Mike Anderson, Senior Anchor Intern
If you ever read Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut, you may recognize that quote as Billy Pilgrim’s response when someone dies (and since he is a soldier during World War II, he is well acquainted with death). It shows how Billy has learned to just accept death and think nothing of it–there’s no emotion, no sense of caring, just “poo-tee-weet”.
As I enter into a time when I am applying for post graduation programs, I find myself becoming more and more like Billy Pilgrim. When I am rejected by a school, I don’t react with any sort of emotion, with any care about the time and thought that went into the application, nor with any loss of hope of going to the school I was interested in- no, just “poo-tee-weet”. As I talk with my friends who are also working through rejection, I find that they generally have one of two different reactions- no emotion as I do or too much emotion that causes the person to feel less about themselves. But is this how it should be or is there a better way to react to rejection?
As I work to answer this question, I thought about previous times I was faced with rejection and where that led me to. I immediately thought of this past summer when I participated in a research program at the University of Minnesota, a program that initially was one of my least favorite choices. I was hoping to be able to spend my summer somewhere new and interesting- Uganda, Nashville or New York City- or at a program that had some more built-in mentoring for their summer undergraduate researchers. After applying to seven research programs and two ISSLP sites and receiving eight rejections, I wasn’t left with much of a choice. So, I went to Minnesota and now could not be happier that I did. While there, I was part of a large community of undergraduate researchers that all worked together to grow in our researching skills. Since we all lived on the same floor of a dorm, we quickly became great friends who would enjoy many events that the twin cities had. My research mentor gave me more mentorship than I thought any professor would in one summer and I was able to meet and learn from many medical and graduate students. It was a great program for me to learn, grow, and make many connections with people who could answer any question I had. And I only went there, because I was rejected from the other programs.
The next experience of rejection that came to mind was last year’s Keenan Revue. Having been part of the stage crew for my first two years, I decided that I wanted to help out more and apply to be the assistant stage director and leader of the stage crew. Since I had the experience and knew both the director and producer, I was confident that I’d get that job. When staff announcements came out, I was given the job of props manager (a job they intended for a freshman) while a freshman was chosen to be assistant stage director. This time, rather than just saying “poo-tee-weet” and calling it a day, I was quite upset. I took this one more personally as someone who has never seen the Revue before was picked over me and they relegated me to (what was supposed to be) the much easier job. It was difficult for me to be excited to do any work for the Revue when I felt as if they did not find me worthy of a significant role. However, fitting in with the theme of this blog, everything worked out for the best. Long before the first show, I started to gather all the props that we needed- sometimes fun, sometimes challenging, sometimes odd (like buying a toilet, wigs, and many pieces of women’s clothing). But during the show, I not only contributed with my props but ended up being in charge of many members of the stage crew as if I was stage manager. In the end, I did the same job as if I were assistant stage director like I originally wanted but was also able to contribute to the show in additional ways. By the end of the last show, both the producer and director told me they were happy that I got that job- because they no longer thought a freshman could have done it.
So while I thought I knew what would be best for me, I soon realized that my initial plans might not have been the best option for me. I’m not sure that if the choice was left up to me, I would have realized this before it was too late. In reality, the best option for me was rejection from places that weren’t right for me or jobs that would have limited what I could do. It might have been difficult to take at that time, but in hindsight, it most likely made my life much easier.
In times of rejection, I now look to find the good that comes out of it- an easier decision, more time to spend on another goal of mine, advantages that one job/program/internship has over another- and I’d encourage you to do the same. While the good that comes out of rejection may not always be clear right away, in my experience eventually I am able to find what good could come out of the rejection. I trust that you, too, can find that there is always a plan for you, and it isn’t always what you think it is.