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Moving Forward After Hearing “No”

Despite all of the times in life we’re reminded of how great we’re doing, there are definitely the others that make us wonder if, how, and when we’ll get to where we want to be. We’ve all experienced it — you sit down, make yourself comfy, open your laptop, and plant your eyes on a screen that’s as blank as your mind feels. Or maybe it’s not a blank screen, but instead another rejection email from a job or opportunity you were hoping to land. And now you’re questioning if the vision board or action plan was even worth creating if it’s not coming true. Determining what we want and then charting a course to get there. It’s how we graduate with a degree that helps us land our ideal job, decorate our home, or even write a novel. But what about when we do all of this and still get denied, turned down, left out, or simply told, “No,” regarding some aspect of our dream?

At one point, it felt like I was eating roadblocks for breakfast…

When I was on the cusp of graduating from high school, I got a devastating, bitter taste of the word “no.” I lived my entire teenage years around this awaited moment… the moment I would break the seal of my acceptance letter to my dream university. The moment where I would confidently say I was attending the school I had my sights on for 5 years and the letter would validate my professional accomplishment. That moment did not come. I was instead faced with a rejected application. What I spent years dreaming about wasn’t going to happen… at least not when I wanted it to. With a broken spirit and feeling of embarrassment, I had to dedicate my efforts to search for that one elusive “yes” that would distract me from allowing rejection to define me. 

I eventually accepted the “no” as a favor in disguise and decided on another university that recognized what I had to offer in that moment. I made a plan to only spend two years there. During these two years, I would build my academic transcript and begin working on my great escape. This also gave me the chance to shift my focus from how I messed up to how I could become better. I was determined to finish my college career at the school I promised myself. I owed it to my teenage self to see it through. And I did just that. To be honest, the Universe did not make it easy. At one point, it felt like I was eating roadblocks for breakfast. From owing money to the previous school, to failing one of my required courses (the north remembers, Professor Toula), to taking 18+ credit hours during my senior year. It drained me, but somehow energized me simultaneously. Rejection fueled my conviction.

Yes, these disappointments are an intricate part of our growth, but I’d be lying if I said they don’t tend to affect our inspiration along the way. It’s unrealistic to be completely calm in the face of a setback. After all, we’re human and humans feel. However, you don’t have to lose grip of your inspiration or drive because of it either. I believe that those pivotal no’s happen for a reason — perhaps not for a reason we may understand right then and there, but one that will unfold over time. 

Although rejection may be a part of the journey, it doesn’t have to be the outcome.

It took me years to realize that while “no” may be a discouraging response to a dream, it can be translated into more productive phrases: “Not right now,” “not this way,” or “this doesn’t truly fulfill me.” I recently came across an old PowerPoint slideshow (showing my age, I know) that I created in 2010, as a hopeful 17-year-old girl. I noted that I would attend that dream school, major in Psychology with a minor in Journalism, and I’d rent my first apartment by my third year. I must admit, I let out a cackle reading this “manifestation.” It’s funny how we try to say or predict where life will lead us. But ultimately, those unforeseen setbacks can launch us back on our intentional path, or even direct us on a path that is better than anything we could’ve imagined. Remember, although rejection may be a part of the journey, it doesn’t have to be the outcome.

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