Rejection. It happens to all of us at various times and for various reasons. From significant others to awards recognition, job prospects or even the smile from a child. The things in our lives that really matter are littered with rejection.
As a classical singer, rejection becomes a way of life. A part of the process we accept as necessary. But today, I want to focus on the way we are rejected, and how that impacts us. Individually and as a community starting with the most AMAZING rejection letter I have received to date.
So…What was it that made this specific rejection the best rejection ever? Well, here’s the thing… most of the time you get a form letter or you hear nothing and occasionally you get a call from someone because they really did want you. But when I received this rejection in the mail, I remember burying it quickly in the stack of other mail of the day, and looking around me like I had been caught with some sort of nefarious material. I had to make sure no one else in the apartment complex had seen over my shoulder because this rejection came in the form of a post card. Really?! Really. I remember thinking, all of those disgruntled postal workers along its way to me who got to see that I would, in fact, not be attending this program. And then the question I had was, why didn’t they slip the news in an envelope? Couldn’t they afford another 10 cents to save my pride? Really? Not that the news would matter to anyone other than myself, but there’s something about rejection that feels inherently private and yet, it often seems to be a public thing because rejection affects so many others, we are people of community. We share our thoughts and dreams, Even when we do not speak, our desires are seen in our eyes and we want to know that there are people rooting for us, for our hope. For what we can truly be. I often think of the phrase from Paradise Lost, “no man is an island, entire of himself.” I like to think of my life as an individuals journey but I do believe we are interconnected. Each life touches so many others, even in the simple things. The daily reminders of good, or our struggles.
A friend of mine recently applied to Stanford. His number one school. He had visited the campus, talked with professors, taken all the AP classes possible, and worked really really hard. And he was rejected. I recall my college application days. I wanted to attend a conservatory and when the small white envelope arrived from each school I applied to, my heart would sink, and I would cry. Why is it so hard? I have a belief that this kind of rejection, this devastating blow to the ego and the potential dreams of childhood is a necessary part of what it is to truly experience humanity. Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher.” I think there is a great deal of truth in that. Perhaps it’s the patronizing idea that bothers us in the sentiment. The idea that if we just keep going something will materialize. But, no, I believe it’s much more fundamental than that. I think it’s about really being willing to learn. Being humble enough to keep going. To fall, scrape our knees and stand up. Begin again. Because we believe that what we are searching for, fighting for, has some purpose perhaps even greater than our own desire to see it fulfilled. It must, right? Otherwise, why would we keep trying?
I recently watched a short essay on the creative life of various artists and inventors, but most specifically on Leonardo Da Vinci. A man very familiar with rejection. At one point I wept. I wept because the narrator started listing all of the daily work Da Vinci would take part in to keep his work moving forward, regardless of the payment, horizon of performance, or any outside definition of success. He did what he must. He needed to create, so he did.