That’s Dr. Taylor Swift to you. She’s already a once-in-a-generation star, and now she’s an (honorary) doctor, too.
New York University announced earlier this year that not only would Swift receive an honorary doctorate, but she would also deliver the commencement address for the NYU Class of ’22 (insert your own ’22’ joke here.) Of course, a writer of Swift’s caliber can be counted on for some memorable bon mots, and she delivered. From cracking jokes about her absurd amount of cat knowledge to opening up about the insecurities she’s experienced in her very public personal life, Swift encouraged her fellow graduates to prepare for a world that’s as exciting as it is frightening.
Here’s five genuinely wise takeaways from Dr. Swift:
“You get to pick what your life has time and room for. Be discerning.”
One of the first pieces of advice Swift gives is to be discerning with what you hold near and dear to you. Make room for good, life-giving people in your life, and set very real boundaries for anyone or anything seeking to bring you down. In other words: Shake it off.
“Learn to live alongside cringe.”
Spending most of her adolescence and young adult life in the public eye means nearly every single one of Swift’s most embarrassing moments have been well documented. In the moment, it may feel like the world is ending, Swift explains, but one day you’ll look back and realize you made it through, and everything has changed. The less time you spend fretting over those moments, the more you’ll be able to embrace being a genuine person.
“Never be ashamed of trying.”
“Unbothered ambivalence” is definitely the mood of the moment, but Swift cuts through this myth and encouraged the class to fully embrace the things they love. For Swift, that was songwriting. For the rest of us, it could be going into business, traveling, developing better habits or even just something that only exists in your wildest dreams. Whatever it is, Swift’s career is proof that you never know until you try.
“I know it can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be — who you are now and how to act in order to get where you want to go. I have some good news: It’s totally up to you. I also have some terrifying news: It’s totally up to you.”
While society and social media are constantly pushing ideas about what it means to be human, this is good reminder to everyone that no one else can tell you who to be. Well-meaning leaders and family members may push us one way while friends and coworkers push us another, but at the end of the day, each person has the freedom and responsibility to decide their place in this world.
“I’m trying to tell you that losing things doesn’t just mean losing. A lot of the time, when we lose things, we gain things too.”
This is a very difficult lesson and good on Swift for trying to communicate it, even though the truth of it often isn’t apparent until it actually happens to us. Everyone will make mistakes and some of those mistakes can be hard to recover from. But if you let them, those mistakes can be for the best. Swift knows this lesson, and shared that many of her “mistakes led to the best things in my life.” Embracing what’s on the other side of the worst doors in our life is a scary but necessary part of existence.