I regret to inform you that your [book proposal/ request for a raise/ unrequited lust/ invitation to “work this out”/ suggestive text message] has been rejected.
Can we agree that it sucks? Rejection breeds a cesspool of negative emotions. You feel pathetic. You feel unworthy. You feel embarrassed – be honest – you told people you were pursuing an [exciting career change/ unattainable penis], didn’t you? You rang your mother to tell her the good news, and now she’s going to ask about it during your next phone call, which is today, because it’s her birthday, and you’re going to have to say, “What are you talking about, mom? What opportunity to [chase my dreams/ break my dry spell]? I don’t… oh. That. Yeah… not happening.” She’s your mother so she’ll mask her disappointment as much as one can when relearning that their child is a professional failure — but you know this already. This isn’t your first rodeo.
After you finish reading this letter, you’ll go about your regularly scheduled acknowledgment of being a loser – first, you’ll set aside some “me” time, which consists of pouting and binging on processed sugar, perhaps taking in a Katherine Heigl flick. Then you’ll pretend that you weren’t waiting to hear back from your [agent/ boss/ hot neighbor/ ex-boyfriend/ last resort]. Even though you just tweeted, “BIG DAY TODAY! WISH ME LUCK!1!!!” ten minutes ago, even though last week you drunkenly confided in someone that you, “find out Friday. This could be so big. Friday Friday Friday. My life might change on Friday. Not the 13th or the 21st, but this Friday, the one that’s five days from now, complete and utter life/ game-changer, I’ll let you know as soon as I find out on Friday. Fridayyyyyy,” and now it’s Friday and that person is texting you to say, “How’d it go, so excited for you!” …You’ll ignore it, for at least an hour, maybe for a few days, just until the shame subsides.
When you do get around to telling people about your failure, you’ll put on a brave face and pretend that you’re not disappointed. “That job wasn’t the right fit for me. I only would’ve been making 30K more than I do now, and besides, the guy who interviewed me? He was one of those good-looking, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed types. It would’ve been a disaster. Much too distracting. I’m lucky they turned me down.”
Of course, everyone knows you’re lying – even you, ye who have little self-awareness. But denial helps soften the blow, so it’s allowed. Pretend that you’re not compulsively checking your inbox for a subject line that reads, “I’ve made a terrible mistake,” that you’re not rereading your resume and searching for the line where it all went wrong. You’re doing those things, compulsively, but that’s our little secret. When someone asks, answer predictably as ever: You’ll be fine. You’re okay.
Because you actually are okay. You’ve failed more times than you can count. You failed to spell your last name for at least five years of your life. You failed at dressing yourself in a presentable manner from 1994-2002. All of your relationships failed, or if that’s too extreme, they sure as hell didn’t succeed. You’ve lost countless dodgeball games, kickball games, games of pool, horse, poker; you name it, you’ve lost it. You failed biology in high school. TWICE. You are consistently the least efficient person in an airport security line.
Of that mountain of fail you’ve accumulated, how many of those setbacks cross your mind on a regular basis? How often do you become incapacitated thinking about the time you lost fifty bucks playing dice, a hundred bucks on a roulette table in Vegas? How many times have you not been good enough? How many imploring, unanswered text messages have you sent since 2001? Did the world end?
Your missteps, minor and major, don’t prevent future failures and successes. Read this letter three days from now. Three years from now. Three decades from now. You will have failed and succeeded thousands of times between each reading. Think about how quickly an all-consuming failure becomes insignificant. How you probably failed at tying your own shoes for years. Life went on, didn’t it? And it will again. Briefly indulge in your frustration but promptly suck it up. You’ve got more [query letters/ resumes/ inappropriate e-messages] to send.