There is a level of brevity in being painfully rejected. Whether or not I could play kickball as youth, I certainly didn’t look like I was any good. When the schoolyard picking went down I was at or near last picked for as many games as I remember ever playing. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I was a sleeping Frank Thomas of the kickball diamond, a Pelé of the asphalt, or just as bad as they thought I was.
As much as I’d tell myself back then that rejection gets easier, it clearly doesn’t. The only consistent element of rejection, or the feelings that accompany it at least, are that they eventually go away, or so we’re taught with clichés like time heals all wounds. Does it really?
With age we replace being thought of as insignificant on the playing field for being thought of as insignificant in life. We aren’t invited to certain cocktail parties, to chair or even be part of given committees, and if single, we aren’t always loved back in the way we wished. We grow envious of people with stuff we don’t have, and when desperate, put those down that have less. Less money, education, humor, wisdom, hair, you name it, anything to dial down our own feelings of rejection.
Stubborn loyalty exacerbates the scope of rejection’s reach. We, as souls that have felt the pain of being last picked in the game of life a few times too many hold dear to the bonds we were able to form, to the team’s that did pick us, even if it were for just a single game.
My grandmother never remarried after her divorce. My mom still asks about my dad, 25 years after their marriage ended. I look at my only brother and see a reflection of my own thoughts on the matter, us both still clinging on to things long past. I can’t help but hope the pattern ends with us, but reason tells a different story.
Here is the paradox of life, if we want to participate we must allow for the possibility of rejection to exist. In other words, if we wish to satisfy our human DNA for love, appreciation, growth, and fellowship we must risk feeling totally and utterly rejected in all categories. If you are like me, and equate rejection with sharp torturous soul-stirring pain, then you understand why we’re almost being reckless by participating at all. Enter the modern life.
You hang out with whom you trust, read whom won’t hurt you, and pander to those that potentially may. You seek guidance from those that seem immune from rejection, hoping it’ll rub off on you, and in effect bolster their reputation for immunity. We live in a dog eat dog world, where those that are self-aware enough to admit having trust issues are in fact making themselves ripe targets for rejection to occur. Like a wounded rabbit limping along in the open coyote infested California desert chances of a pleasant outcome dwindle with each minute passed.
Can we decipher anything but bitterness from the taste of rejection on our lips? I believe so. We all feel enslaved to certain people, standards, and cultures, and when rejection occurs, it offers freedom from such slavery. You no longer are shackled to whom you had to be to exist in the place you were told not to enter anymore, you are now free to be different. Fired from a job? Now’s the time to try something different. Dumped? Now’s the time to date someone different. Kicked out of the house by your roommates? Now’s the time to live somewhere different. See a pattern? In our rejection we gain freedom, and maybe a little courage to do something crazy good.
Not a day goes by I don’t think about some type of rejection in my life. We lost the state championship in football my senior year of high school, we never were able to enter that elite club of winners, the loss still stings 14 years later. I still wonder why my ex girlfriend left the country and never came back, and why that magazine book critic didn’t like my debut novel no matter how unsatisfying she thought the ending might have been. I wonder, ponder, think, vent, and stare at the walls blankly. At the end of the day my ticket to freedom is the only tangible thing I’ve got to show for those rejections.
And you, do you feel free as a net result of yours? Are you free to live, work, and do in a better way from being rejected, or did all those no’s just leave you without a yes worth living for?