Rejections and failures are a part of life. Period. Rejection comes in many forms, sometimes it’s an internal failure and sometimes it’s something or someone else rejecting us. In either scenario the ending result is a sense of failure, of incompetence, and in severe cases it can be a physical pain.
The idiom ‘it feels like a punch in the gut’ comes from that despair. When the loss is so catastrophic it evolves to physical pain.
There’s been a couple of rejections in my life.
The first was when my best friend of elementary school found new friends. We had transitioned from elementary school to junior high and suddenly our close knit groups of friends were introduced to a brand new group of people. In that new group there was Summer. She was a classic extrovert leader who knew how to take charge. In this case she decided she wanted to be friends with my best friend of the time and that became the end of our relationship.
This was before the age of the internet and my mom was rather restrictive of my youth. I didn’t have the means to live the late night phone calls or sleepovers. Instead I was living at home playing with my older brother or myself as my closest friend found someone more available to her needs. That became my first loss.
If Summer was the first passing wind then Michael was the sinking ocean
We met at a transitional time in my life. I’d just switched careers and was getting used to the rhythm of my new life. My friends had just started to leave our small town and I was learning to meet more local people. Michael was someone new who had entered my life without me noticing.
At first I never registered that he was anyone special. But we bonded nonetheless and before I’d noticed he’d become the first and last person I wanted to talk to when I started my day. At times it felt like he was a whole other person with other people but with me he was real. I got to see him without his walls up and he shared pieces of himself he confessed he’d never let go of before.
There were moments when I knew we’d be beautiful together. Little stutters in our rhythm where we straddled that line of more than friends but less than lovers.
But if I could have anyone fall in love with me I couldn’t do the same to him. It didn’t matter that he shared secrets with me. It didn’t matter that I was the person he opened up with. When I decided to do something, to take our relationship to the next step I was met with his reluctance.
He’d been seeing someone else. His relationship was new and he really liked this girl. She was a better fit for who he thought he’d end up with. And even though we’d spent that time building up to it it would seem it was a backup plan.
Relationships come and go but sometimes there’s just that one that clicks. It may take two to row a canoe but sometimes we’re just plain sinking.
Heartbreak isn’t the only rejection
Sometimes life isn’t what you expect it to be. Every job application I’ve filled with special care that comes back with no reply or a “we’re sorry, we’re going with someone who best matches our needs” fills me with a sense of incompetence. If impostor syndrome is when you succeed than living is when you’re simply existing.
When you know or you think you know where you need to be in life and you can’t get there? It sucks. It sucks a lot. I wanted to see my company succeed so bad. And I had all my ducks in a row but in the end it didn’t mean anything. Decisions outside of my control made me lose my job and suddenly I was staring at my starting point again. I didn’t pass Go, didn’t collect $200. I was simply at my destination.
I thought my experience and my aptitude for success meant I’d get back into it. It wasn’t so. The longer I was without a job the more and more my bills collected. My prospects suddenly seemed like a fever dream. It didn’t matter that I’d been promoted quickly or that I’d brought my previous company to a new high. I wasn’t getting any callbacks or any interviews.
It’s like my success was success only I could see. For everybody else I was just one in a number of other candidates.
And if nothing else it made me believe that my life was a lie. The potential I saw in myself was some false hope I’d created in an attempt to trick myself into believing I was successful.
But then I remembered what it was like before my last job
I’ve always suffered from the anxiety of not being good enough. Growing up in a low income family I’ve always wanted to be that success story.
I wanted to be the one to come out and bring my family from the claws of poverty. So when I couldn’t be the best a part of me always died at my failures.
I had a hard time accepting that I didn’t have to be right all the time. Because being wrong meant that there was something wrong about me. It didn’t mean that there were areas I could improve or learn better, it meant that I was an inherent failure at whatever I was doing.
I had to learn to forgive myself. And remember that nothing is set in stone. There’s no arbitrary guide that says I have to date that guy or I have to get that job. Living in the moment is not just being reckless it’s embracing where you are at that moment because it’s the only reality you have. There’s no point comparing it to an unlimited potential because potential is endless. We always think the grass greener because you can always think things could’ve been better. Potential is addictive but not necessarily true. I always think of novels where couples get together and the story ends with a nice bow but then you really think about these characters and they’re either miserable or divorced. And that’s what I have to do with the unknown what-ifs, divorce them because they’ll never be what I’m living right now.
I’ll never know if that other life was better or not and I have to learn to be okay with that. Because that past doesn’t change the present and although it can influence the future it’s not the future. I can only live what is happening right now.