After anxiously waiting six long weeks to hear back on the status of my application from the White House Internship Program, I received notice that I had been rejected even after making it to the final round in two different application cycles.
I was embarrassed that this opportunity slipped through my fingers, but the questions it raised have been more important to me than any golden stamp of approval or prestige. My initial reaction to the rejection was panic that I would no longer be a competitive applicant to top law schools, that my resume would not stand out in a pile of 500 other outstanding job applications. That my concern stemmed from a worry that I would fall behind in some imagined ‘race to the top’ brought my attention to the motivation behind the goals I had been pursuing: goals that focused on advancing myself professionally rather than furthered my passion for empowering communities through education. Deep down, I recognized this about myself, but had been unwilling to address the issue because I was caught up in competition, status and reputation. Because many people don’t perceive education as a rigorous and credible career path, I felt the need to prove my ability by obtaining high stamps of approval. But my real fulfillment comes from working in schools, with teachers, students and families. Thankfully, rejection forced me to question my direction more deeply.
I aim to avoid making choices out of fear, but of course this is still difficult for me and will continue to be, always. I don’t want to spend my time living out the expectations I believe others have of me and I don’t want to desperately chase external validation as a consequence of not believing in my original values or passions.
What I do strive for, however, is to live a meaningful life in which I deeply connect with, teach and learn from others in way that moves both myself and those around me to rebuild a more loving, honest and real world. And for me, education is the best platform through which to activate this type of change. I’m learning to keep this value in mind as I continue to make both professional and personal choices in my life.
I love rejection because it forces me to ask myself, “what now?” and “why?”
It provides me with an opportunity to re-route because something about my previous approach wasn’t working. Rejection — in any capacity or context — can be an opportunity for growth as it challenges us to transform and evolve in order to continue moving forward.
So here’s to rejection — may I encounter more of it in my future and continue to bounce back from it a stronger, more aware individual.