- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
Taylor Swift may have released a song celebrating the fun of being 22 years old back in 2012, but now a decade later, she’s still celebrating — only this time with the graduating class of 2022.
“I’m 90 percent sure the main reason I’m here is because I have a song called ’22,'” Swift jokingly told students as she delivered the New York University commencement speech at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday after being awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts. Swift received her doctorate from Jason King, chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
“Last time I was in a stadium this size, I was dancing in heels and wearing a glittery leotard. This outfit is much more comfortable,” she quipped.
Throughout her speech, Swift offered words of encouragement to students as they embarked on the next chapter of their lives while also acknowledging the unconditional support loved ones may have offered along the way. Despite her motivational words, Swift couldn’t help but poke fun at herself, joking that she’s “not the type of doctor you would want around in the case of an emergency, unless your specific emergency was that you desperately needed to hear a song with a catchy hook and an intensely cathartic bridge section. Or if your emergency was that you needed a person who can name over 50 breeds of cats in one minute.”
Swift went on to explain the honor of speaking in front of students even though she “never got to have the normal college experience.” After attending public high school until 10th grade, Swift recalled finishing her education by “doing homeschool work on the floors of airport terminals. Then I went out on the road on a radio tour, which sounds incredibly glamorous but in reality it consisted of a rental car, motels, and my mom and I pretending to have loud mother-daughter fights with each other during boarding so no one would want the empty seat between us on Southwest.
“As a kid, I always thought I would go away to college, imagining the posters I’d hang on the wall of my freshman dorm. I even set the ending of my music video for my song ‘Love Story’ at my fantasy imaginary college, where I meet a male model reading a book on the grass and with one single glance, we realize we had been in love in our past lives — which is exactly what you guys all experienced at some point in the last four years, right?” she joked.
The artist then acknowledged that students recently had to endure the normal stresses of college while also being in the midst of a global pandemic. “I imagine the idea of a normal college experience was all you wanted, too. But in this case, you and I both learned that you don’t always get all the things in the bag that you selected from the menu in the delivery service that is life. You get what you get. And as I would like to say to you, you should be very proud of what you’ve done with it. Today you leave New York University, and then you go out into the world searching for what’s next. And so will I,” she said.
Swift continued her speech by offering “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.” Her “life hacks” included reminders that “life can be heavy,” to “learn to live alongside cringe” (“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.”) and to “never be ashamed of trying.”
Swift also took a moment to reflect on her career and the varied music genres she has experimented with, explaining that though “it can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be, and when,” the students in the audience are in control of their own trajectories. After her public career jump-started when she was 15, Swift also reflected on how that early success “came with a price,” which was “years of unsolicited advice.”
She told students, “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.’ … 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.”
She then noted, “This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life.”
Swift said she experienced label executives informing her there was no place for a 13-year-old on their roster, had journalists write “in-depth, oftentimes critical, pieces about who they perceive me to be” and saw her love life treated like a “spectator sport.”
“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,” she said. “Getting canceled on the internet and nearly losing my career gave me an excellent knowledge of all the types of wine.”
Swift reminded students that she knows “the pressure of living your life through the lens of perfectionism” but told them to expect the inevitable slip-ups whether it be misspeaking, trusting the wrong people, self-sabotaging or mistakes that will “cause you to lose things.” She noted, “A lot of the time, when we lose things, we gain things, too. Now you leave the structure and framework of school and chart your own path.”
The singer-songwriter later offered one final reflective thought: “We are led by our gut instincts, our intuition, our desires and fears, our scars and our dreams. And you will screw it up sometimes. So will I. And when I do, you will most likely read about on the internet. … 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.”
The speech finished with nod to a lyric from her song, “22”: “I hope you know how proud I am to share this day with you. We’re doing this together. So let’s just keep dancing like we’re … the class of ’22.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Prince Harry Says Thought of Piers Morgan Listening to Princess Diana’s Private Messages Makes Him “Physically Sick”
Prince Harry a No-Show on First Day of London Tabloid Trial, Set to Become First Royal to Testify in 130 Years
Tyler James Williams
Tyler James Williams Warns of the Danger of Speculating About Someone’s Sexuality