“We regret to inform you that your piece will not be accepted for publication.” My eyes saw the remainder of the text but my mind did nothing to configure the combinations of words and punctuations. I slammed my laptop shut and folded my knees to my chest, just sitting their in absolute silence. But it wasn’t silent. In fact, my thoughts were about to overwhelm my poor body, shouting hurt and crying nonsense.
You have to learn to accept rejection, a part of me thought.
Oh shut up, I groaned inwardly.
Hear this: few things feel worse than having to console yourself with words everyone tells you to believe in.
For the remainder of that day and even the next few, I wallowed in self-pity and questioned the worth of one of my favorite works. It was a piece that came straight from my heart, as all usually do; a tale infused with memory, wisdom, and self-realization. It was a story inspired by one of the greatest and strongest beings in my existence thus far. It was personal.
How could it have not been good enough?
I felt anger, but had lost the ability to pinpoint what exactly made me feel such agitation. Was it the rejection? The people who sent it? Or was it the look of indifference on the faces of those who had no idea how this loss affected me? Or was it just…me?
Writing is my passion, but did a rejection on a story that contained just a fragment of my soul mean I wouldn’t be able to become what I so greatly desired?
I groaned again. There were so many questions. And I hadn’t the answer to one.
I suppose after that it might be easy for someone to believe I gave up. I mean, society often says that dreams are but fleeting ideals pushed out the door when the reality of failure sets in. The pursuit of futile hopes is a common reason for people to settle for something else.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of settling or giving up on who I believe myself to be, makes me cringe to a depth I cannot pronounce.
But I’ll admit, for a second, I became just like so many others. I had failed. I saw how it would be to put hope in what I produce, and then I felt how it was when the fragment of who I am was turned away. You see, rejection is a bitter seed planted in the garden of your faith. Faith in what you do. Faith in the world. Faith in who you are. In that second, I gave up on what took years to realize about myself. I nearly quit on being me. And I will admit to you an absolute truth about me: nothing gives me greater fear, than losing the person I’ve created.
For a second, I was traumatized. For a second, I was cowardly. For a second, I lost all of my senses.
And then, that second passed. And I realized that there was no way on this earth I was going to let the script of a computerized note describe who I want to be. One moment will not define my potential. And not even a hundred instances can deter me from achieving what I so greatly aspire for myself.
So I continued on. I set forth to recreate a stronger grasp on what I want to be. In that next second, I had refused to give up on myself and on all that I have envisioned for my life. I refused to be the norm, and I sought to be me.
Two months later, I began the planning stages for a new creation. It would be a project to help others, define my passion for writing, and epitomize what I yearn for my dreams to achieve. Summer arrived, and at the precipice of its end came the launch of Sunset Dahlia.
Exactly a year after my rejection, I received the news of my first publication, a short story called “A Change of Scenery.” It’s a short tale of heartbreak and how I came to find myself in the world, realizing that nothing else can define my life when it has always been my desire to create something greater.
After more months of ceremonies and book events, I continue to work on projects and submit to more places with a multitude of pieces and greater dreams. I’ve received more rejections since then, though my reactions aren’t what one might assume. I now smile in the face of failure. Because if it wasn’t meant to be, then something better will come along. I believe that, just as I believe in myself.
You see, failure is a precursor to success. We must have it, just as good must have bad, and as Yin must have Yang.
There was a time when fear incapacitated me; my lack of success stifled me into surrendering my dreams. But that is what so many others do. That’s what people do when they’ve given up on who they are and what they want to become. I nearly let myself become the norm. I almost settled for this life.
This one life I can never redo.
I fell before I even peaked on the roller coaster of success. And then, I fell again. But it wasn’t actually falling— for this time, I was prepared for the downward plunge. This is how our resilience is tested. Many beings give up because their greatest fear is that they won’t ascend the rails again. But I can’t give up, I won’t. If I let every challenging time or inconsequential judgment deter me from my dream— if I yield even once to life’s defeat, then I have stopped believing in myself.
And one thing I’ve learned: I never cease to believe in who I am.
-Kiran Bains Sahota