It is a beautifully naive idea that once you reach a certain point in life, you won’t be faced with the petty but equally overwhelming “minor” issues that the world throws at you. It is easy to believe that once you have enough money, enough of a reputation, once you have climbed the ladder high enough or long enough that you become immune to the differences, the issues that plague those “beneath” us on whatever scale we judge ourselves by.
My scale was always knowledge on how to become a better person. I figured that if I read enough books and indulged myself with enough insight, that everyday life would be beneath me. I assumed that transforming myself into a better person meant that the host of problems that used to overwhelm my consciousness would seep away, and that future ones would roll off of me. I spent years encapsulating myself into a bubble, shifting and shaping my mind into what I figured would be a resilient masterpiece filled with Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Dale Carnegie, and all of the likes, preparing myself for what lies on the other side of the everyday problems and facades that we imagine up in our lives.
I can hardly explain the humbling realization that shook me the moment I entered life again; the moment I realized that I was not this impenetrable force held together by a will destined for success. The everlasting moment that I realized that I was just the same scared young man, just a bit taller and with more quotes inside of my mind. I think that we all have this realization at some point. That no matter how much money, or career success, or (insert answer here) that we achieve, we are not immune to anything. There is always a moment that comes around, humbling us into acceptance of that old Socratic Phrase, “I only know that I know nothing.”
The straw on the camel’s back for me has always been rejection. Like a crux, I crutch and hobble my way around it, build up empires to defeat it, walls and moats to slow it down. I find myself fearful every time someone opens their mouth to speak about how I’ve done, every time critiques come raining in for my work, or I step out into the judgement of my peers. I have flashbacks and nightmares of every “No” that ever pin pricked into my ears, every solemn night I spent filling with movies and model cars so that I wouldn’t grasp the totality of what is occurring. I screamed truth into the pages of my journal, yelling line after line about resilience and overcoming, and other buzzwords to make myself feel as though this was my choice. And it is only then, only in those slim moments of pure vulnerability that I allow myself to see that this was not my choice.
It is only in those moments of early morning haze, or late night clarity where I can see that the scale I used to judge myself was a facade, a shield, like I armor I built up to cover myself from cowering in the corner. Rejection, like the monster waiting outside of my door, forced me to rationalize that hiding in my room was my decision. As if I was attempting to convincing myself that the 3 years that I will never get back were spent doing anything other than hiding myself in an internal apocalyptic bomb shelter from the debilitating fear of No.
I always just assumed that if I climbed my ladder high enough, that if I filled the end pages of a journal with enough titles of books and lectures, that I would become immune to rejection. I figured, like in a monastery, that hours upon days of solitude would eradicate the hesitancy from my veins. I knew that if I pinpointed the cause lying in the sheets of a pinball-like childhood, or coated in the smoke of adolescent heartbreak, that I could cure the patient zero and solve this outbreak. I was wrong.
It wasn’t until sitting down to write some words on rejection that I realized the true role that rejection has played in my life. I initially aimed to speak about how rejection can hurt no matter what stage of life you’re in, no matter where you find yourself. My overarching goal was to speak to a problem evident in society, while simultaneously satisfying the yearning inside to get this monkey off of my back, but the moment my fingers began typing the r-e-j, the revolution inside began to take hold, and the rising refuses to cease.
It is a solemn morning, where I look around and realize that I am alone. What was sold to me as a choice has since become a prison sentence where I’ve realized that I am not the warden. This crippling fear of rejection, like a puppet master, has used me, pulling the strings in a series of life choices only meant to lessen my frequency with rejection. I’ve refused to hold conversations deeper than the shallow side of the grandmother’s pool, locking my authentic self behind a door lock, because “I am just very introverted”. I’ve have been pulled away, influenced into leaving, consistently living on the run because I was certain that once they have gotten to know me, that would hate who I am….. But now, the only “No” I feel like accepting is “No More”......
I wasn’t born to be afraid. I wasn’t born to allow the painful mistakes of myself and those around me to cripple me into a highly functional phobic. So like a month early New Year’s Resolution, rejection, or the fear of, will not longer hold me hostage. I refuse to censor my words for fear of my audience will think. I refuse to hid out in my room for fear of conversation. I refuse to fear momentary introductions and conversations on the street. I refuse to accept the fear of “No”before I’ve had the opportunity to hear a “Yes.”
I think that we all have a crippling fear, whether it be of illness or death, poverty or hunger, mine just happens to be rejection. These fears, while seemingly safe and wholesome, prohibit us from living the life that we envision, from achieving what we hold nightly dreams of. We must dive head first into them, accepting that everything we want is on the other side of our fear, move towards it courageously, wholeheartedly, and with a look that screams to the universe, “Bring It On.”
I wasn’t born to be afraid of what others will think of me. I didn’t survive all of these years to live as if I am already dead. I have not crafted a sense of self so fragile that one opinion from another will shatter it, like a wind blowing a house of cards….. And neither have you. So I say ask the universe. Tell others how you feel, wholeheartedly and authentically. Be yourself and scream a hearty “I Don’t Care” to anybody who refuses to accept you. For all the work, luck, and seemingly impossible coincidences that went into to us being alive, we are so much more than the “No’s” that we hear.
“The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you that you're not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job, ask anyone out, pursue any goal. Don't take it personally when they say “no”- They may not be smart enough to say “yes”. Keith Olbermann