Rejection. There are days when I am convinced it is the defining element of my life.
I replay them sometimes, when I’m down. All my disappointments, the times things didn’t go the way I wanted, the times I didn’t come through like I should have. I count them up, and the pile they make saddens me even more.
We all experience it. That time we didn’t get in. That time she said no. That time when it just wasn’t going to happen. And you get some great advice in those times from, mostly, well-meaning people.
That just wasn’t the fit for you.
There are other fish in the sea.
They just don’t know your talent.
It’s his loss.
These things happen.
You’ll try harder next time.
It can reach a point where it gets annoying. Where you don’t want to be told that it’ll turn out better next time. Because the rejection is real, tangible, right there. And when life piles it up over and over: denials and dismissal. When you have known “no” so long, “yes” seems like a far-off, fantastical goal that you will never reach, the oasis on the horizon that turns out to be a mirage. What do you do then?
To tell you the truth, I’ve never really figured that out. I’ve lived with rejection like a roommate. Whether in life, career, dreams, hopes, loves, it always seems to be there. Some days, I think I’ll never succeed, in anything. Why would I want to try harder next time? Why bother trying at all?
At the back of my mind, I know that’s not really true, that I have good days like anyone else. That there are good things that have happened to me, and I can recount them. Yet when put up against the failures, the successes seem somehow less, somehow not enough, which I know isn’t true, but it feels true. And I find myself waiting for the success to come along to make all the failures seem like nothing. I wonder when it will get here, or if.
Someone very wise, well, a lot of people actually, once said that “if you never try, you’ll never fail.”
And that’s right. You won’t fail. I know that. I know deep down that the reason I’m afraid to try, to “put myself out there”, to even start to consider to think to hope, is that I don’t want to fail. Because failing sucks. It hurts. Especially when it’s something you care about, when it’s something you wanted more than anything. There’s truth there: don’t try, don’t fail. It’s a simple formula.
But what I’ve learned, what I’m still learning, what I am, at times, stubbornly refusing to believe, is that that is no way to live. We can’t avoid failure. Let me rephrase that: we can. We can avoid it, never try, never even begin, and it just might work. But we shouldn’t. It’s no way to live. Life can’t work that way, it shouldn’t. Because, and this is the hardest part for me to come to terms with, nothing worthwhile will be achieved without facing failure. Nothing. Not in life. Not in work. Not in love. Nothing.
There are good things in life. So many things and people worth pursuing, but I will never know them unless I try. Unless I risk failure and, yes, very probably, experience failure. Because many of those good things are waiting on the other side of rejection. It’s a hard lesson but a true one.
So we must push, strive, try, build, sing, stand, wish, hope, and weep when it all comes crashing down. And then we must do the dumbest, craziest thing in the whole world: we must start all over.