How To Read A Rejection Email (The Listen To Your Mother Edition 2.0)

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I read the rejection email with one eye shut—the left one one—because it was first thing in the morning and I had no idea where my glasses were.  Also? I knew it would be a rejection.  I could tell from the first line’s over-exuberant thank you to me for submitting.  That first line was trying too hard.  It wasn’t worth opening both eyes.

Even though it was only a few hours ago, I can’t remember what I did right after reading it.  Did I kiss my son sleeping next to me? Did I rise up on one elbow to see if my husband was still asleep?  I have no idea.  In the movie about my life, the actress playing me in moments like this will laugh “wryly” or “knowingly.”  The line in the screenplay will read: “Christie lets out a quiet-but-wry guffaw, careful not to wake her sleeping family.”

I remember how I felt in the shower.  Expectant.  I was waiting for the pinpricks of shame and disappointment to riddle my morning.  I lathered the shampoo and scanned my vitals: Ego? Heart? Head? Pride?  I was looking for fatal or fatal-seeming wounds, but they weren’t there.  Seems I was just grazed by the rejection.

When the sleepers all woke up and I finally had both eyes open it was the distracting crush of morning.  Making tea, shoving snow pants in a Hello Kitty backpack, writing a note for the babysitter about the tennis lessons this afternoon.  No time for angst other than the quotidian pains of trying to get two preschoolers out the door with their full complement of winter apparel.

Walking to work, I felt the rumble of self-accusation.  Why didn’t you try harder? Why didn’t you ask for editing help? You didn’t run the submission by anyone!  And it’s true.  I didn’t.  I gave the entire exercise a few hours one morning and dashed it off on the first day they were accepting entries.  I could have easily spent the following two weeks editing, honing my point of view, and definitively settling on poignant or humorous.  As it was, my submission was an unedited hybrid of sentimental insights and quasi-humorous anecdotes introduced by a semi-offensive opening line.

I wouldn’t have chosen me either.

But if I didn’t want to do it “full out,” why did I allow myself to “phone it in”? It’s not like me to half-ass something.  I’m curious about my process and this version of me who turns in substandard work like that.  Is this how Jane Goodall felt when she noticed her beloved chimpanzees doing something novel?

By the time I get to work, I decide that maybe this is progress for me.  Maybe it’s a huge leap forward to let myself aim for something without killing myself reaching for the target. 

Maybe.

Maybe I just didn’t really want to do it and couldn’t admit it to myself.  Now, I can passively accept the rejection and not have to take responsibility for the parts of me that are changing—that part of me that was only so-so interested in being in the show (after being enthralled and manic about trying to get in last year), which is why I barely proofread my piece before clicking send.

I decide to read the email again with both eyes.  “In the clear light of day,” as my spiritual advisor would say.  I check my email and see I’ve already deleted it.  I don’t bother to find it the trash.  Because I don’t want to, so I let that be enough. For once.

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24 thoughts on “How To Read A Rejection Email (The Listen To Your Mother Edition 2.0)

  1. Aww sorry to hear about the rejection. 😦 Such a sinking feeling, isn’t it? I’ve gotten so many lately it’s starting to become comical. lol Keep trying and know you will get there. Because you will!

  2. I personally love it. I love the attitude that you can just let it be what it is — without so much judgment and analysis. Because all that in our head stuff stops us from what’s more important — doing it. Love this!

  3. Sorry to hear about the rejection, but I agree with the others about your outlook. Deciding something isn’t for you is a powerful choice. You are destined for great things, whether LTYM is one of them or not.

  4. i’ve done the same thing, whipping something off with barely a glance and then wondering why I didn’t put more of an effort in. sometimes i think it wasn’t That important and other times I think it really was good enough maybe not great, but good enough.you can go crazy chasing your tail but i think your new attitude is awesome. you can’t let every rejection defeat you. brush it off and keep putting yourself out there. you’re going places.

  5. You and I could be twins. From the imagined movie reactions (I do that all the time) to the not editing and sending off unpolished stuff…sigh. Sorry for your rejection letter, but this lady believes in you and your writing.

  6. I’m actually pretty shocked that you were rejected. I think your voice is one of the most authentic voices on the internet and I would much rather hear what YOU have to say rather than quite a few others that I know are in the circle. Come to think of it- selfishly, I am glad that you were rejected because that makes you cooler in my eyes. I mean all of this in a good way of course!

  7. Christie, the same thing happened to me recently, but my reaction was decidedly different. I was devastated, questioned whether I should even keep on writing. I am going to try and learn from you. I keep telling myself that what I wrote is not me, not even close. If I say it enough, I might believe it sometime, hopefully soon.

    • You must keep writing. These rejections are the stripes we are obligated to earn. We may never know why we were not selected– it could be any reason. And each rejection will hopefully make me stronger. This what what I believe could be true if I stick this out.

    • Good luck on your LTYM audition! I’d give you advice but the best advice from me is don’t do what I did!!! Seriously, you are such a passionate, articulate writer (and mother)– I hope they see what all of us do.

  8. In my life, passion, energy and time are in short supply. While I am sure it would have been a great experience, maybe subconsciously you had already moved on as you stretched to do new things this year. This will give you the time and energy to focus on those things moving forward.

  9. Rejections are never easy, but it seems like your attitude is in the right spot on this one. And, as someone who also tries to kill myself over getting stuff just so, I think it’s great your attempt was more relaxed and you didn’t agonize over it. Keep at it!

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