“The Outside” is the sixth track from Taylor’s 2006 self-titled debut album, Taylor Swift.
She wrote this song when she was just twelve years old. Unlike a lot of her early songs which are about relationships, this one is about loneliness. Here’s how she explained it to Entertainment Weekly:
It’s about what I was going through at the time. I was a complete outcast at school and never fit in, never felt like I belonged. A lot of times back then when I was 12 or 13, I would write songs about relationships, when I wasn’t in relationships, because I would look at other people and try to observe what they were going through. But in the case of “The Outside,” I was writing exactly what I saw. I was writing from pain. And I’ve always felt so lucky, because I’ve never needed an escape like drinking or drugs or anything like that to escape from the bad days. Music has always been that escape for me.
Most of us can probably think of a time or several times in our lives when we felt like we didn’t fit in with the people or social groups around us. People are created for companionship and friendship. When they are not welcomed into those warm places, they are left (intentionally or unintentionally) standing on the outside which can be a lonely place indeed.
I tried to take the road less traveled by
But nothing seems to work the first few times
Am I right?
Robert Frost wrote a brilliant poem about taking the road less traveled by and how doing so made all the difference. He’s right, but it doesn’t make all the difference immediately. On the road more traveled by, everything always seems to work out for everyone at once. The road less traveled by, however, is at first lonely and difficult. When things don’t work out quickly, the temptation to turn back is always there. Only after a long while does the toil of blending out and being different begin to pay off.
So how can I ever try to be better?
Nobody ever lets me in
I can still see you, this ain’t the best view
On the outside looking in
I’ve been a lot of lonely places
I’ve never been on the outside
Those left on the outside often think that there is something wrong with them. To be included, they feel like they have to be better. Being better is classified as acting like those who are on the inside. Nothing could be further from the truth. To give up who you truly are just to be a part of something in order to feel like you belong to someone, is to waste your life.
You saw me there, but never knew
I would give it all up to be
A part of this, a part of you
And now it’s all too late so you see
You could’ve helped if you had wanted to
But no one notices until it’s too
Late to do anything
Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids who feel like Taylor felt when she was in school. Even though they are surrounded by peers, teachers, and coaches, they still feel like complete outcasts. They are lonely. They stand on the outside, but nobody ever lets them in. These kids may not have music as a source to escape. They may turn to drugs or drinking or something worse. If you’re one of those on the inside, reach out to someone who is in a lonely place and help them. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be a friend.
Read the full lyrics on Genius. Listen to the song below: