Volume 2, Issue 21: On Self-Rejection

Hi friends! First of all, if you missed reading my first Alta Journal newsletter piece you can now read it on their website. Second of all, my wife and I just had a 5-day vacation about an hour and a half up the California coast. I, being the person I am, had a lot of big plans. I was going to read. I was going to write. I was going to play my ukulele. I was going to do jigsaw puzzles and make Nicole play Scrabble with me. We were going to do yoga every day.

I did none of that. Well, I read a little. But mostly, I stared at the water. In my defense, here is a photo of the sunset, taken off the back deck of the place we stayed in:

Turning off my brain was hard, partially because of my OCD but also because it is not something I ever really do. I’m always thinking of a million things and planning a million things and doing a million things so I forced myself to just… sit.

We also went into the nearby town and walked around. Went to Cowgirl Creamery, a Bay Area institution and makers of one of my favorite cheeses (Mt. Tam, if you want to know). I had a grilled cheese from there that was probably the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten that wasn’t made by me. We popped in and out of a lot of the shops and ended up buying some gorgeous stationery by Pepin Press from a couple of the art galleries. I also went bananas with the dried heirloom bean purchases because multiple places stocked Rancho Gordo beans so if anyone has any beloved bean recipes, I’m happy to hear about them. We also dipped our toes in the ocean, which was freezing and wonderful.

Of course, because capitalism has traumatized me, part of me is like, “I didn’t rest fully enough. I didn’t vacation ‘hard enough’,” whatever that means. But when we got home, I noticed I actually feel a bit lighter and, dare I say, motivated to do things other than hide in a pillow fort. So I must have done something right!

Anyway, today I want to talk a bit about self-rejecting. I’m defining self-rejecting as:

“Denying yourself of something or telling yourself ‘no’ instead of giving someone else the opportunity to tell you ‘yes.’”

Note: please don’t reply to me with the Sheryl Sandberg Lean In anecdata about “women applying to jobs only when they’re 100% qualified” because it is not based on research and it is much more complicated than a tempting sound-bite. Besides, this newsletter is free of gender assumptions. If what I say helps, then I am glad.

I used to say, “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man!” but in truth, I do not want that. I do not want to merely recreate what people with privilege have and instead I want to disrupt the whole thing. Clearly the people who are running the show have not done a good job so why would I want more of the same except for me in that position? C’mon. Let’s think better.

I guess what I am saying is, shoot your shot. Don’t tell yourself that someone won’t want to publish your work before you even try to get it published so you don’t even try in the first place. Don’t avoid writing or podcasting or making your art because you assume people don’t want it. Don’t avoid applying for a job or role because you don’t feel you’re a perfect fit because we’ve already talked about how perfection is bullshit.

Yes, rejection is hard and so to save ourselves from other people’s rejection we go ahead and pull ourselves out of the running before it even begins. Sometimes, we don’t even show up. We don’t even put our shoes on to leave the apartment because we don’t want anyone to say, “What you have is not for me or my organization etc.” The idea of rejection has become so unbearable for many of us but I promise you won’t die because someone says, “Eh, your work is not for me.”

If people actually died from someone turning down their work, I’d be dead hundreds of times over. My undergraduate degrees are in Creative Writing and Musical Theatre Performance. This means that I spent most of my college life getting rejected in short story writing workshops, singing workshops, screenwriting workshops, acting workshops, poetry workshops, and the like. “But Patricia, you were in a learning environment!” Look: What if I told you that all environments are learning environments? Right now, wherever you are, you are in a learning environment if you care to be receptive to the lessons.

Self-rejecting is simultaneously denying yourself success and joy while also denying yourself an opportunity to learn and improve.

Yes yes, “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done,” and no, that was not actually said by notorious racist and rapist Thomas Jefferson. If it was, I wouldn’t repeat it because fuck that guy. Doing new things is scary! The idea of being rejected is scary! I am always scared that eventually someone whose opinion I care about is going to jump up and say, “Your writing, Madam, is garbage.” Yes, I am scared and I stay scared and do the thing anyway. Do things scared. You’ll be fine. Allow yourself the opportunity to succeed. I’m rooting for you.

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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