I give a lot of advice, that is, when someone comes to me for it. And truth be told, sometimes I open the trap and give advice when it’s not asked of me. And then I apologize and remind myself they’re talking because they want someone to listen. So I do. Today I received an email from a woman in college asking for my advice. I’m not a therapist, but when someone asks my opinion, I give it. And now I’m giving it out, here on the blog, because I know it’s what I wish someone walked me through when I was going through it. It applies to so many of us, at many points in our lives, and it’s really what I hung this blog on: rejection.
She (we’ll call her Emily) writes: I just got rejected from rushing the sororities at my school, which many of my friends are involved with. to say the least, i feel broken and worthless. my power was taken away from me by a bunch of overly empowered girls. knowing that this same thing happened to you, and inspired your great success, ‘greek tragedy’, I was hoping you might tell me something, with your usual eloquence, that would let me know that this isn’t the end. that it’s possible to still be happy and lead a full life. that you can still have hundreds of boyfriends, good hair, accessorize well, and have friends fondly referred to as Smelly even though you feel tender and defective right now. tell me that the girls who rejected you are now fat and living in tulsa. tell me something to make it okay please.
I respond: Oh Emily, Emily, Emily, look how great a job you did at that cheer up all on your own. You don’t need anyone to tell you you’ll be a success, that you’ll be happy, no one to offer you promises, because just look, look at what you wrote to me. Deep down, or at least intellectually, you know that’s all true. That not being in a sorority will have zero influence on the rest of your life. Emotions, though, man, that’s where it’s hard.
Intellectually you know everything I could tell you, but emotionally you feel like a beat up little girl who wants to sulk and dissect everything for "why"s. Why is the universe singling you out and fucking with you like this? Like I wrote on the blog when it happened to me, LOOK UP. Not cheer up, but look up, realize there is a whole world around you, different options. I know this might sound strange, but stop to think about this for a second: imagine this happened to you on purpose. Not only to make you stronger but maybe to force you to also make new friends, to not rely on an easy system, to force you to grow and leave your familiar boundaries (ones you set for yourself that maybe it’s time to outgrow).
I promise you, five years from now, you will look back at this time and think, "I can’t believe how upset I was over that." Okay, that won’t always be the case. Sometimes you’ll look back and think, "that sucked, but obviously I got over it." Because at the end of the day, rejection just sucks. But it sucks for everyone. If I were you, and I was, I’d turn it around and force a smile and remind myself that I don’t need others to know how awesome I am. Because I know it. And dammit, if I don’t, I’m going to figure out how to know it. I’m going to wake up and decide to do something new, something I’ve never done before. I’m going to make a new friend, to extend myself, offer someone help by going out of my way. Today I’m going to smile to everyone, even if they don’t smile back. Because that’s the beauty of our lives, the ability to change them, to grab hold of them, and live them. Life is too short to still be sulking about it!
And for what it’s worth, the friends of mine who were in sororities ended up dropping out. "What a waste of money. All those dues. And it was all so forced and fake. It’s basically for people who don’t know how to make friends on their own." And also, funny enough, after college, I made friends with a woman (sweet Dulce) who loved her sorority sisters and introduced me to all of them. They’re now some of my closest friends. I’m an honorary Johns Hopkins member of whatever sorority they were all inducted. The point is, you’ll get over this with grace. We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to whatever comes our way. Make this an exemplary moment in your life, a time you’ll look back upon and say, "Wow, I’m so proud of how I handled that, with such grace and strength. It was hard for me, but look how I rolled with it, look how well adjusted I was able to be about that." And that will give you strength to face whatever the future might hold.
I hope this helps. I’m posting it on my blog because I think a lot of people need a good pep talk. Because, see, it happens to everyone. The sooner you learn to handle rejection with grace, the better. Because after I dealt with the blow of no sororities wanting me, I dealt with a husband who didn’t want me or the family we’d planned for. So all these rejections are just training us to handle change, to evolve into better, stronger people. It’s what Straight Up and Dirty is all about. And believe it or not, it doesn’t harden you, but it does enable you to realize not only aren’t you alone in any of it, but you’re more compassionate, and are able to bounce back from a blow all the quicker. Not exactly a Tulsa Oklahoma answer, but my truth, just the same.