Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rejection, Grief, and the Search for Direction

I am in a place where the eye does not see.

That line from Avatar keeps floating around my head. It keeps floating because it feels like I have been abandoned, by dreams and hope. It feels like I've been abandoned by light itself.

On Friday I got an email from one of the doctoral programs saying I was rejected. To be fair, it was kindly done. It was as compassionate as such an email can be. They had only so many spots. It was very competitive. I had a very strong essay. They were very sorry and looked forward to watching my contributions to the field from afar.

After I read it I was in shock. I couldn't hear my son asking for me. I couldn't think. I didn't know what I was seeing. I put on Sesame Street and sat down. I needed to talk it out - figure out how I felt about this.

"I can't believe it." That was my first thought.

"What am I going to do?" That was the second.

"They're going to regret this later." The third.

"Who can I call?"

But it was the middle of the afternoon. No one was around. People were working. I was alone with my son and my heart was breaking. I was barely functional. I didn't want to scare him. I couldn't let myself feel. I couldn't yell. I couldn't scream. I wouldn't allow myself to cry. And I wanted all that. I wanted to pour out every inch of my heart to get rid of that awful, horrible, poisonous feeling inside.

Because it wasn't just about the school. It wasn't just about rejection. It was about what the hell I am supposed to do next fall. 

I can't keep living at my parents' house in a tiny bedroom in one of the most expensive counties in the country. I can't keep subsisting - just making loan payments, and just writing my reclusive heart into ones and zeros. I have to do something. I have to be someone. I have to live up to some standard of myself that has remained out of reach for approaching a decade. I have to make the world a better place. I have to charge down the path of legacy, making my mark with more than sand or ink. I need to ossify that shit so it is impossible to remove - so it is carved into the bigger psyche of America. So I know I am more than shouting in the dark. It is so time.

Eight years is too long to put yourself on hold. It is too long to pretend everything is okay. It is just too long to maintain a lie, a lie that became my glass cage, letting me look out watching as others, my equals in socialization and education, mastered their own successes and left me behind.

If I was lucky they would look past me, forgetting my existence, just a figment of their past life. "I wonder what happened to Alexis?" "Oh, I don't know. She's probably changing the world or something. You know how she is." And then they would move on with their day, satisfied they solved their question. 

If I was unlucky, they would look down and see my glass box, see me struggling against uncontrollable forces and bounded choices that kept me contained. They would frown, ask me how I was doing, how they could help, all the while congratulating themselves for not being in my place.

"How lucky I am! I never took out that many loans!"
"How good it was that I could live in X city where the labor market was good when I needed a job!"
"How wonderful it is that I happened to study this while in school, and met such and such person, who put me on the fast track to upper middle class comfort!"

Everyone doesn't think this way. Some, I know from their big hugs and flowing tears, genuinely grieved at my rejection, at the closing of a door we thought was the right one. They thought, like I did, this would be a way for my family - a cold, harsh change, but at least a path to success.

Many remind me that I have other options still yet to get back to me. And if I'm honest with myself, I still have at least three books intended for publication this year. I have a bunch of articles I intend to pitch to various online magazines about various things. It isn't really the end. I know that. My mind knows that. But my heart? My heart is still in total freak out mode.

I still haven't answered that fundamental question, "What am I going to do?"

And the reality is, I can't. I don't know what I will do because it isn't clear. The path hasn't been determined because all the pieces are not yet moved. All the tactics are not tested. Everything hasn't been tried. There are things that just haven't come full circle yet.

So even as I freak out, and grieve, and rage, and wallow, I am digging in my heels. I am reading. I am thinking. I am researching. I am trying and testing and moving. This is all I can do, now that the shock is gone and my tears have dried. I grope my way through the darkness, hoping to be seen, hoping to see, always seeking more light.

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