““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 the most are the people I now hire to work for my company.””
That was 11-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift giving the commencement speech to New York University’s graduating class of 2022.
Swift, 32, received an honorary doctorate of fine arts during the ceremony at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
“Hi, I’m Taylor,” Swift joked as she took the mic, noting that the voluminous violet graduation robes that were part of her doctoral regalia were “much more comfortable” than the heels and glittery leotard she wore the last time she was on stage.
But while the pop star’s graduation address — which was livestreamed on Twitter and drew 11,000 viewers — was peppered with plenty of jokes, it also featured some key advice for graduates poised to enter the workforce.
And her first one could essentially be taken from her 2014 hit single, “Shake It Off.”
“Part of growing up and moving into new chapters of your life is about catch and release,” she said. “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.”
““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.””
That segued into her advice to the new alumni to embrace their enthusiasm for things. “It seems to me that there’s a false stigma around eagerness in our culture of unbothered ambivalence,” she said. “The people who don’t try are fundamentally more chic than people who do.”
But Swift noted that while this aloofness may have been cool back in school, employers like herself are looking for people who are eager to work.
Swift also highlighted something that she has in common with the Class of 2022: she did not have the “normal” college experience that she expected. In her case, she was homeschooled as her music career took her on the road. But today’s students have had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic while working toward their degrees.
“You went to NYU during a global pandemic, being essentially locked into your dorms and having to do classes over Zoom,” she said. ” Everyone in college during normal times stresses about test scores, but on top of that, you also had to pass like a thousand COVID tests.”
And she addressed how music industry reps, record label executives and the media all pressured her to be “perfect” as a young singer-songwriter. She grew up with the idea that mistakes equal failure — and won’t lead to any chance of a happy, rewarding life. “This has not been my experience,” she said. “My mistakes led to the best things in my life.”
One example: “Getting canceled on the internet and nearly losing my career gave me an excellent knowledge of all the types of wine,” she joked.
But the times she was rejected led her to write her experience out, she said, and her songs were ultimately her ticket to success. What’s more, she warned that while the graduating class will inevitably misspeak, or trust the wrong person, over or under-react to something, overthink or not think things through enough, or hurt people who don’t deserve it, they can learn from these mistakes.
“We will recover. We will learn from it. We will grow more resilient because of it,” she said. And as long as we are fortunate enough to be breathing, we will breath in, breathe through, breath deep and breath out.
“And I’m a doctor now,” she said, “so I know how breathing works.”