Whatever it is we are waiting for let’s call it “the next step.” The next step to the high school of our dreams, the college we know is exactly right, the graduate school that will crown our academic life, the position we have prepared for years to enter…and on and on like a hamster on a wheel. Unfortunately, the next step, while not always, most often leads to heart break and the crushing of hope. Or does it? How do we handle disappointment? Maybe the more appropriate question is how do we handle our expectations? I work with many adolescents on the cusp of entering college and this time of year is stressful and poignant. A fortunate few are admitted “early” to their dream college, while so many wait for April for news. Recently one usually upbeat student came to class pale and so despondent it was sad to watch her. Urgently she held a friend’s hand through class, she was the personification of someone who had, as we say in our cliched but accurate way, been “kicked in the gut” by her rejection from college. All the air had disappeared from her enlivening buoyancy.
I am a writer, you cannot continue to write if you do not find a way to handle rejection. All writers know this and the history of literature is replete with stories of what writers do with rejection letters. Some turn them into lamp shades or wall paper. Others burn them, file them, flush them down the toilet. Some keep them in a folder, and send out yet another query letter. Keep the dream alive. Some frame the one acceptance letter that comes amongst all rejections. Somehow you have to separate the rejection letter from yourself. The same truth applies to the college process or any “next step”. Colleges build a class, they want musicians and mathematicians, athletes and astronomers, political science majors and painters. They have expectations for that class and maybe you do not quite fit the profile, but you will at another school or job, agency or publisher.
Try to separate the essential you from your “next step” application. Whatever happens to the application, you are still the remarkable, shining you that you were before the rejection.
Practice thinking in “a middle way” process; expectation not too high, disappointment not too low. Keep your balance and harmony.
Don’t indulge in a dichotomous success/failure paradigm. These are the frames you put on events. Events themselves are void, they simply are.
Allow yourself some mourning of your dream, but don’t get mired in the drama you create.
Be resilient. Create mindfulness techniques that allow you to bounce back; rationalize, talk to others about your feelings, go for a walk, meditate.
Breathe, breathe often and deeply. Then let the sap of life rise and surprise you as it is wont to do.
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