We have all dealt with some form of rejection in our lives.
The first time I faced rejection as an adult came after college, when I was applying for jobs. Because I had nothing keeping me in California, I applied for positions all over the country. Because I applied for nearly every job that I felt I was qualified for, I got a lot of rejection letters in my mailbox (yes, letters. Because that was how job-seekers rolled back in 1999).
I kept those rejection letters – the one from my dream job in the University of Tennessee women’s athletic department, the ones from a couple of WNBA teams and the dozens of others from colleges and universities. They served as reminders and motivation.
Several years ago when I was laid off from a job, I went through the same process of job-searching. The rejection stung a little more this time around because there was more anxiety involved – I had a family to support.
I took some of the rejection emails (communications from recruiters evolved by 2011) hard. But then I got used to it. My family members would tell me, “It’s just not the right fit.”
Whatever that meant.
Over time I started to understand what that meant. I’m an adult. I learned to handle the rejection.
It’s a totally different ball game when the rejection happens to your kid. It’s a punch in the gut that knocks you out for what seems like days.
Your kid doesn’t make an all-star team, they don’t get elected to student council, they aren’t chosen as first chair in band.
You want the best for your kid, so you immediately wonder what you can do to change the situation.
Can I call someone? Whose office door do I need to break down? Can I make a donation to help the cause and change someone’s mind?
When you come back to reality, you realize none of those options are the best for your kid. Mom and Dad are not always going to come to the rescue.
Not being chosen for the sports team or student government spots was a case of “it’s not the right fit.”
Kids need to understand that not everyone is going to get selected to the team, there’s only one kid chosen to be first chair saxophone or play Elsa in the production of “Frozen.”
We need to work together with our kids to be sure they are better prepared the next time the opportunity presents itself. Let’s practice more, dedicate more time and next time, maybe they will see a different outcome.
It wasn’t until last year, when I did a major purge in the garage, that I finally got rid of those rejection letters from college. I kept them for 13 years. Pathetic? No. They might be physically out of sight, but I will never forget that they existed. It developed a huge amount of character in me and served as motivation to get better, increase my skill set and be better than the next guy.
I will pass these lessons on to my kids.
While it will be hard to accept that they don’t get chosen for every sports team or voted as student body president every year they run, the bigger deal is that they went out for the sports team. They put up a valiant, honest campaign for student body president and they will learn from it and grow and hopefully succeed in the future.
If they are proud of even that accomplishment, they have already succeeded in my book.
Angela Borchert is a freelance writer who lives in Vacaville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.