Essays

Rejection hurts

A thing happened to me recently and it has taken me a couple of days to A) understand what happened,  B) why it bothers me, and C) get into the headspace to process / talk about it.

More often than not, I try to keep a positive tone on this blog. There are many reasons behind that, but they sum up into:

  • It helps me maintain the viewpoint I want to have, and truly believe is the right one to have, of the world
  • When you look around, the news / culture we take in is so often dire (“it bleeds, it leads” or my personal fave from WaPo, “Democracy dies in darkness” – thanks, guys!)
  • This writing project is about connection and growth even underneath trying / tyrannical circumstances

But, I am not a Pollyanna and I don’t want to give off the impression that everything is lollipops, skipping in the park, and unicorns farting rainbows. And today, I feel like talking about it because while I’m supposed to already be on the road traveling to visit family, I found myself stuck in bed, ruminating, and feeling exhausted. When I feel that way, I’ve discovered it is a sign for me to stop, breathe, and deal with whatever is lurking underneath.

Rejection hurts.

Dating is always a fraught thing and as I’ve settled into my new routine, I have become thoughtful about it. I know the ongoing battle between “online” or “offline”, you gotta catch ’em all, the rules, whatever, and for me, my personal preference has been to put down all of the swiping and measurements and ‘personal brand projection’ approaches and just live my life. So, what does that mean?

That means I do the activities I find interesting and I talk to the people that I meet as I do those activities, and see how it all shakes out. It also means that I’m super open to people from my past, or friends of friends, because the truth is, that is how the overwhelming majority of my previous relationships started, and why would I not want to meet, or re-meet people who already know something, even a fair amount, about me and are already part of my life? It sounds too simple, right?

It also puts my guard down. (Which, in this context, is a good thing.)

Through background details I won’t go into here, a person that I already knew / was part of my life, crossed paths with me a few days ago. Most of the people I know are still in NYC, but she happened to be down here and I reached out, pretty confident in a mutual level of interest and recognizing that hey, this could be good timing, just to see, just to– I don’t know, take a risk?

We started chatting and here come the typical interactions. Hey, why are you down here, oh, what are you doing for work, etc. This isn’t racy or contentious material. So, I get the question from her of what my job is right now. I respond easily that I’m in finance. It’s not news or anything. Or maybe it is because she responds with:

Oh, I’m sorry.

Okay. Stop.

Stop it! No–

Stop.

Now, at this point, you could make an assumption that I am being sensitive about this. Maybe she was trying to make a joke. Maybe she was making an assumption about me. Fine, let’s play this through.

I give an uneasy “lol, um, I like it…” and she continues on which makes it clear that she that had made an assumption because of some mutual friends, and so she had thought I was in tech. Alright, we’re okay, right?

Then she proceeds to make a comment about how much I earn. This puts me in an awkward position, also, she has no real basis to make that assumption. Then she juxtaposes it against what she does / earns (versus not), which really then clarifies for me that I have just been tried, judged, and found guilty.

And this is when it hurts.

You feel rejected when something that you value about yourself is found to be wanting. When someone looks at this thing that you find beautiful about yourself, whether it is your face or your body or your job or your hobby or your religion or your last vacation trip or your shoes or your sense of wonder about the world — whatever it is, whatever this thing is that you find beautiful about yourself, a person who you have made yourself open to, vulnerable to, disdains. Tosses it aside. Steps on it. Makes it, and thereby you, feel small and unworthy.

I love my job. Is it the entirety of my identity? No. But, I not only love what I do for my current work, I also have a true sense of purpose in how my work does help others and does change the world. For the better!

I know the reputation that finance has and the ease in which the tar brush can be applied to it and its adherents. I won’t pretend that much of that reputation is well-deserved, but not all of it, and not to the majority of the people that work in it. Including me!

The day before I had this conversation with this woman, I had just settled on the school I’m applying to for my graduate degree in finance, because I’ve now figured out “what I want to do” and I am so excited and fired up to learn more, to expand my opportunities, and to reach for some of those bigger goals I have for my career.

It is a beautiful, precious thing to me.  So, when I put this beautiful thing out in front of her, when I let my guard stay down because this is someone who I thought had some basic knowledge of me, that we have mutual friends, and I had knowledge that she was interested, and–

It hurts!

It hurts.

Of course, she is entitled to her opinion. We continued to talk, but my enthusiasm to meet had disappeared, as had hers, for I had not proven to be who she expected and/or wanted me to be. That’s life, right? You win some; you lose some. I don’t intend to let this particular incident dampen my approach either to dating or to life, nor do I intend adopt the stance of ‘woe is unto me, everything is unfair, burn it all down, et al.’

But, it is important to acknowledge that it hurts. That it stings. That I’m a little sad.

That it is a just a little bit gray today for me.

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