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'A lot of the time, when we lose things, we gain things too'

By Rediff Get Ahead
May 20, 2022 14:17 IST
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'Being embarrassed when you mess up is part of the human experience.'
'Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it? That's a gift.'

IMAGE: Taylor Swift, who received an honorary doctorate in fine arts, delivered the commencement address at New York University's graduation ceremony 2022 at the Yankees stadium in the Bronx, New York City, May 18, 2022. Photograph: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

With 11 Grammys, an Emmy and countless other records to her credit, Taylor Swift is a music icon for today's world.

Earlier this week, the singer and songwriter received an honorary doctorate from New York University.

Dr Swift also addressed NYU's Class of 2022 at the graduation ceremony at the Yankees stadium where she shared incidents from her life and offered hacks to survive challenging situations in life.

'I won't tell you what to do because no one likes that. I will, however, give you some life hacks I wish I knew when I was starting out my dreams of a career, and navigating life, love, pressure, choices, shame, hope and friendship,' Dr Swift told graduates in a speech that has gone viral.

Interesting takeaways from Dr Swift's speech:

1. Be discerning

Life can be heavy, especially if you try to carry it all at once.

Part of growing up and moving into new chapters of your life is about catch and release. What I mean by that is, knowing what things to keep, and what things to release.

You can't carry all things, all grudges, all updates on your ex, all enviable promotions your school bully got at the hedge fund his uncle started.

Decide what is yours to hold and let the rest go.

Often times the good things in your life are lighter anyway, so there's more room for them.

One toxic relationship can outweigh so many wonderful, simple, joys. You get to pick what your life has time and room for. Be discerning.

2. Embrace cringe

Learn to live alongside cringe. No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively.

Cringe is unavoidable over a lifetime. Even the term 'cringe' might someday be deemed 'cringe'.

I promise you, you're probably doing or wearing something right now that you will look back on later and find revolting and hilarious.

You can't avoid it, so don't try to. For example, I had a phase where, for the entirety of 2012, I dressed like a 1950s housewife. But you know what? I was having fun.

Trends and phases are fun. Looking back and laughing is fun.

3. Effortless is a myth

I'm a big advocate for not hiding your enthusiasm for things.

It seems to me that there is a false stigma around eagerness in our culture of 'unbothered ambivalence.'

This outlook perpetuates the idea that it's not cool to 'want it.' That people who don't try hard are fundamentally more chic than people who do. And I wouldn't know because I have been a lot of things but I've never been an expert on 'chic.'

But I'm the one who's up here so you have to listen to me when I say this: Never be ashamed of trying.

Effortlessness is a myth. The people who wanted it the least were the ones I wanted to date and be friends with in high school. The people who want it most are the people I now hire to work for my company.

4. Express your gratitude

Not a single one of us here today has done it alone.

We are each a patchwork quilt of those who have loved us, those who have believed in our futures, those who showed us empathy and kindness or told us the truth even when it wasn't easy to hear. Those who told us we could do it when there was absolutely no proof of that.

Someone read stories to you and taught you to dream and offered up some moral code of right and wrong for you to try and live by.

Someone tried their best to explain every concept in this insanely complex world to the child that was you, as you asked a bazillion questions like, 'How does the moon work?' and 'Why can we eat salad, but not grass?' And maybe they didn't do it perfectly. No one ever can.

Maybe they aren't with us anymore, and in that case I hope you'll remember them today.

If they are here in this stadium, I hope you'll find your own way to express your gratitude for all the steps and missteps that have led us to this common destination.

5. 'My mistakes led to the best things in my life'

As a person who started my very public career at the age of 15, it came with a price.

And that price was years of unsolicited advice.

Being the youngest person in every room for over a decade meant that I was constantly being issued warnings from older members of the music industry, the media, interviewers, executives.

This advice often presented itself as thinly veiled warnings.

See, I was a teenager in the public eye at a time when our society was absolutely obsessed with the idea of having perfect young female role models. It felt like every interview I did included slight barbs by the interviewer about me one day 'running off the rails.'

That meant a different thing to everyone person said it me.

So 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.

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.

This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life.

6. Always look at the bright side

Being embarrassed when you mess up is part of the human experience.

Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it? That's a gift.

The times I was told no or wasn't included, wasn't chosen, didn't win, didn't make the cut... looking back, it really feels like those moments were as important, if not more crucial, than the moments I was told 'Yes'.

Not being invited to the parties and sleepovers in my hometown made me feel hopelessly lonely, but because I felt alone, I would sit in my room and write the songs that would get me a ticket somewhere else.

Having label executives in Nashville tell me that only 35-year-old housewives listen to country music and there was no place for a 13 year old on their roster made me cry in the car on the way home....

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.

7. When we lose things, we gain things too

I know I sound like a consummate optimist, but I'm really not. I lose perspective all the time. Sometimes everything just feels completely pointless.

I know the pressure of living your life through the lens of perfectionism. And I know that I'm talking to a group of perfectionists because you are here today graduating from NYU.

So this may be hard for you to hear: In your life, you will inevitably misspeak, trust the wrong people, under-react, over-react, 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.

And I'm not gonna lie, these mistakes will cause you to lose things.

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.

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