What (I Hope) Taylor Swift Taught My Daughter in a 44 Song Set

Last weekend I found myself thinking about all the ways Taylor Swift is a positive role model during the three and a half hours that my 18-year-old daughter, Sophia, and I stood in Gillette Stadium watching her exhilarating show. Swift’s favorite person is her mom, so there’s that. But at nearly every turn since her 2006 eponymous debut album, Taylor Swift has inspired us to love loudly and let the haters hate. She’s taught us that hard work pays off, that fighting for your worth is always a good idea, and that being generous with the less fortunate is important. 

Allow me to pile on with what I saw as 13 life lessons you can learn by watching her show. (Don’t worry; I wasn’t lecturing my daughter all evening. I just hoped Sophia absorbed these things as I handed her tissues.)

To Taylor Swift’s parents, Scott and Andrea, allow me to say, excellent job! If you wrote a parenting book, I’d buy it. 

Liz Vaccariello and daughter at Taylor Swift concert
Here are the life lessons I hope my daughter learned at Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour. (Photo credit: S. Vaccariello)

13 life lessons you can learn by watching Taylor Swift’s show

1. Fandom is one of life’s greatest pleasures

Whether it’s a shared passion for a musician, sports team, movie franchise, or anything else, the communal experience of anticipating, showing up, caring profoundly, and singing, cheering (and crying) together is a catharsis that is hard to match. If there’s a downside to millions of people sharing a love for something positive, I can’t think of one. 

2. Where your eyes go, your energy goes

A massive video screen opposite the stage projected a close-up of Swift’s face for the entirety of the 44-song setlist. I remarked to Sophia: “Seeing your huge self reflected at you the whole night had to be distracting.” My daughter responded, “Yeah, but I didn’t see her look at it ever.”

Yoga teachers will suggest that you rest your gaze not on the ground but at a spot eye level in front of you during a standing balance pose because “where your eyes go, your body goes too.” Swift kept her eyes on the people in front of her, to the sides of her, in the highest of the rafter seats. That’s where she sent her energy; that’s where her energy landed.

3. How you introduce somebody says as much about you as it does about them

It was hard not to notice and be impressed by the thought, admiration, and conscious elocution (a mom word, I know) with which Swift introduced her new, USC-trained pianist, Karina DePiano, and her opening acts Gayle and Phoebe Bridgers (the “ers” plain as day). She took that care because she wanted people to hear and remember the names of those she admired. It’s a detail that reveals manners, humility, and grace. 

4. Gratitude is the best way to live your life

If she said it once, she said it a dozen times:

Guys, don’t think for one second I think this is normal. To be playing in stadiums, to have so many people appreciate the songs I write. This is absolutely insane and I am grateful every single show.

taylor swift

5. Managers delegate; artists micromanage 

During the countdown to showtime, fans could watch a behind-the-scenes video of Swift working with Laura Dern on set for the “Bejeweled” shoot.

In it, Swift is on a bent knee holding an iPad-like director’s apparatus. She hops into a director’s chair, suggests a subtle turn of Dern’s hand, and asks for a pause in the line delivery. She is clearly in charge of the creative execution of this video.

“She was wonderful, sending mood boards all along the way,” Dern says in a voiceover. It reminded me of this quote from Jerry Seinfeld: “The right way is the hard way,” the comedian said in an interview. “The show was successful because I micromanaged it — every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting.” No detail is too small. The prep makes the perfection.

6. Karma isn’t a bitch if you aren’t one 

Swift shared with her fans that she’s never felt this happy in all aspects of her life as she feels now. Longtime fans have remarked on her truly joyful vibe at show after show. Taylor is a lifter-up of people who don’t hide how much she loves writing songs, telling stories, and performing for audiences. Good things have come to her. 

7. Hold out for the life you want

Swift doesn’t talk about her relationships; she lets the songs reveal feelings, details, conversations, and scenes that may have happened to her (or to a character she’s invented — she’ll never tell). Thirteen songs into her 13th show at Gillette Stadium in 13 years, Swift performed “Champagne Problems” at the piano.

This song from her latest “Midnights” album tells the story of a man who proposes to his girl (mom’s ring in his pocket, dom perignon chilling). He’s left speechless; she can’t give a reason, she never was ready, his heart was glass, and she dropped it. (see #8 below….)

8. Let meaningful moments linger

When the song ended, Swift sat at her piano for 5 minutes. She removed earpieces and looked at what was organically happening in the stadium, eyes sparkling in the twinkling lights as she smiled and soaked it in. I turned to that jumbo close-up screen at the other end of the bowl, and I saw the puddles in her eyes. Her fans reflected everything — painful choices, choosing the life you want — right back to her. The cross-current of gratitude said everything about everything without saying a word.

9. Know your work backward and forwards

The night before ours was a “rain show,” where Swift and her team played their 3-and-a-half-hour set in the unrelenting pouring rain. Under the stage, it looked like a water park last night, she remarked. Everything was cleaned up perfectly for our show, but no one told her piano, which started playing notes Swift was not hitting as she sat down to play “Red.” The keyboard was on the fritz, so she called an audible, picked up her guitar, and played the song acoustically. (See #10 below)

10. Take the moment you need, even when everyone is watching

Slightly rattled at the change of plans, Swift seemingly couldn’t immediately remember the key for the guitar chords. She strummed once, strummed twice, then said, “Hold on.” I watched her eyes head skyward for two quick beats as she tuned out where she was, the fans waiting. She found what I can only assume is E Major and played as if that was the plan. 

11. Give the cheap seats a special moment

Fans who bought the “partially obstructed view” seats to the side (and slightly behind) the stage are rewarded each show by seeing behind-the-scenes moments and more Taylor. On our night, they wisely stuck around, and after her final bow, she jogged down the ramp as the house lights clicked on. Still in her hand-beaded Oscar de la Renta Midnight’s body suit, Swift threw her arms around her dad as if she’d just won the lottery, then waved at her fans with a smile that launched a thousand screams. 

12. Parking struggles are real 

So many fans come to Swift’s sold-out shows that even the plazas and parking lots fill thousands of fans who stand outside and sing along. We’d heard about the hours-long delays finding Ubers and getting out of the concert lots, so we made a plan.

In some stadiums, the last car in can be the first one out. Because we were driving to Boston from New Jersey, we’d arrive on the late side anyway so that we wouldn’t sweat it. We would take one of those spots you see right when you first turn it in. It turns out in the free-parking field we chose in front of Foxborough, the last one in is the last one out. We didn’t move for hours. (See final lesson below). 

13. Sometimes, the best idea is to turn off the engine and take a nap

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About Liz Vaccariello

Liz Vaccariello is an editor and writer based in the New York City area. She's worked in publishing for more than 30 years and had been editor-in-chief of Parents, Real Simple, Prevention, Reader’s Digest and People magazines. Learn more about Liz on her website and follow her on Instagram.

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