I have been hiding from my inbox.
The tab in the top left-hand corner of my Internet browser is mocking me. I am particularly obsessive about my email inbox remaining at zero, but these days when I see that little (1) appear my chest tightens and I think, “what if this is it?” I’ve been waiting for a response from a dream job of mine — well, no. My dream job is becoming the woman who writes the cheeky responses to the lovelorn and etiquette-obsessed public for the nationally syndicated advice column — she gets to be wonderfully snarky at times. No, I’ve been waiting for a response from just about the best job I could get out of graduation. Suffice it to say it is something I really want, and I’ve been waiting months to hear. Each morning, I check my inbox with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation; each morning, I find only missives from professors and coupons for clothing discounts. It’s never there.
But today, it was. And I didn’t get it. Look ma, my first rejection letter!
Recently a friend told me that they were praying for me — a service I certainly didn’t ask of them, being somewhat non-religious — because they assumed, with my impending graduate and dubious job hunt, that I would need some small measure of relief from the (again, assumed) stress and anxiety. This bothered me. I am someone who shies away from the assistance of others in most situations. I don’t like handouts, and I don’t believe in asking someone for help or relief without providing something in return — friendship, a cup of coffee or other such favors. I’m not quite sure why, something about being awarded things without expending any effort just makes me uncomfortable. Her prayers, though I knew they were well intended, felt like capitalizing on a religious system I don’t subscribe to. It felt cheap. I like to earn things, and I like my successes to be my own, almost selfishly.
Of course, this method also renders my failures my own, entirely. Thus, whatever misapprehension I labored under that allowed me to believe I could get that job was mine alone. I have no one to project my disappointment onto. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but I suppose it’s a good thing that when I mess up, I have to deal with my own internal errors instead of blaming the system. It’s productive, albeit annoying. And it’s certainly been annoying in this case, because I want to hide from not only my inbox, by from my friends and family who knew that I applied for the position and hound me intermittently for updates.
But I cannot hide, and so instead I adopt a different perspective. I am collecting rejections. After all, nothing worth having, nothing of substance ever comes easily or without obstacles. The world would be far less fun to live in had countless writers and sports players and screenwriters stopped at the first “no.” Collect rejections, as many as possible, and you are almost guaranteed to eventually get what you want. This applies to job, internships, positions in research labs and possibly even your love life, although I haven’t tested that one. Collect rejections, and as a bonus you will develop a thick skin and a dark sense of humor.
I think what has stopped me — what usually stops us –— from brazenly collecting rejections is the culture of Cornell that tells us it is wrong to lose. My father is fond of the phrase “if you think you are beaten, you are”; he recited it often when I was a child, usually at moments when I complained that I was far too short to be playing basketball. I think we spend a great deal of our time at this school looking around, watching the incredibly intelligent and powerful things happening around us, and thinking we are already beaten. There’s a lot of very smart people walking around disguised as regular humans, aren’t there? But I am not by a long shot beaten, and neither are you.
Collect rejections. You will be better off for it.
Ruth Weissmann is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at email@example.com. A Word to the Weiss appears alternate Fridays this semester.