Monday evening I posted the above photo to facebook with the following caption: “It only took 6 years and 23 applications…”
It blew up newsfeed apparently because in about 12 hours it had over 50 likes plus numerous comments.
Then Tuesday, while listening to The Voice at work I had a revelation. Yes…I had a paradigm-shifting experience while watching reality TV. Who woulda thunk it?
What about those who didn’t get in and who didn’t win? What about the rejected?
And I immediately thought back to the picture and the caption and sent a little prayer/love note/universal hug to every person whose letter from JHSPH didn’t start with, “Congratulations…” I held them in my heart and whispered words of encouragement and hope and love. Because I have been there…21 times in the last two years and numerous more in the last 6. I’ve been the “almost” girl more times than I can count and had started joking that I would fail miserably in the dating scene because, clearly, I’m a terrible closer. 😉
This is the time of year where acceptances start rolling in. And in our moments of glory and pride and relief and joy and pure happiness, we forget that for every one of us, there are countless others who’s dreams have been squashed. Who call their best friend as soon as they see that small envelope waiting in the mail pile and beg her to drive across the state at 11 at night with cookies and hugs. Who are broken with pain, with diminishing hope, with inertia and boredom and fear and anxiety and pure disappointment. Whose beliefs in themselves are being shaken. Who are starting to think they aren’t worth it.
This post is for you.
On the night I received my rejection letter from Einstein, the last med school I was waiting to hear from, I wrote the following (ironically, found days before I received my Hopkins letter):
“My roommate left the envelope in plain site. We both had been eagerly, hopefully awaiting the news. I did not let its’ small size get me down since others had mentioned their good news had been packaged in that way. Moments later I felt as if I had been ripped apart from the inside. Every failed attempt, every forgetting obligation, every “No” I had ever heard roared through my body, filling me with despair, regret, death. I welcomed the emptiness that followed many hours of the deepest pain I had ever felt. This surely was personal….there is no way it could not be. Something had to be wrong with me for I had failed yet again. My asthma flared up, my heart raced, and I had never been so happy for my isolation as in that moment…
We make plans. We organize our lives around these plans and let them influence what we see when we look ahead in time. Then the Universe, or God, or whatever higher entity you choose to believe in, steps in to say, “Hold on. Take a step back. Let’s rethink this situation.” and we find ourselves broken, faithless, and questioning. Those of us who consider ourselves optimists try to find a deeper meaning in the situation, hoping that good will eventually come…after all, it should be our turn by now. So we jump back into action mode, a little late in the game, and start moving forward. But in those dark moments when we find ourselves alone in our apartments or in the stage between wake and sleep, the gremlins in our mind begin to sneak in and remind us that we are not worth it, that we were rejected for a reason, and that we will never be good enough.
Day in and day out we move along, maintaing a smiling face and being productive. We tell others that we are “Good” out of habit rather than truth, and never reveal the feelings of inadequacy that threaten to overwhelm us at any given moment. We find ourselves more prone to crying when we read medical charts and start to question whether medicine is even our correct path. For those of us who are empathetic to a fault, a season of rejections is traumatizing. We replay every interview and reread every application, trying to discern wherein lies our fault. We pretend that we are coping when in reality we feel lost, uncentered, and off-balance.
We begin the process of reapplying and wonder if its even really worth it.”
For me, those feeling plagued the rest of 2011. You know…you’ve been reading along with me. Because, for me, it wasn’t just one season of rejection letters but years. It was a pattern. And it hurt like hell.
So I get you, the rejected, the lost, the broken. I’ve been you more times than I wish. And my advice is this: feel your hurt. Let the rage and angst course through you, overwhelm you, fill you up, and break you. Scream, sob, snot, heave, cuddle your pets, have angry sex, punch the wall, break a glass. Do what you need. Let yourself go numb for a while…then channel those emotions into creating something. Write, draw, bake, dance, run. Let others help you. <–I know how hard this is. Don’t hide from your emotions, but rather let them fuel you. Reassess, do some soul searching, try to find the teaching moment.
I know now that I needed another year. I thought last year I had it all but that was before the injury, before yoga became a spiritual practice infused in my everyday life, and before I could even realize that it was not my time. No way could I have dealt with medical school + my wrist situation. So in a twisted way, I am grateful. <–never saw that coming last year!
And for those who have received that long awaited acceptance: CONGRATUFRICKINGLATIONS! Celebrate, revel, rejoice. And when you find a moment of quiet (for me it took a couple days), place your hands on your heart and think kindly of those who were not as lucky. Send them your love and your encouragement and whisper words of hope and comfort and peace. Know that I am not telling you to feel bad or guilty because you got in and so many others didn’t. Instead, I’m asking that you acknowledge your luck and fortune and hard work, be grateful, and be mindful. Scream it from the rooftops but do so with love.
P.S. For those wondering about the picture…the science department at my alma mater, Stonehill College, has a success board in the main lobby of our science center. When people are accepted to schools or programs, we get our names on the board…its a huge honor and accomplishment and something we all hope to accomplish over the course of our time there. 🙂