When I’m not busy stressing about boys, sequined booty shorts, photo shoots and whether or not my students will ever learn that they cannot wear socks with their tap shoes whilst performing (three offenders in the last week!), I stress about academics.
Well, because I like to borrow trouble, so even though I’m not even going to school right now, I’m stressing about going back to school. I’ve got to figure out when, and where, and how to pay for it and oh yeah—which useless subject to get my PhD in? But now, thanks to my most recent rejection letter, I’ve got another worry to add to the list: who will even take me? My GRE scores aren’t exactly stunning so my CV has got to be kick*ss (and something tells me “Serial Dater, Philadelphia, August 2010-present” isn’t exactly going to cut it).
Rejection letters suck and even though I do occasionally manage to take a step back and remind myself that it’s nothing personal, I put a lot of stock in what other people think of me, especially when it concerns my writing. For this reason, whenever I get a rejection letter from an agent or a magazine editor, I think “Oh no! It’s a sign! I’m not meant to be a writer after all! I should just go back to school and bury myself in some archive somewhere and forget about ever publishing a book…”
By the same token, whenever I get a rejection letter from a conference chair, a scholarship selection committee or the editor of a scholarly journal, I find myself thinking, “It’s hopeless! I’ll never get my PhD, in fact maybe I’m not even meant to get my PhD. Maybe I should just forget about academia all together and stick to broadcasting my pseudo-anthropological endeavors on the internet. I should just give up and clear out my bookshelves and use the space to store shoes instead.”
(Okay, admittedly I’ve never actually thought about the storage bit until now. Usually I’m too depressed to think about shoes or the fact that a rejection letter might be telling me something other than “Kat Richter, you suck at life and will never amount to anything.” Something along the lines of, “You’re almost there,” for instance, “and if you take the time to actually read the suggestions we’ve taken the time to compile, you might actually make it.”)
I don’t mind getting upset by rejection letters; I’ve long since given up on the idea of trying to stop myself from crying because it never works and I’d rather just get it over with so I can move on. What I do mind is the soul-crushing questioning that comes with every single letter—the internal dialogue that always begins with “Maybe it’s time to find a new dream…” or some variation thereof and always ends with an emphatic “NO! These are your only dreams! These things are the things you are meant to do so get a grip, pull yourself together and keep going.”
Except it’s so damn hard sometimes, and even when I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom I know that I’ve just barely scratched the surface when it comes to real suffering. I can still count my rejection letters on my fingers—two hands, granted, but this (or so I tell myself) is better than nothing.
So my question today is this: to my fellow writers (and/or artists/academics/aspiring academics) out there, how do you deal? Do you let each and every rejection rock you to your core? Because to be honest, I could really do without the existential crisis every time I check my email.
PS: The aforementioned rejection letter arrived over the weekend so I’m better now (thanks to the support of several friends who either cursed The Academy on my behalf or told me to pull myself together and soldier on). But I do need some better coping strategies. I’ve gone off chocolate (for the time being) but only because I’ve discovered glue gunning and one can only make so many sequined hair accessories for one’s students...