The real world: Are you ready for it?

Doctor Taylor Alison Swift, in her cap and gown at Yankee Stadium, New York, for the NYU Graduation Ceremony. (PHOTO: Shane Miller)

We are all happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. Doctor Taylor Alison Swift knows the feeling all too well and her speech tells us how to get out of the woods.

Doctor Taylor Alison Swift, in her cap and gown at Yankee Stadium, New York, for the NYU Graduation Ceremony. (PHOTO: Shane Miller)

In 2016, during Vogue’s 73 Questions interview, Swift expressed her aspirations of getting an honorary doctorate. She said she wanted one because Ed Sheeran has one and she thought he looked down on her before she got hers. Alas, on 18 May, 2022, New York University (NYU) awarded the 11-time Grammy Award Winner with an honoris causa (honorary doctorate) in Fine Arts.

Swift was invited to the NYU Graduation Ceremony at Yankee Stadium where she spoke to the graduates. In her commencement speech, she explained how she never gives advice unless someone asks for it. Years of receiving unsolicited advice pressured her to appear perfect in the public eye. People older than her in the music industry, at the time, dumped the weight of the world on her shoulders at 15-years-old.


Swift was always the youngest person in the room and everyone around her treated her like a ticking time bomb, afraid that she would “run off the rails”. Repeatedly, they warned her that making mistakes would mean failure and losing the chance to lead a good life.

We all had this feeling before, particularly for those on Internships designed to provide us with an enriching and interactive learning experience. It exposes us to the real work environment. Some of us are on our own while others have the luxury of having peers with them. Nonetheless, we are all surrounded by people with many more years of experience and knowledge than us.

The idea of being an intern might be intimidating for some because we are the lowest-ranking staff in the company. The work is nothing like what some of us do as retail assistants or baristas during the school holidays. As interns, we worry about making mistakes and how not to break down when someone criticizes our work.

Some of us might be passed over for projects because we are “not ready”. Maybe that is what the “real world” is and we have no choice but to get used to it.

We started to have self-doubts and fear of making mistakes.


This brings me to Swift’s next point on how we do not need to be perfect. “My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life,” she assured the audience.

We keep hearing people telling us to take the internship seriously, be on our best behavior, and whatever we do, we should never let the school down.

Sound advice it is but is it necessary? Any mature individual who cares about his future would take the internship seriously. But only a well-programmed robot would be capable of being on its best behavior all the time and not making a single mistake.

The whole point of the internship programme is to help us learn. Since we are all learning, we are bound to make mistakes. No one hits the bull’s eye on the first try. The embarrassment that we feel from making mistakes will be the reason we never do it again. Getting called out for our mistakes might encourage us and give us the determination we need to be better. Sometimes criticism is the perfect footstool to help us reach the top.

This, in Swift’s experience, proved to be true when she said: “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.”

Getting rejected by her peers had her down in the dumps. This was the same feeling that fuelled her with the motivation and creativity to write the heart-wrenching and catchy songs we love today.


“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,” Swift pointed out.

We might be young and inexperienced but we have all lived long enough to know that things would not always go the way we want them to. And when that happens, we can either choose to give up or keep working until we get what we want.

Earlier this May, when our seniors graduated, some of them might have had everything they wanted. Things may be going just as they have planned. But others may be faced with setbacks and forced to make difficult choices.

Regardless of where they are in life, hard work is essential to ensure that they move forward. Not trying or working hard is only possible if we choose to remain stagnant in life. We usually adore the people around us that look cool and always get what they want, seemingly, without lifting a finger. But Swift seems to think that not putting in effort for anything is not the way to go.

“Never be ashamed of trying. Effortlessness is a myth,” she said.

Graduating from polytechnic means completing a stage in life, taking a break, celebrating, and then going out into the world to pursue the next stage. Some people have it figured out, some do not. But no matter what, there will be potholes down the road.

Thus, Swift left us with these profound words: “I know it can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be, and when. 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 also have some terrifying news: It’s totally up to you.”

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