Give It Up for Rejection
Raise your hand if you love rejection, y’all!
How about a letter, formally letting you know you’ve been rejected?
How about rejection from that one college you really thought was a safety, or that other one that held all your elaborate dreams in its gated grip?
Seth Godin to the Rescue
This week, I went on a Seth Godin blog binge. I recommend it: he takes unlikely, creative positions on the most common topics, and I needed some unlikely thinking,
because changing baby diapers gets predictable.
Luckily, I found Seth’s very very smart, tart and brief post on how there is no sense in reading between the lines of a rejection letter because there is nothing there.
Usually when we get rejected, our inner critic goes on a criticism carnival. Tears apart the language for truth.
Or we snuff out its snide remarks with a vice of choice.
Or we assume, dungeon door clanging shut, that the rest of our lives will have all the worth of soiled diapers.
A Tale of No and Yes
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a girl– no, not me, but related to me. She was told by her (prestigious, infamous independent) high school’s headmaster, who was an Intellectual Giant and known well by adcoms, that she could piss on a piece of paper and get into her then dream school, XX College.
Well, she didn’t take him literally (she had common sense), but she did apply with the goal in mind that if piss alone could get her in, surely prose and a nice academic track record would more than guarantee her spot.
Wrong. The rejection letter hurt worse than bladder surgery, to push the metaphor.
Not only did she not get admitted to XX PISS-ME-THERE College, but she didn’t get into any of the other schools on her list either– reach or safety, realistic or aspirational. Except one.
We’ll call it: School WTF?
A school she’d added as after-thought. A school in which she had no interest; a school which, had she had any choice, would have gotten her rejection faster than a mealy apple.
What happened? What had to happen. She sucked up all her rejections, packed up, and with dread in her heart, went to School WTF?.
Where, within a week, she was happier than she’d ever been in her whole life to date. So happy that, when they saw her, her parents thought she was maybe on drugs.
She was not on drugs. She was on the passion she found in herself supported by School WTF?.
All a result of rejection.
Reject The Myths of Rejection
She had no way to know that those letters were a great gift. How could she?
Instead, she had her expectations dashed.
That rejection letter was actually her portal to a powerful education, and she was freed from pre-conceived pressures of what it should look like. School WTF? became School YES.
What will your next rejection lead to?
Your Life Is Possible
I’m a writer. Every rejection letter, however civil, however kind, has a special gutting effect. So I’m still learning this lesson over and over with the tender parts of myself– to leave behind the analysis of rejection, and instead take it as a stepping stone to the next feat.
I don’t piss on paper as a practice, but if I did, perhaps the rejection letter would be most useful as a urine receptacle. Because once you free yourself from its shackles, you might find your whole life waiting for you.
You don’t get to know in advance.
Seth Godin writes: “Every moment you spend dissecting [rejection letters] is a way to hide from the real work of making something that will resonate tomorrow.”
So let’s talk about what is possible— right now, in your college essays, and after.
(Apropos: my grandpa, an immigrant from Poland, reportedly pronounced “possible” as “pissible.” That too.)