4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
My sister had a brilliant idea for my nieces’ thirteenth birthdays. What do you give young women who have pretty much everything they need?
Words of wisdom.
My sister asked that all the important women in their lives send encouragement, favorite memories and words of advice for growing into a young woman, the things we wish we knew when we were their age.
I sent Beautiful Woman by Maya Angelou, memories of my sister growing up and the best advice I could think of: when given an opportunity, take it, and when you face rejection (which you undoubtedly will) say thank you, and value that rejection, because now you’re one step closer to success. Collect one hundred rejections.
I always cherished rejection, but in a bad way. I held them dear, tucked in my pocket throughout the day. I polished them with my thumb. I looked at those rejections like undeniable truths.
Like the time I found the note sent between the mean girl and my sixth grade best friend that had been intentionally left on my desk. I got to read what my best friend really thought of me, which included the word retarded, and not in a good way. Beyond sixth grade harsh, am I right?
Or the time in eighth grade when the girl with the Rolex and the perfectly feathered hair called me on the phone to tell me that they didn’t want me sitting with them at lunch. Or ever, as it turns out. And so I stood alone on the playground for who-knows-how-long rubbing those rejections tucked away in my pocket.
In college it was the boys. Like the time my first major boyfriend broke up with me from camp in a letter. Because they didn’t allow phone calls from camp. Although they did allow college boys to date high-school-age junior counselors, apparently. Or the time I flashed a boy right before he broke up with me, to lighten the mood you know? It went like this, we need to have a serious conversation, here’s my boobs, we’re breaking up.
I remember that exact moment. I remember looking at him as he spoke blah, blah, blah, sorrowful words of breaking up, and thinking to myself how I was going to tell my best friend about this (and yes, I did eventually find a best friend in middle school, one who I love like a sister to this day). I would tell her that breaking up felt like dressing to go to the beach, only to find myself in a bikini standing in two feet of snow, facing a man in an eskimo parka with fur mittens.
That’s what rejection feels like. Pasty me, awkward and white in a bikini, standing in a blizzard. Nothing but bone-chilling cold.
As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, “the bad stuff is easier to believe.” And I believed these rejections. I would guess that most of us do.
Winter break my senior year of college my mother suggested I send out letters to every independent high school that looked interesting to ask for a teaching job. Because I had no teaching experience or education classes, of course.
And so I wrote 100 letters of inquiry and mailed them to 100 schools. I hung about eighty rejection letters and rejection postcards on the wall in the hallway right outside my dorm room. Including the letter from L. Ron Hubbard. (Perhaps I’d cast my net a bit too wide.) The other nineteen schools I never heard from.
And the one interview I had? I got the job!
It was my first job, which lead to a string of great teaching jobs and me finding I had a passion (dare I say, a gift?) for teaching. Because it only takes one acceptance.
Ninety-nine rejections and one acceptance.
It only took me one best friend to get me through the remainder of middle school and beyond (although thankfully I’ve somehow made a rich, gluttonous pile of friends over the years), it took only one amazing man to be my soulmate amidst a sea of ne’er-do-wells and assholes, and in the dance remix that was infertility it took only one (okay, four actually) good egg(s) to create the family of our dreams.
And so now, as I head into a new year, a new school year anyway, one in which my youngest child is beginning kindergarten, I am planning to take it upon myself to follow my own advice. Mama needs 100 rejections.
I’m going to follow in the lead of some of my favorite bloggers and I’m going to send my writing to some places. I’m going to write that book and get rejected by a pile of publishers and editors. I’m going to look for some galleries, some juried art exhibitions, see if any public spaces will take an application for a large scale print show.
I’m not alone in this. I look at my friends and think about the ways they’re putting themselves out there. Whether applying for that job, or asking for that promotion, asking that guy out (if the soulmate thing hasn’t worked out), trying out for the old lady tennis league. Whatever. We’re going for it.
I’m going to be rejected. Or at least I’m going to try. Because when I try for those 100 rejections, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?
ADDENDUM: Between writing and editing this post I sent a little something to the awesome peeps at Mamalode and Scary Mommy. And you know what? BOOM! BOOM! That’s what. My first two acceptances!! See that? More info to follow…