I had it all planned out. I paid and took the expensive Kaplan course to improve my GRE scores. I tracked down three of my favorite professors so they could write excellent letters of recommendation for me. I set aside some money for the application fees. I labored for three months to get my personal statement right. I would move to California in the fall, finally leaving cold and gray Boston behind without so much a glance back. I could already feel the sun kissing my face and hear the beaches singing sweet love songs to me—assuming I would see any of this as a student. But, in any case, I was going to get my PhD in sociology like I had always planned. Cue life chuckling and saying, “Yeah, right.”
Hell, I’m laughing right now as I write this.
The first rejection pinched me hard, but I shrugged it off because there were still others to wait for. Then the rest of the schools sent standard rejection letters starting with “I regret to inform you…” It would be an understatement to say that I had kind of lost it. I cursed God, I cursed myself, I cursed the universe, and I cursed the people who didn’t exist to tell me what I could have done better. I fell into a deep depression, hated my life, couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror, and scribbled angry letters of death and frustration in my journal, making the point of the pen rip through the pages. I isolated myself from peers, and took my anger out on my family through quick snaps and displays of very limited patience. I thought I would stay an angry loser forever and most likely take my life because I would never accomplish my dreams. Cue life chuckling and saying, “Yeah, right.”
I’m nodding my head in agreement with life. Yeah, right indeed.
I woke up one day and knew I had to make a choice: Either I stay angry, or I properly mourn my failure and move the hell on. I chose the latter because I love life and no, I don’t want to die. And I don’t really believe I won’t ever accomplish anything. I had a setback and I had to come out of it stronger, wiser, and a better person. Writing my novel was the only thing that kept me sane, along with keeping my faith, which I had to find after tossing it aside
Then it hit me. God doesn’t owe me anything. The world doesn’t owe me anything. No one owes me anything. If I don’t get something, it’s not because there’s this secret vendetta against me or I’ve been robbed; it’s just life. Life happens. And when it does, I can’t let my mind create these unrealistic, negative scenarios that my future is set in doom and gloom. I’m still disappointed, but it’s okay. It’s in the past and I’ve already set plan B into motion. I’m more dedicated to getting my book published and actively seeking a better job. I’m taking the time to breathe and let it go. Let it go.
I feel like I’ve been hearing these three words more often than before, and it’s not because of the movie Frozen. It’s because it’s true. I had to let go of California, the schools, and the beautiful weather. I had to find some way to live through the uncertainty of the future. To keep living even though I would not be experiencing the expected results of some well thought out plan. To keep dreaming and keep hope alive no matter how small or fragile. And I had to remember the bad times when I got through and lived through some good times afterwards. That things would get better.
It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. We can make it. We will survive. But only if we make a conscious effort to do so. We need to put a stop to the negative films our minds are playing and replace them with more hopeful ones.
I’ve mourned my failures—I’m all grieved out right now—and moved on.
I feel a whole lot better.
What about you? What do you do when setback hit? Would love to hear your thoughts.