"Live alongside cringe"
Taylor Swift is only 32 years old, but as someone who’s been on the world’s stage for half her life, she’s a lot wiser than her years would suggest. The “Shake it Off” singer received an honorary doctorate from New York University as part of the school’s 2022 graduating class on May 18 at Yankee Stadium and followed it up with a speech for her fellow graduates.
In the speech, she discussed choosing what to let go of in life and the importance of eagerness. But the most important advice she shared was how to overcome mistakes. She explained how she deals with missteps to help her fellow graduates navigate the inevitable stumbles they'll take in their post-collegiate life.
She noted that being a pop star who was known as “America’s Sweetheart” gave her the extra burden of being a perfect role model. But living up to those expectations was impossible.
"I became a young adult while being fed the message that if I didn’t make any mistakes, all the children of America would grow up to be perfect angels,” she admitted. “However, if I did slip up, the entire Earth would fall off its axis and it would be entirely my fault and I would go to pop star jail forever and ever. It was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure and ultimately, the loss of any chance at a happy or rewarding life."
However, Swift believes that all the mistakes she’s made have “led to the best things in my life."
"Having the world treat my love life like a spectator sport in which I lose every single game was not a great way to date in my teens and 20s, but it taught me to protect my private life fiercely," she shared.
"Being publicly humiliated over and over again at a young age was excruciatingly painful but it forced me to devalue the ridiculous notion of minute-by-minute, ever-fluctuating social relevance and likability. Getting canceled on the internet and nearly losing my career gave me an excellent knowledge of all the types of wine," she joked, in what appeared to be an allusion to her feud with Kanye West.
Swift also encouraged students to embrace their embarrassing moments and to "live alongside cringe" as "cringe is unavoidable over a lifetime." She also made the scary but true point that we will all make big mistakes throughout our lives.
"In your life, you will inevitably misspeak, trust the wrong people, underreact, overreact, hurt the people who didn’t deserve it, overthink, not think at all, self-sabotage, create a reality where only your experience exists, ruin perfectly good moments for yourself and others, deny any wrongdoing, not take the steps to make it right, feel very guilty, let the guilt eat at you, hit rock bottom, finally address the pain you caused, try to do better next time, rinse, repeat," she continued. "And I'm not gonna lie, these mistakes will cause you to lose things."
But the important thing is how we recover.
“Anyway, hard things will happen to us. We will recover. We will learn from it. We will grow more resilient because of it. As long as we are fortunate enough to be breathing, we will breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out. And I'm a doctor now, so I know how breathing works,” she joked.
Swift sent the graduates off to their new lives where they will most likely work with a new cast of characters, including bosses, business partners, spouses, community leaders and children. But her advice was important because it taught them to make peace with the hardest critic they’ll ever have to please in their next chapters: themselves.
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