“One step forward, two steps back.” I never understood that saying.
But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Sometimes, you try to move on from something and you really, really think you have: you’ve conquered your fear of getting a bad grade or you’ve decided you’re not scared of public speaking–yes! You are done! You are liberated! After days or months or years of being chilled by this devious whim of your mind even when the physical problem is gone, you’re like, really done!
And you are resilient to all the flashing lights trying to catch your eyes. You think you don’t care until–
You didn’t realize the flashing light was the flashing STOP hand on W. Woodruff and College and some dude just slammed into you and now you’re lying on the ground, back to square one.
I guess I’ve been feeling a little like this lately. I’ve had a great semester so far (I mean, the world has to make up for 2016 somehow), but there’s no such thing as constant smooth sailing. There are little rejections here and there: not getting that internship you wanted, getting a bad grade in your best subject, etc. (There are bigger rejections too. I think those aren’t physical, though, but they’re definitely included.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about how, when I was younger, rejections didn’t throw me on the ground as much as they do now. They all say that when you’re young, you’re imaginative; you’re indefatigable; you move quickly, never dwelling on a single heartache for too long. But as you get older, they say you lose your sense of wonder, the emancipating thought that life stretches far ahead, full of possibilities and different pathways and room for development.
The biggest difference in college is that everything feels too real . I mean, I feel like my actual life is starting now. Who has time for dreams?! I need to get a job in corporate finance! So every rejection now feels very make-it-or-break-it . You didn’t make that acapella group? Well, it’s time to give up singing because you’ll never make it ever and who cares that you like it or that it relaxes you or anything! That boy rejected you? Guess what–21 years is all you get and if you haven’t found your soulmate by now you’re probably just going to be single forever so focus your energy on being nice to your roommates so you’ll have people to live with when you’re old and lonely! You didn’t get into that frat? Too bad–there are literally no other ways to make friends or have fun in college or in life!
Yeah, yeah, I was exaggerating.
BUT WAS I? Because thoughts like those constantly run through my mind, but very, very subtly, never taking a full form of a thought, but giving me the same feeling as the explicit thoughts would.
What I am trying to do now is to retain the sense of wonder and excitement that I had before I was slammed with standardized tests and “practical careers” and the terrifying idea that after college, I’m not going to be young any more.
In economics, specialization is supposed to maximize society’s overall output because each individual person is doing what they do best. But you can’t specialize in yourself . Human beings are comprehensive. We aren’t narrow; we aren’t one thing; we aren’t make-it-or-break-it. And just like we did when we were young, we can’t let one rejection make us lose our wonder with a subject or a field or an idea.
The only thing different between then and now is that now we are legally adults and required to act like them. Really though, it’s just been a couple years since high school. We haven’t lost the feeling of romanticism in the world. (Let’s get this straight: I’m not romanticizing rejection . Ugh. Gross. I deeply dislike rejection. But I think it shouldn’t take away our romanticism.) And I really think that we ought to hold on to that as much as we can, just to remember that there’s more to life than cubicles in suburbia.
No offense to cubicles in suburbia, or anything. I’d just rather be in a cubicle in Barcelona. And preferably not a cubicle. Maybe a cafe or something instead.