woman I don’t know but whose work I devour; it’s stalkerish. My subconscious is a stalker. It probably eats cheese and owns binoculars and doesn’t shower.

***

In my dreams, Taylor Swift and I are usually hanging out in a hotel room or a Starbucks or sometimes both. Once, we waited in line for coffee while listening to music on an iPod Classic together with a single set of headphones, using one speaker each, like best (ear!) buds. It was sweet.

But there’s a subtle dark side to the dreams, too, which comes in the form of a recurring shtick in which Taylor knowingly makes normal-people decisions for the both of us while I openly resent her for not using her celebrity status to get us special treatment.

For example, Dream-Taylor and I once ordered three hundred dollars’ worth of room service and she made us split the bill!

“Seriously, you millionaire?” I sassily asked her while reaching for my wallet. “You couldn’t pull some strings?”

She just stared at me until I woke up, at which point my tune had changed to something more like, “Wait. FINE! I’ll pay for half. I’ll pay for it all! BE MY FRIEND,” which is sad.

***

There’s one dream in particular that takes the cake. And not only because we ate cake in it. (Although we did indeed.)

It was New Year’s Eve and Taylor and I were invited to a big party at a venue with steps in front of it. There was also a fountain. It was kind of like a dream-combination of the New York Public Library, the Met, and Washington Square Park. Oh, you know what? I think it was actually Lincoln Center! But I digress.

Taylor and I showed up on the steps in our fanciest going-out clothes (Tom Brady jersey for me; ’50s bathing suit for her), but we were late and the party was over.

“What are we going to do now?” I asked my slender sidekick, exasperated.

“Let’s drive around and find something to do,” she chirped in response. “It’s New Year’s Eve!”

And then a slightly rotund hipster appeared out of nowhere and offered us a ride, which was nice and all, but suddenly there were four other people in our group and the slightly rotund hipster’s car was a tiny sedan with manual windows.

Taylor didn’t care, though, because she called shotgun—leaving the remaining five of us to squish together in the backseat like a bunch of freakin’ animals in coach! (Coach: what I’m sure Dream-Taylor flies.)

I cursed her in my dream-head, wondering why she didn’t just call a limo company and say, “I’m Taylor Swift. I’d like to order a deluxe party bus. Here’s my credit card information, which is under the name of my cat Olivia so as to preserve anonymity, thank you, good DAY!”

But she didn’t do that, the inconsiderate dream-bitch.

Eventually we all ended up in a big parking lot/alley area not unlike the music video set for *NSYNC’s “Girlfriend.” Taylor and I were vaping in a corner with some kind of sour green apple-flavored e-juice and talking about how we both really thought the everyone-going-to-jail ending of Seinfeld was criminal. “No pun intended!” she cooed as I let out an unreasonably hearty laugh. It was all so real. I can still see the green apple liquid bubbling in the vape pen of my mind.

***

There are myriad reasonable explanations for whatever it is in my subconscious that causes these dreams to happen, a few of which may even have some kind of deeper meaning and/or lesson attached. But I’d like to discount all of them for the following conspiracy theory:

I’m being haunted.

You see, last fall during a trip to the Catskill Mountains with some friends for Oktoberfest, I encountered the below mannequin at a local antique shop.

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1989? More like 1782!

Upon revisiting this photo four months later, it has become clear to me that this is obviously a Taylor Swift-impersonating mannequin-demon-ghost-of-yore with nefarious intentions. It must have latched on to me that day in the antique shop purely to haunt my dreams for no good reason (other than the fact that I outed the bitch on Instagram).

I mean, it all makes so much sense. How else to explain the selfish, miserly tendencies? Everyone knows that the real Taylor Swift showers her fans with surprise gift packages and student loan payments. How else to explain the splitting of the headphones? Everyone knows that mannequins are deaf in their left ears. (The vaping remains shrouded in mystery, but I’ll take two out of three.)

Looks like my subconscious isn’t the creepy one after all!

So. In the tradition of facing one’s demons, I’d like to directly address the evil Taylor Swift-impersonating old-timey mannequin ghost right now, once and for all: I know what you’re up to, and I’d like you to stop. Go haunt someone else. Maybe John Mayer? Better yet, go audition for a haunted house. Take up knitting! I don’t care. Just, whatever you do, GET OUT OF MY DREAMS. (Get into my car.)

***

P.S. THAT LAST LINE WAS JUST A BILLY OCEAN JOKE. DO NOT GET INTO MY CAR, BECAUSE I KNOW YOU WOULD ONLY HAUNT IT AND ALSO PRESUMPTUOUSLY CALL SHOTGUN WHILE FORCING THE REST OF US TO UNCOMFORTABLY SQUEEZE INTO THE BACKSEAT. GOOD DAY.

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Anyone Else Becoming as Unhinged as I Am Lately?

The past few weeks have seen me having more melodramatic breakdowns than usual, and it’s a problem. One second I’ll be all balanced and happy and zen, and then the next I’ll be spiraling into a black hole of fury: arguing that working forty hours a week is bullshit, telling myself that I’M THE SMARTEST PERSON I KNOW, and randomly IMing my friend Steven with nonstop pictures of Mariah Carey alongside her various love interests throughout the years.

Like, the other day I saw this beautiful passage on Louise L. Hay’s Facebook. Basically it’s all about how if we use a tomato plant as an analogy for creating the lives we want, we can be happy. Because we trust tomato plants to grow, and so when our personal tomato plant starts to sprout, we shouldn’t get angry and ask, “WHY AREN’T YOU BIGGER AND BETTER?” but rather we should keep watering it and say, “Woohoo! It’s on its way!”

I read it and thought, That’s how I’m going to live my life from now on.

Then this IM conversation happened after I randomly went off on a tangent to Steven about how I wish I had a year off to eat, pray, love, and finish the millionth third draft of my book:

  • Steven: i feel like you’re on the verge of a breakdown
  • me: dude it’s true
  • Steven: i can feel it
  • Steven: coming in the air tonight
  • Steven: i FEEL it. when your messages get short and sans caps and punctuation and proper capitalization
  • me: there’s just gotta be more to life
  • me: than chasing down every temporary hiiigh
  • Steven: oh god you’re breaking out the Stacy O
  • Steven: every time you do that, you have a crisis of faith
  • Steven: and then you throw shit and start crying
  • me: and the worst part is that I’m lucky to be employed where I am
  • me: and yet
  • me: WHERE’S THE MEANING?
  • Steven tomorrow you’re gonna be all, “we must reach for the stars with our highest energy and smoke our own poz toxins and look out of our third eyes and be the best versions of ourselves”
  • Steven: followed by quoting some zen writer I’ve never heard of
  • me lmao. true

Later that day…

  • me: the issue is simple
  • me: I just need to hold on through this rough patch
  • me: and continue to strive toward creating the life I want
  • me: I’m just getting so fucking impatient
  • me: like… fucking.. WHEN
  • me: but I mean, I know we mustn’t attack our tomato plants
  • me: WHY AREN’T YOU FUCKING GROWING YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT TOMATO PLANT WORTHLESS FUCKING PIECE OF GARBAGE
  • Steven BAHAHA
  • Steven: I’m dying
  • Steven: I think you need to work toward being your best self
  • me: I’d like to be handed everything on a silver platter
  • me: WHERE’s my platter
  • me: omg I’m a fucking abomination
  • me: that’s negative
  • me: I’m a radiant expression of God’s love
  • Steven: I. Am…Dead

So, I don’t know. I guess the one lesson, if any, I’ve gleaned from this whole thing is that if you’re lucky enough to have a tomato plant, don’t be an asshole. Be grateful. Be graceful. Let it grow. And then go make some marinara sauce, maybe? Or: schizophrenically unravel via IM and then blog about it later. That always works too.

tomatoplant

 

A Brief History of My Cosmic Connection with Mariah Carey

1993: I am five years old and watching TV unsupervised when I happen upon the music video for “Dreamlover.” Who is this perfect woman? I ask myself. I spend the remainder of the year emulating the video – frolicking in open fields and longing for a hot air balloon to whisk me away.

1994: Mariah releases her inaugural Christmas album, Merry Christmas. My dad tells me that holiday stuff is always cheaper after Christmas, so in an effort to seem like I understand how money works, I ask him to buy me the CD on December 26th… at full price.

1995: “Fantasy.” Enough said.

1996: While flipping through the C’s at the local music store, I learn that there are still many Mariah releases I do not own. I embark on a fanatical campaign to acquire her entire catalog – including CD maxi-singles and VHS concert tapes. I also spend hours meticulously furnishing a lavish Mariah scrapbook, which essentially becomes my Sistine Chapel. While in the midst of compiling information for the scrapbook, I discover that Mariah and I share the same birthday (327 WHAT WHAT), and the whole thing is a lot like that moment in The Princess Diaries where Anne Hathaway learns she is of royal blood. (Or something? I don’t remember The Princess Diaries accurately.)

1997: Mariah releases her magnum opus (/the answer to everything ever), Butterfly, and ALL BETS ARE OFF. This CD becomes my best friend and helps me cope with everything from my parents’ divorce to my frequent existential crises to my destructive and crippling addiction to Oreos. (I was clearly a very damaged nine-year-old.)

1998-2002: I continue to follow and support everything Mariah does, but in an effort to fit in with my friends (all of whom are boys who somehow don’t understand diva-worship), I do so secretively – effectively going into the Mariah-closet. As a result, I become dead on the inside.

2003: High school begins. I clandestinely attend a Mariah concert alone and feel the presence of God in the theater.

2005: The stellar Emancipation of Mimi album is released. I hesitantly reveal my extreme excitement to my best friend Fran, who is also a huge fan, and she effectively drags me out of the Mariah-closet. Like Mimi, I am emancipated.

2006-2011: With each passing year, I grow more and more outspoken and unapologetic with my public love of MC. I go to concerts. I stand in my truth. Mariah eventually just becomes an inextricable part of my persona and identity.

2012: I am twenty-four and working in music and television in New York City. I manage to finagle my way onto the guest list for a random launch party for a Caesar’s Palace thing at Gotham Hall, where Mariah is making a rare appearance and performing. I bring Fran as my plus one. The setting is living room-intimate, Mariah’s eyes sync up with mine twice, and life is a dream. Much to my chagrin, though, Mariah and I don’t get to formally meet. But I take what I can get.

2013: A friend of mine who works for Jimmy Fallon surprises me with tickets to a taping of a Fallon-Mariah interview in promotion of “The Art of Letting Go.” Mariah and I still don’t get to meet, but again I take what I can get.

2014:

Monday, February 10th: Mariah puts out a teaser for her new single, “You’re Mine (Eternal).”

Tuesday, February 11th: I read a press release early in the morning that states that there will be two versions of the song released on Wednesday, along with a video premiere and a Mariah interview TAPED LIVE FROM THE TELEVISION NETWORK FOR WHICH I WORK. I freak out for about twenty minutes over how there’s a chance I won’t be allowed anywhere near the taping, but my hysteria is calmed when I get a phone call from a colleague close to the production who is aware of my status as a Mariah disciple and gets me on the list.

Wednesday, February 12th: I spend the entire day in a perpetual state of nervous excitement. When it’s finally time for the taping, I head up to the floor of the studio and feel as though I’m living in a surreal alternate universe. As I’m standing outside the studio entrance, I see Mariah’s entourage emerge from the hallway, followed by the deity herself. She is everything I expect her to be and more – wearing heels, calling people “dahling,” and radiating an energy of playfulness. Mariah’s best friend RaeRae (whom I immediately recognize from Instagram and the song lyrics to “’Betcha Gon’ Know”), takes a spot beside me as we wait for Mariah to make her formal entrance onscreen. Mariah stops right in front of the both of us for a last-minute touch-up, smiles at me as if we know each other, and I have to restrain myself from reaching out and pulling her into my arms for an impromptu embrace.

Backstage during the taping, I go back and forth in my head trying to think of ways to introduce myself to RaeRae without looking like a total creeper. I finally settle for, “Hi! I’m Nic. I totally recognize you.” We proceed to have a conversation about photo booths and dogs and children in which I’m awkward and blubbering on account of the fact that I’m FREAKIN’ TALKING TO MARIAH CAREY’S BEST FRIEND, but we eventually exchange Twitter handles, so I decide that I couldn’t have been that embarrassing. (Or RaeRae is just really accustomed to being fanatically approached by Mariah-obsessed weirdoes. Probably that.)

When the taping ends, the wonderful guy who got me on the list (to whom I am eternally grateful) pulls me into the studio where Mariah is hanging out and drinking Dom Perignon with husband Nick Cannon, Jermaine Dupri, MTV’s Sway, and a number of other people who are all desperately trying to get as close as possible to her. I recognize that the odds of my getting any one-on-one time in which to actually talk to her are slim to none, as there’s simply too much competition with people who actually seem to know her from somewhere. I come to terms with this quickly, though, and am willing to take what I can get. (As per usual.)

During a random photo op in which I’m creepily hovering/mouth-breathing over Mariah’s head, RaeRae pulls out her phone and takes a quick video. Later on, the Dom Perignon gets passed around and I take a swig directly from the bottle. Yes. I take a swig of Mariah Carey’s Dom Perignon. From. The. Bottle. After about twenty more minutes, it’s time for her to leave. I give her a smile and a wave and a round of applause, and she reciprocates. (Minus the applause, but whatever.)

At the end of it all, I go downstairs to my work-wife Mila’s office, where I’m delighted to find her still working past nine o’clock. Still on a Mariah-high, I give Mila a highly dramatic retelling of the night’s events. We then log in to Facebook and find that the video RaeRae spontaneously took earlier has just been posted. TO MARIAH’S OFFICIAL PAGE.

Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 8.19.34 AM

Did I quickly scan through the 1,000+ video comments to see if anyone referenced the weird dude in the back? No…

For the remainder of the night, I ride a feeling of floating all the way home to my apartment. It’s as if I’ve been whisked away by a hot air balloon. The experience of the past three hours has confirmed that what I’ve always said is indeed true: Only three things matter in the end – how much you loved, how much you forgave, and how many times you were in the presence of Mariah Carey.

 

Tell Me Again Why We’re All So Competitive?

My daily morning journey typically consists of the following three checkpoints: Gym, train station, work. (Think GTL but with less sunburn risk and more general real-world bleakness.)

My gym (which is actually just a workout room conveniently located in my low-rise apartment building – which, yes, I realize has everything to do with my forthcoming complaint) is about the size of an airplane bathroom. So when there are more than a couple residents in it at the same time, the competition for machines is fierce. Like, RuPaul’s-Drag-Race-with-a-side-of-Scar-from-The-Lion-King fierce.

And then there’s the Metro-North train, which I take from Connecticut into New York City. I start out standing amidst a sea of fellow commuters on the platform, all of us solitarily minding our own business – maybe even bopping our heads along to whatever motivational morning music happens to be blasting through our headphones on any given weekday (angsty female country for me, please!) – but then the train shows up and the scene turns into the freakin’ Hunger Games as everyone tries to push and shove their way inside first to snag a coveted three-seater.

And then there’s work, which… Well. I work in Manhattan. Enough said.

And so I don’t mean to sound whiny, but seriously – why? I get that there are only so many machines in a gym, and only so many seats on a train, but I can’t help but sense that all of this speaks to a much larger issue at hand.

The first time I heard about the dreary concept of a “scarcity mentality,” I was watching a conversation between Marianne Williamson and Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, in which they talked about pie. (Metaphorically, mostly. I think?) You see, pies are cut into slices, of which there can only be so many, and so if someone else gets a slice, then we might not get a slice for ourselves, and so therefore – thanks to pie – we are all conditioned to be in competition with everyone for everything.

Fun!

Except not, because exhaustion. (And disappointment. And detachment. And disenchantment. And… I could keep going with the D-words, really, but I’ll stop now before I get carried away and spiral into what Mariah Carey would call a “woe-is-me diva on a tangent moment.”)

So back to Super Soul. Marianne and Oprah eventually got to talking about how the rules that exist for physical things (like pie) don’t necessarily hold true when applied on a spiritual level. Which means that, on a spiritual level, we can ALL. HAVE. PIE. We can even have multiples slices of pie! We can have multiple pies! (If you’re into that kind of thing.) It doesn’t matter.

1084924_789639823882_1123041889_o

You get a pie! You get a pie! YOU get a pie! (Also, a doughnut, it seems.)

When I watched this conversation for the first time, it resonated deeply. I felt liberated, like a lifetime of restrictive thoughts and dead weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This means I can let go of my irrational fear that all the authors in all the land are going to publish their (subpar) books before I do! I proclaimed to myself. There’s room for us all!

But then I kept running into roadblocks on my path to publication, which forced me to recognize that I always seem to love new age wisdom when things are going my way – but then bitterly return to Self-Pity Central once something (a literary rejection, for instance) comes along and screws with my plans.

Still, though, one has no choice but to recover and continue growing. And as I get older, I can feel the moments of self-pity lessening in both frequency and intensity. I can feel myself getting more and more confident in the fact that there is an infinite amount of pie – if we just have the right perception of it.

In other words, the pie probably isn’t the thing we need to compete for. I mean, how many times do we learn this? Me, I competed against a lot of people to get into a super-selective graduate program four years ago – and I got in! And? It didn’t make all my problems go away. Then I competed against a lot of people to get an internship at a hip television network – and I got it! And? It didn’t make all my problems go away. Then I competed against even more people to turn that internship into a full-time job – and I got it! And? It totally made my problems disappear once and for all. LOL — kidding. It actually created a cute little army of brand new ones.

And so it seems that the task isn’t to get consumed with competition for the things we think we need to complete us (be it a treadmill, seat on the train, job, or book deal), but rather to redefine what the pie is in the first place. Is it something that other people – “decision-makers” – have the power to control for us? Or is it something that we can control and generate from within? Does it require external validation? Or just a little self-love?

Some combination of all of the above?

Frankly, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. But the one thing I do know for sure is that whatever it is, it’s not going anywhere. And we don’t have to compete with anyone to get it.

 

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