At this point, we have all probably heard about Taylor Swift’s star-studded 1989 World Tour. Between glittery leotards to countless celebrity cameos, surprises on Swift’s tour have become somewhat of the norm. But among it all, this week, Swift might have surprised her Glendale, Arizona audience with the best gift yet.
The “Shake it Off” singer gave a rare performance of her song “Ronan” on Monday, August 17, marking the first-time the song has ever performed live, besides the original debut. A deeply emotional song, “Ronan” was written and recorded in 2012 as a part of Stand Up to Cancer and is based on the blog and experiences of Maya Thompson, mother of a Ronan, a little boy who died from cancer at the age of four. Maya, who is credited as a co-writer of the song, was in the audience to hear the special performance as well.
As Swift said, strumming her guitar while introducing the song, “There’s a woman here tonight named Maya Thompson… and I wouldn’t know half as much as I know about childhood cancer and childhood cancer research if she hadn’t shared her story about her son Ronan… The thing about childhood cancer is that it’s really really hard to talk about. And it’s really not something that you bring up…but the fact that she brought it up, she had this blog called Rockstar Ronan and I would read it every night. And in it was this account of what it was like to watch cancer take over my life. And since then, I’ve had cancer hit really close to me in my family.”
While the story of “Ronan” is incredibly heart-wrenching, Swift is no stranger to addressing one of the biggest career taboos—expressing emotion—and turning it into empowerment.
While vulnerability may be scary, not only is it completely normal, but it also can be the catalyst for creativity or spark an idea to produce moving results. By Maya courageously sharing Ronan’s story on her blog and by Taylor adding a melody and words, the song “Ronan” now has the power to reach people’s lives from around the world through a shared experience. Swift’s willingness to show real emotion touched the crowd and elevated her career as an artist and storyteller.
So the next time you find yourself resisting the tissue box in the office or hear voices in your head telling you to “hold it in!”, remember the power of collective experiences and letting people into your story. As Taylor shared, showing emotion is not a bad thing. In fact, it is “the bravest thing a human being could ever do.”
Photo: John Medina / LP5 / Getty Images