by Nic Olson
I received my first rejection letter last week. And the second just a few days later. No, not the kind of rejection letter you get from a lady (although I will not be surprised if/when one of those ends up in my mailbox), but the kind of rejection letter you get from a literary magazine after you send them a piece of literature. I submitted to this particular magazine because the process was extremely simple, required no extra effort, and was a fancy publication from the cultural mecca of Brooklyn, New York. I expected nothing less than a rejection letter, however I expected it a few months down the road, when I would have been more prepared to receive it, would have forgotten of my childish dreams to be published in the self-proclaimed greatest city in the world. Failure is seeming to become a more and more relevant piece of my current life.
Humans enjoy watching the failure of others, it is what most entertainment is based on, and is entirely what internet entertainment is based on. It is entirely what the cultural pinnacle of America’s Funniest Home Videos is based on. And although I think it is natural for us to want to gawk at such spectacles, I think it is sometimes good for the human mind to avoid doing what seems pleasurable. A good exercise in restraint.
Failure wasn’t a common thing in my younger days, whether I was too naive to notice it or it happened less often, I cannot say for sure. For whatever reason, this moment of failure resurfaced in my mind last night: In grade six I asked Jillian Frick if she would date me, and she said no. She said that I was more like a brother to her. My crush since first grade—the smartest, nicest, blondest girl at school—and I was destined to fail as the friend she considered as her brother. I wanted to grade-six-date her so badly, which consisted of MSN chatting, an arm around her while watching a movie, and status. When I ended up dating Ashlyn Cooke in grade six and seven, she always got on my case for not holding her hand when we walked to buy five cent candies. The thought of touching my girlfriend never even crossed my mind. Simpler times. I am still simple.
Rejection isn’t something I’ve had to put up with a great deal in my life. A middle-class English-speaking white male in Canada. It is likely for this reason that being a middle-class English-speaking white male in Canada is something I desperately want to fail at. When I think about any of my statuses, I regret my life. Not that this regret will make up for the fact that I’ve had one of the easiest lives of anyone that ever existed, nor will it change the world in anyway, but it might at least encourage myself to change from being a waste of skin, to being a waste of skin that knows he is a waste of skin.
I sent the same two stories to two other magazines, ones in which I actually believed I may have a chance at, at least that is what I’m telling myself now. When the inevitable day comes that those stories are returned to me with a letter that includes a quiet thank you and an encouraging keep trying, I will breathe in the rejection as if I thought it was my fate in the first place. My life of failure and rejection starts now. And if I accept it as such, then it isn’t as tragic as it may seem. Rejection and failure are good for the soul, good for humility, good for what ails you. Nothing cures the disease of middle-class English-speaking white males better than rejection. To be healed, I will keep submitting to magazines far out of my league.