I have been in a rut for a few months now.
It is late Wednesday night and it is looking like another night of no sleep. Despite working six or seven days a week in a dead end job where I am seemingly either working my ass off for very little money or strutting around aimlessly because the client versus business ratio is vastly inconsistent, I am mentally exhausted but physically restless.
But don’t let the big words fool you. I work in a restaurant, and it’s the off-season.
The thing is I graduated two years ago. I finished school early, obtained my degree, moved across the country to escape life for a while, and now I am elbow greasing my way out of this slump while most of my colleagues are getting promotions and such.
A year ago, I fell into a profound depression that left me feeling absent and uninspired. There were mishaps and tribulations and disappointments that I let myself get swallowed up in, and I did the only thing my flustered disposition can think to do in the midst of a difficult situation: run far, far away.
Don’t get me wrong. I had the time of my life during my travels and learned more about myself than ever before. I told myself I would come back when I ran out of money, and that’s what I did. And ideally, the next step would be to finally pursue my dream job. Or at the very least, something close to it.
Here’s what sucks about rejection, especially for creatives. You are essentially guaranteed to be rejected once, twice, or even multiple times.
Some nights, I sit down at my computer and bear out my heart and soul, and then send it to a publisher so they can decide if it’s worthy of publication or not.
Lately, it hasn’t so much been the whole spilling out my guts on the internet for hundreds of strangers to read thing that is difficult. I’ve never really written for other people. I just wrote because I had to. Because I only know how to express myself artistically. Because I am not very good at much else. I am quiet and lack self-assurance and it’s the only way I know to harmonize my voice.
But on nights like these, when I have decidedly grown weary of my current situation and am scrolling through hundreds of job postings online, I find that I am virtually rejecting myself, muttering that I am not qualified or talented enough. And this, I think, is where the problem lies.
It is easy to let ourselves believe that all of these letdowns are a reflection on us and the amount of effort we put into something, that somehow these trials of fire are just more reminders that all we do in the end is get burned.
It’s kind of like going through a break-up or getting rejected by someone you really liked. Whenever this happens to me, my friends always say something like “well, he knew he didn’t deserve you and that’s why he left” and eventually I start to think, well, that is bullshit. This has happened so many times now that I am thinking maybe I am the one who doesn’t deserve any of them.
This isn’t the case, though.
It took me a long time to understand that other people’s sentiments are not an imputation on your own self, and that you really do need to believe that you are worth something in order for other people to see it. And not because people don’t see it already, but because you tend to be more valiant when you are self-assured.
Maybe that publisher didn’t like your style of writing but maybe this one will. Maybe you didn’t get the job you thought you wanted because there is another, better opportunity unfolding the moment you stop grieving over that one. And who knows? Perhaps that guy or girl wasn’t ready for you because they were afraid of rejection, too.
In essence, fear is the only thing that keeps most of us from moving forward in life, and the reason it is so hard not to feel stuck. Or trapped. Or flustered. And while it’s easy to avoid the overall distress that stems from a negative reaction, it’s better to try.