I’ve learned a handful of things in my 21 years — only a handful, though. I can’t imagine that I’ve learned all there is to know in just 21 years, but if that’s the case, then why are all of our oldest family members trying to impart onto us their wisdom? I can’t wait for the day that I’ll get to badger some random twenty-something with my wisdom.
I’ve learned that good things come to those who wait and that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I’ve learned that two plus two equals four and that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. I’ve learned that it takes all kinds of kinds, that God blessed the broken road and that she thinks my tractor is sexy.
I’ve learned many things from many people from many places across many different mediums — even country music. And I’m excited to learn more with age.
But if there’s one thing that I haven’t learned, it’s how to let myself off the hook.
Last Monday, I received an email saying that, despite my best efforts and despite how “very good” my submission was, a research paper I had submitted to an undergraduate research conference had not been accepted for presentation. I was disappointed, without a doubt. I had spent weeks last fall dedicated to diving into research material on the second floor of the Brackett Library and trying my hardest not to delete the plethora of tabs I had open in my browser because I could not remember how to bookmark a page. I was disappointed, but one rejection was going to have to be OK.
Then on Wednesday, I received a second rejection email. I had submitted the same paper to a different research conference and was rejected yet again. It was an “extremely competitive process,” and I was encouraged to attend the conference regardless.
In a 48-hour period, I had received two rejections on something I thought was some of my best academic work. In the middle of this rejection, I’ve also been in the middle of applying to graduate school — writing, reading, re-reading and re-writing personal statements, scouring the web for what I thought would be the best program and frying my nerves because why can’t each school just have the same application process because I’ve entered this same information five times now?
How is someone who can’t even get his paper accepted to an undergraduate research conference supposed to get into graduate school?
Ever since I received those emails, I’ve asked myself this question time and time over — and honestly probably will continue to even after feeling like I’ve come to terms with it. I know that more rejection will come. Maybe I won’t get accepted into the graduate program that I want. Maybe my job options won’t work out. Maybe my peers feel this way, too.
For my friends and classmates in the Reynolds building and across campus,rejection is something we’re going to have to come face to face with in the coming months. Jobs won’t work out, internships will fall through, graduate school waitlists will become a reality and families won’t be happy with post-grad decisions. Rejection will, without a doubt, become a part of everyday life in the coming months. I’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.
For many in the coming months, the rejected cheer from “Zoey 101” will become a serious reality. “Rejected, rejected, we just got rejected. R-E-J-E-C-T-E-D. Rejected! Yeah, we just got rejected.” It’ll be like we’ll have our own personal cheer squad.
As the rejections find their way to us via email inboxes and the receiving end of really awkward phone calls, we must remember to keep things in perspective. Someday when we’re wiser, gainfully employed (maybe retired) and find ourselves worrying more about gray hair than rejection emails, a 21-year-old somewhere is going to need to hear this: “let yourself off the hook.”