There’s that person at work or school or in your friend group from college who you’ve always had a thing for. Let’s call them Alex. Alex is effortlessly attractive and witty and subtly sexy in a way that has built up over time. You’ve finally got the nerve to ask Alex to hang out, you know, just the two of you and your stomach is doing backflips with excitement in the Uber on your way to the first date. You’ve gotten drinks, dinner, and after awhile, maybe you’ve made out while parked outside of their apartment before saying goodnight. After a few weeks you’re pretty sure Alex is the love of your life. You’ve stalked their Instagram back to 2015 and know practically everything you need to know. One night you’re texting Alex, trying to plan the next time you’ll see each other when they hit you with the classic “Hey, I think you’re so great but I’m just not trying to be in a committed relationship right now…” or if Alex went about rejection the way I wish everyone would, it goes more like “Hey, I’m really just not into you. Here’s a detailed list of everything I wish you’d do better…”
Our friend, Rejection… arguably the right of passage to be able to say that you’ve truly experienced your 20’s. It’s not even just with people you’d like to see naked. It’s that job you really wanted out of college. That graduate school that would’ve sky rocketed your career. Or in my case as of late, that publication that didn’t care for your short story. It’s fine, I’m fine. It’d be bold to say I didn’t give a shit, because let me tell you I’ve never been punched in the gut but I’d say that email was as close as I’ve gotten in quite some time. I’ve learned to pick and choose where to give a shit. Given my experience with rejection, I’m at the point in my journey where I don’t really give a shit about the Alex’s. Or that guy I’ve DM’ed on Instagram every time I’m drunk to tell him about my life problems and ask him for his hand in marriage. (Ross Butler, if you’re reading this, I’m kidding I do give a shit about you). Truthfully, picking and choosing where my shits are given has added a complexity to my already self-deprecating humor. It really is in the details. I’ve gotten rejected from jobs… like, the hiring manager probably straight up didn’t even bother finishing reading my cover letter. But despite that, I do have a job that I enjoy. I’ve gotten rejected by men who have significant personality flaws. This one guy told me if I wanted a man who talked about his feelings then I should “date a woman”… I’m serious, an actual human man said that after he rejected me. Yet here I am, with a really good lesson for my future children. (Even the smartest most chivalrous assholes are still at the end of the day, assholes).
So far this has been a synapsis of my personal experience with rejection but my point is that it’s a lot easier to handle not being “enough” for someone if you don’t put the weight of the world on their opinion of you. There are details about you that are not enough for someone or too much for someone else. Your qualifications, your skills, your experience, your laugh, your sense of humor, your personality as a whole… and who gives a shit? Who cares about those people? Who cares about the Alex’s of the world? Or that hiring manager who didn’t bother reading your whole cover letter? Or that publication that you grew up reading that didn’t think your work was good enough? (Cough, cough). What are you gonna do, cry about it? Ok. That’s okay. You can cry. Get it out, there you go. Once you’re done though, move on.
It’s probably valid to ask who do I think I am? I’m not rich, or happily married, or published, or successful (by society’s standards). Why should you listen to what I’m saying about how to live your life? Honestly I don’t know. But I’ll tell you a few things: I’m the stupid kind of happy where despite the fact that I have broken even for the last two months, I smile when the sun feels warm on my face. I’m the blissful kind of shameless where if my favorite song comes on in the grocery store I dance (also known as: flail). I’m not embarrassed to look rejection dead in the face and be like, “this feels comfortable.” I’ll keep applying for jobs I’m not qualified for, submitting shitty short stories, drunkenly DMing Ross Butler, and doing plenty of other things that will inevitably lead to rejection. That’s okay. Who gives a shit? Someday I’ll be qualified, a story might be good enough, and Ross Butler will have me blocked on Instagram. But in the meantime, I’m enough for me. And you’re enough for you. And I give a shit about the job I have now. I give a shit about my dog, my family, my friends, my students, the cleanliness of my closet, the old woman who rings me up at Lunds and Byerly’s every week. I give a shit about the details, the things I have under control. I’ve heard that the proper amount of emotional trauma is what qualifies one’s humor. If anything, fingers crossed that all of this rejection makes us funny.