Along with blooming flowers, terrible seasonal allergies, sunshine, and longer days, May ushers in graduation season. Whether high school, college, graduate school, etc. thousands of people around the country don some type of cap and gown combo and try not to trip as they receive empty diploma holders. This year, one of those people was one Ms. Taylor Alison Swift. Sorry, Doctor Taylor Alison Swift.
Wednesday afternoon at New York University’s commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium, Taylor Swift was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts and delivered the commencement speech on behalf of the other honorees Susan Hockfield and Felix V. Matos Rodriguez.
Despite never having a graduation ceremony of her own, Swift delivered an empowering and poignant speech with the grace and eloquence of a valedictorian. As Swifties, we spent the speech parsing it for subtext, possible easter eggs, and quotes to add to our Twitter bios so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome.
Here are 13 nuggets of wisdom from Taylor Swift’s commencement speech to help you feel like you’re 22:
On getting through life: “Not a single one of us here today has done it alone.”
“We’re all a patchwork quilt of those who have loved us, those who have believed in our futures, those who have shown 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.”
On not taking ourselves too seriously: “I would like to thank New York University for making me technically, on paper at least, a doctor.”
She did go on to clarify that she is not the type of Doctor you would want around in an emergency. That is unless your emergency “was that you desperately needed to hear a song with a catchy hook and an intensely cathartic bridge section” and/or “that you needed a person who can name over 50 breeds of cats in one minute.” (These actually are the very specific emergencies we have every day, so we need Taylor on-call stat.)
On letting go: “Life can be heavy, especially if you try to carry it all at once”
“You can’t carry all things. All grudges, all updates on your ex…decide what is yours to hold and let the rest go. Often times the good things in life are lighter anyway, so there’s more room for them.”
On being your authentic self: “Learn to live alongside cringe.”
“No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back at your life and cringe retrospectively. Can’t avoid it so don’t try it. For example, I had a phase where for the entirety of 2012 I dress like a 1950’s housewife. But you know what? I was having fun.” (A nod to the ‘RED’ era, Taylor Swift was 22 for most of 2012 and it was this 1950’s housewife era where she invented being happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.)
On enthusiasm: “I’m a big advocate for not hiding your enthusiasm for things”
“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.”
On not being just one thing in life: “In a way, I really do think we are all writers”
“You write differently in your Instagram stories than you do your senior thesis. You send a different type of email to your boss than you do your best friend from home. We are all literary chameleons. It’s a continuation of the idea that we are so many things all the time. I know it can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be and who you are now and how to act in order to get to where you want to go. I have some good news: It’s totally up to you. I have some terrifying news: It’s totally up to you."
On the pressure of growing up: “I was a teenager at a time when our society was absolutely obsessed with the idea of having perfect young female role models.”
“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.”
On making mistakes: “[It] was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure.”
“My experience has been that my mistakes lead to the best things in my life. And 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.”
On the perception of yourself from others: “Being publicly humiliated 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 likeability. Getting ‘canceled’ on the internet and nearly losing my career gave me excellent knowledge on all the types of wine.”
On being perfect: “I know the pressure of living your life through the lens of perfectionism.”
“This might be hard for you to hear: In your life, you will inevitably misspeak, trust the wrong person, 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 wrong-doing, 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’ve caused, try to do better next time. Rinse. Repeat.”
On losing: “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.”
On making the right choice: “How do you know what to choose in [these] crucial moments?”
“You won’t….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. Hard things will happen to us. We will recover, we will learn from it, and we will grow more resilient because of it. ”
On taking a deep breath: “As long as we are fortunate enough to be breathing, we will breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out.”
“And I am a Doctor now, so I know how breathing works.”
As Taylor said, “someone read your stories and taught you how to dream.” And for us, that person is Taylor Swift.
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