“this is me trying” to Get an A from Mr. Heidkamp

Taylor Swift entered a new era with her first Indie/Alternative album Folklore, released in July 2020, just eleven months after her hit pop album Lover. Up until the release of her newest album Evermore, Folklore was arguably Swift’s most lyrical album. Folklore’s 9th track “this is me trying” exemplifies this well through Swift’s masterful language and story telling abilities.

“this is me trying” utilizes a variety of literary techniques including metaphor, double entendre, hyperbole, anecdote, and repetition in order to embody a feeling of helplessness and struggle. However, it also has an underlying uplifting message: despite the struggles the speaker has undergone, he/she continues to try.

While it is unclear who the speaker of “this is me trying” is, it is clear that the song embodies the feeling of trying as hard as possible and yet still appearing to fail. The song opens with the metaphorical lines, “I’ve been having a hard time adjusting/I had the shiniest wheels now they’re rusting,” indicating that the speaker is someone who is not only going through an adjustment period, but also has fallen a long way from who they used to be. The speaker again references his/her past glory with the double entendre 2nd stanza line “So I got wasted like all my potential,” and the 2nd stanza hyperbole, “I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere.” Thus, Swift paints a picture of a speaker who, in the past, had been a successful high achiever, but after a shift in his/her life, falls from the pedestal he/she had once been on.

Then, “this is me trying” continues on, referencing an audience that the speaker refers to exclusively as “you” throughout the song. The audience is first referenced as the speaker explores the imagery of pulling his/her car off to the side of the road and contemplating following his/her “fears all the way down,” indicating that the speaker was considering suicide. However, the speaker then states, “And maybe I don’t quite know what to say/But I’m here in your doorway.” Thus, the audience is someone the speaker turns to in a dark period in his/her life. The audience is referenced again in the 3rd stanza as the speaker utilizes metaphorical language, “All I want is you/You’re a flashback in a film reel/On the one screen in my town.” This further develops the audience as someone who is no longer in the speaker’s life, though the speaker cannot stop remembering him/her. The words, “one screen” indicate that the speaker is forced to watch the audience as there is nothing else to watch on the only one screen in the town that is the speaker’s mind. The word “flashback” furthers this but also adds that the audience disrupts the speaker’s life, despite being gone, as flashbacks are sudden and disruptive to a person. Finally, the image of a film reel gives the indication that the speaker is trapped in the spherical film reel, his/her thoughts of the audience repeating over and over again. This also parallels Swift’s earlier line, “The curve became a sphere.” Therefore, the speaker may feel trapped and helpless to the audience, just as he/she did to the achievement curve of academia.

Given the extended metaphor of the audience being a flashback the speaker is forced to watch, it is also possible that the first stanza is a flashback, rather than an actual event in the song.

The 2nd stanza is primarily anecdotal, telling readers about the speaker’s past life. It tells readers more about the audience as we learn that the speaker was told the reason for his/her failures was entirely mental, that the speaker struggles with anger and feels regret for his/her anger, and that the speaker previously turned to alcohol to cope with issues in his/her life. The 2nd stanza includes 2 double entendres that further emphasize the speaker’s alcoholism. The first, “So I got wasted like all my potential” is likely a play on the phrase, “you’re wasting your potential.” Therefore indicating that the speaker turned to alcoholism after “falling behind the curve.” The second, “Pouring my heart out to a stranger/But I didn’t pour the whiskey” is a little different. This double entendre is the speaker telling the audience that though he/she is upset, he/she didn’t succumb to alcohol, talking to a stranger instead. This furthers the speaker and the audience’s relationship as the audience is clearly aware of the speaker’s alcoholism and might have attempted to help. The 2nd stanza is also the only one that doesn’t directly mention the audience, mentioning a stranger instead. It is possible that the 2nd stanza is a flashback, like the first, and the stranger is the audience before the speaker met him/her. Thus, the 3rd stanza is the only one that occurs in real time.

To summarize a bit, the 1st stanza is the speaker turning to the audience to cope with suicidal ideation, the 2nd stanza is how the speaker and the audience met, the audience helping the speaker through his/her past that influenced his/her alcoholism. The 3rd stanza is the only stanza that is not a flashback. It references the damage done to the speaker by the audience leaving.

Now, the chorus of the song is what changes tone. While all this is happening, the chorus sings,

I just wanted you to know
That this is me trying
I just wanted you to know
That this is me trying

At least I'm trying

The line, “At least I’m trying” occurs first after the speaker doesn’t pour the whiskey and then repeats again after the speaker reminisces about the audience. Not pouring the whiskey felt, to the speaker, like a small victory. Thus, the speaker begins to take pride in trying.

After overcoming suicidal ideation and alcoholism, the speaker reassures him/herself that he/she will overcome his/her longing for the audience as well. Thus, the song ends on an optimistic note, that even though trying is sometimes all one can do, trying is something anyone can do.

Therefore, Swift utilizes figurative language and story-telling to both deepen the experiences of readers as well as expand them. Readers begin to understand, on a more three-dimensional level, the feeling that trying is all someone can do. But, readers also delve into new experiences as Swift creates two characters and tells a story between them that brings readers into a new reality.

15 thoughts on ““this is me trying” to Get an A from Mr. Heidkamp

  1. Nick W.

    Something about repeating “That this is me trying” conveys a level of desperation to me, a hope that it is enough. Perhaps, it sounds like someone who is trying to comfort themselves. You touch on so many major things that come together to create meaning, and I think this is another example. Something a small as repeating a line can create an effect or mood or tone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cassie m

      Totally agree!! I feel like this song has SO much going on in it on so many levels. The chorus is really fascinating though. Especially with the added line “At least I’m trying” which I sort of touched on, but going off of your idea, the first chorus is complete desperation in the person trying to convince themselves that they’re doing enough. The second and third choruses are maybe a shift in that? Like the person is becoming more successful in comforting themselves and is finally finding comfort in the knowledge that they’re doing the best they can.

      Like

  2. Lily M

    My first time listening to Swift’s “this is me trying” I struck by how helpless and damaged the character she described sounded. However, the optimistic ending to her song reminds the audience that ultimately, there can be a positive outcomes that result from difficult times as long as one persists. I think its really interesting how you touched on the past life that the speaker had lived and how they are constantly trying to better themselves simply by trying.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Willa S

    Pop off titling queen and sorry for my bad music taste <3. Anyways, the story that Taylor tells is actually really beautiful. I love the message that you've analyzed, that when you're in a difficult place, the tiniest accomplishments can feel like a huge victory. It's totally true that with mental health issues or issues like alcoholism, simple things are a lot harder. Sometimes, people suffering from those things are putting in tons of effort, with not a lot of visible result. The important thing is that they're trying, and that's what should be appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Elijah J

    Dude, you really got me with your line, “Given the extended metaphor of the audience being a flashback the speaker is forced to watch, it is also possible that the first stanza is a flashback, rather than an actual event in the song.” You’ve broken down this song in a way that a person like myself, who hasn’t heard it, can understand. It’s very well thought out and clearly organized. I also think you did a good job telling the story of the song without having to quote the whole thing. Not to mention your analysis of Swift’s use of literary devices, which is excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cassie m

      Thank you!! I highly recommend that you listen to it! It’s such an interesting song that I didn’t realize had such depth until I started writing this post.

      Like

  5. AVERY M

    I love this interpretation of this song, which I have also been listeneing to since the album was released. I also feel as though the narrator of the song was used to success, and once she started facing obscatcles that they could not overcome, she felt useless and like a waste of space. I also agree that though the song is wrenching, there is a positive message hidden, where she prides herself for the little things. “At least I’m trying” promotes positivity and being proud of any step in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Abby S.

    I wrote a post about her song Cardigan, and I really like how you interpreted this song, I had never really thought about it in that way before. The connection between the audience and speaker is really interesting to me. At the end of the day, trying is all you can do sometimes, and that’s really powerful. It struck me how the song ends optimistic, after everything. I also love the title of your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cassie m

      Thank you!! I’m SUPER proud of the title lol I definitely never saw “this is me trying” in an optimistic light until I started writing this post. It really shifted my perception of the song! Also, I love your post on Cardigan! It’s such an interesting song, it has so much depth!

      Like

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