Recently I've come back into the realm of rejection. Not having experienced it first hand (yet), but at least again becoming aware that it is out there. In junior high, we first learn of rejection from the opposite sex. In my memories, it was pretty much me - a too-tall, clumsy, gangly girl - being rejected by the boys. I had a few crushes, guys I thought I was in "love" with, that introduced me to the finer points of rejection, by way of laughing at me and mostly outright ignoring me.
In high school, the joys of rejection by the opposite sex continued for me. I was lucky enough to have a boyfriend for my junior and senior years, which meant I was spared the horror of asking someone to the Homecoming Dance or Prom and having to face up to being told "no." I did have to ask a guy to Homecoming my senior year (and face the possibility that he would laugh in my face), but luckily for me, that turned out o.k. and we ended up dating for about a year.
Some of us were also lucky enough to play sports in high school, but many others tried and it didn't work out so well. They had to deal with the rejection of getting cut from the team - having someone tell you that you just weren't good enough that year. (And yes, sports fans, I too tasted rejection from a coach - I was cut from the volleyball team in 8th and 9th grades- but I think I rallied pretty well from that.)
Unfortunately for us all, the sting of rejection doesn't end with the opposite sex or that first blush of competition on the sports field. As we get ready to finish high school, we come smack up against our first really big test - applying for college. Some people pick schools based on academics, some go for sports and some check out the list of Playboy's top 50 party schools and make their choice that way. Regardless of why you pick the school or where you want to go, you have to put yourself out there, put your fate in someone else's hands and completely relinquish control. You fill out your application, write your essays, attach your check and wait. And wait. And wait.
I only applied to 3 schools, partly because I really wanted to play basketball in college and partly because I couldn't afford all of the fees to apply. 2 schools I picked because I was recruited to play basketball and 1 school I picked because I had some grand dream of going to a big university. Alas, I was not destined to "Roll Bama, Roll Tide" (although they did win the National Championship in what would have been my freshman year) - not that I didn't get in, because I did. I just chose to wear Crimson at a smaller school, closer to home. I think in part, I was worried that I would go to Bama and try out for the hoops team and be rejected. So I took the safer route, going where I had been recruited.
In college, we come face to face with our mortality, so to speak - on the social scene, on the sports field and in the "real world." Nowhere else can you get so much opportunity for disappointment in one place. You can be rejected left and right by all of the members of the opposite sex in this new "target rich environment." You can be turned down from here to eternity for all of choice on-campus jobs and work study programs. You can try out for the sports team... and be crushed because 10 other high school sports stars beat you to the punch. And forget trying to get a job in the outside world. It's brutal.
Rejection, rejection, rejection. Somehow, we learn to live with it, we learn to deal with it and we move on. Think about all of the different ways you put yourself out there as a kid, or in high school or in college, and you get through it. You roll with the punches, pick up the pieces and move on. So you don't get your first choice of colleges. Odds are you end up somewhere and you get a good education. You might even have fun, meet some great friends and (horror!) end up with a degree. You fill out application after application and submit boxes full of resumes. Somewhere in that mess, you get a job offer. It may not be the one you wanted, it may not pay quite what you think you are worth, but you get a job and you start working and you move on. Some of us who were gluttons for punishment decided to go for a second round in the education ring and applied to grad school - that leads to more opportunitys to have a door slammed in your face, whether it's by the school, the loan companies who are funding your education or the firms you are applying for a job with. But we get through it.
I sit here in my office, with my diplomas on the wall, 10 years in the practice of law - my "career" and I smile at the thought of what I've come through. I was rejected more times than I care to admit by the guys in junior high and high school and college and law school. (You know who you are and all I have to say is "HA! Look at me now!") But I survived it and met a great guy and got married ... and, well, you know how the story goes. I was cut from the volleyball team in 8th and 9th grade and still managed to play college sports (which statistically is quite a feat, apparently). I sent out more resumes to more firms than a person should have to, and I got that first job. So it wasn't the glamorous, high paying job downtown, but it was a start, I got experience and it paid the bills. I had my own place and I was supporting myself. It was a step. I can say that I worked on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, and now, I'm sitting in my own office, a "sort-of" partner in a firm, doing what I have always wanted to do.
Of course, now that I've climbed all of these mountains and reached the top, I've become complacent. There's no need to worry about rejection once you've finished school, gotten the job, the house, the guy, the life. Right?
So why do I bring this up now? Why dredge up the memories of broken hearts and broken dreams from yesteryear? Because I'm putting myself out there again. Yikes.
Those of you who know me know that I have "projects." You may recall a mention of a book that I've been trying to write, or you are familiar with my scrapbook room that is filled with half-finished gifts, family albums and projects. (And no, I haven't finished my wedding or honeymoon yet. I'm working on it!)
I have never been able to quite put my finger on why all of these projects sit unfinished, but in the last few days, I think I might have figured out at least part of it. I think I leave things 1/2 done not because I don't want to complete them, but because I'm scared that the finished product will be rejected. When we "finish" high school, we face rejection by colleges. When we "finish" college or grad school, we face rejection by the work force, as we submit our resumes. I think it has been so long since I put myself out there, that I am scared to do so now, thinking of all of the reasons why someone won't like my book or my artwork or my projects (including because I have some very talented friends who I think put my work to shame). So I opt to let submission deadlines pass, to let journals filled with notes accumulate in dusty piles, to let that screenwriters book sit unopened with post-its stuck all over the cover, to let someone else do it. All of it sits because I got used to having what I thought I needed and didn't want to reach for more.
So now that I've figured it out, it's time to change. I've been working on a few projects for contests and a design team, and I'm putting myself out there. Over the next few days, I'm going to be finishing those projects and submitting them. Odds are that I won't be picked (I'm o.k. with that) and that I won't win the big money. But in my own mind, getting it out there is the big step for me. Some of you might know that I wrote a little book for Brooklyn, completely with drawings of her favorite bear, for our trip last summer. There really aren't alot of travel books on the market for the preschool set and B is bright enough to be introduced ahead of time to where we were going. So I wrote (and drew) the book of Mr. Bear, having him visit friends and family in some of the places where we were going. One of my goals for this year is to put out at least 5 letters to publishers of childrens books to see if there is any interest in Mr. Bear. As with the contest entries, the odds are firmly stacked against me. But I'm going to try.
I think that there will be something freeing (is that a word?) about putting my work out there. I'm hoping that it will give me the push I need to finally sit down and finish a book. Any book (I've got about 5 started in notebooks and rolling around in my head,) if for no other reason that to get it out of my head and make room for more stuff. I seriously think it's going to explode one of these days.
So my challenge in the next few weeks is to get things done and out of my house. To put myself out there again and leave my fate in someone elses hands. (This is a big step for someone who did it all on her own for so many years.) It's quite a step to sit back and wait on someone else to do something, to rely on someone else to tell you that it's good enough, especially after so many years of making my own way. That's my goal, my challenge to myself - to get back into the game. Wish me luck.