I've always had a lot of dreams, interests and passions. Probably too many for my own good. One of the very recent ones was applying to my dream school of Psychology. I was finishing my graduation and I had been applying to schools in Germany, only the most prestigious ones that I could think of and I got flat out rejections from all of them. It was really difficult at the time, I didn’t even get an interview and when you get rejected before the interview stage it’s like they didn’t even give you a chance.
Sylvia Plath once said “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try” . So, whenever I think back in times when I have been rejected, whether that be socially, romantically, professionally, any “lly”, I remind myself that I tried. I also reminded myself that I should be kind to myself in such unprecedented times of pandemic.
We ask, share, tell and try, all in the risks of getting hurt. And sometimes, we do get really hurt. So, why do we keep doing it? Why do we keep putting ourselves in situations, knowing that we might get rejected, knowing that rejection might haunt us? Well, because, what even is the alternative?
The alternative is nothing. Nothing will happen. Any goal, ambition, wish, aim or dream you have will all go to waste. Like a dead fish flowing along the stream because a life that is held back by isn’t living, it’s merely existing and that thought should scare you more than any risk of rejection ever could.
Life has millions of ways of saying no. Whether, it’s you pitching an idea to an investor or asking someone out on a date, or if it’s JK Rowling being rejected by 12 publishers, or Walt Disney being fired by a newspaper editor because he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. It happens to all of us.
I recognise that any risk that I have ever taken has been me pushing my limits, it’s been me aiming high, it’s been me stepping out of my comfort zone. I could’ve avoided a lot of rejection by not pushing myself, by aiming low, by playing it safe and by staying in my comfort zone. And perhaps it would’ve saved me some heartache. But in exchange for that, I would have to give away all the lessons, all the growth, all the memories, all the people and all the stories that I have collected along the way. That’s not an exchange that I’d ever be willing to make.
Now, rejection is still tough and I am not trying to romanticise it. But I’m learning to accept the fact that not everything in life is a match. I mean, can you imagine a world where all human beings are suited for each other and where everything just fits perfectly for everyone? Can you imagine a life where we wouldn’t need to search and explore, where all the answers were right in front of us all the time? Where everything we ever desired just fell right into our laps?
Isn’t the “search” what keeps life interesting? The search for answers, the search for what’s right for us, the search for meaning. Not everything you desire will be meant for you, nor will you be meant for everything you desire.
The job you didn’t get, the idea that got turned down, the friend that stopped reaching out, the person who left you heartbroken. We tend to see it as them not wanting us, like we weren’t good enough for them. Perhaps, that’s true. But more often than we know, that rejection saved us from something. That rejection redirected us to some place better, a place we haven’t reached yet. It might be timing, it might be skill, it might be for a reason we haven’t found yet.
I’m learning to trust that any rejection I face is the best thing that could happen to me, because it forces me to stop and reflect on myself, and that’s where learning happens; that’s where growth happens.
So, as far as my application process journey goes, of course, it was painful. I still wonder about the “what if’s” sometimes. But in trusting that rejection was necessary for me in order to grow; and in learning the value of hard work; and in accepting that no’s are part of the process; and being grateful for every opportunity that I’ve ever gotten, regardless of the outcome; I get to live with less regret. And for that same reason; I would take that pain any day. Because, again, what even is the alternative?