This year is my senior year in college. For some, this conjures up emotions of freedom, being on top, and coasting through until the finish line. For others, this evokes feelings of fear, cold sweats, terror and questions. What will I do next? What happens after graduation? What will the ‘rest of my life’ look like? I have felt both.
At the beginning of my second semester, I received a wave of rejections along with a few failed initiatives. It was a week of taking hit after hit being told: Thanks, but no thanks. You seem nice, but we just don’t have the space for you.
Now for some background: I’ve done well in college. I’ve been fortunate to receive several grants, scholarships, internship and fellowships at the college and national level. I’ve lived and worked abroad. The projects I’ve worked on have garnered significant attention from the media. In its simplest form: I’ve worked hard and been very lucky. Such successes can be blinding at times, and set you up for a perception that you cannot fail. This is not true. You can. Anyone can. And I’ll tell you a secret: everyone does.
Here’s a secret: you’ll fail too. Miserably, sometimes. While it’s a depressing notion, I think it points out something important. We’re never meant to fall in love with results, we’re meant to fall in love with the process.
The key to weathering rejection, I think, is to make it about the work instead of the result. The process is what’s left at the end of that day, when other factors are out of your control. Success is a result, and often times involves some element of luck or chance. It is the result of something, not the purpose of it and more importantly, it can’t be controlled. What can is a diligence to return to the process, to continue working regardless of the results.If you care more about what you do rather than what comes from it, then you will always have something to do, to go to, even when you are disappointed with how things turned out.
I am learning this, slowly.
At the end of the day, I love what I do. The recognition and achievement is integrated into the process, but it isn’t why I do what I do. I am learning to fall in love with the process and then to deal with rejection and failure by returning to what I love: my work. Through this, I’ll be okay, whether the results are in my favor or not.
This, I think, is the key to continue moving forward. Although it’s not easy, I’m slowly learning to fall in love. And this love keeps me going, no matter what.