Well, it’s finally second semester. The studying and stress of first semester has ended and now we’re back and ready to do it all over again (Why don’t we ever learn?). Because this is the time of year when college applications come back and when college students are going through the various processes of getting into sororities, fraternities, and other organizations, I’ve been thinking a lot about dealing with rejection.
Before I get into the details, I should mention that I did get a bid from a sorority at the end of recruitment last year. I accepted my bid thanks only to encouragement from one person (thanks, Karly). If you are admitted to an organization: congratulations! I hope it brings you the strength, love, and acceptance it has brought me, but even if you do end up with a bid, there’s a lot of rejection involved in the recruitment process, and this is what I learned from that and other similar experiences with rejection.
During recruitment, you talk to what I would conservatively estimate to be a billion people. You are supposed to be yourself, genuinely, and socialize with them so that you get to know each other. As an extrovert, talking to new people for three days sounds like a ton of fun, but unfortunately I didn’t think of it that way. I thought of recruitment as three days of convincing people I was worthy of being loved and accepted: three days of wearing an, “I’m just like you!” sign on my head. Every time a particular house didn’t invite me back, I took it personally, and racked my brain for when exactly I had revealed that I wasn’t good enough.
I knew better than to think this way. I had even been told by my RA (Thanks again, Karly) not to think that way, but I didn’t listen. No matter what you know as a reasonable person, there’s a certain thrill to being wanted and accepted, especially by people whom you admire. The feeling of being loved or wanted and it’s opposite, rejection, are so powerful that they can be responsible for some of the best and worst experiences. It’s like going to college, in a way. You’ve probably never had so much energy and friendliness and downright fun going on right outside your door, but you’ve also probably never had someone throw up in your bed. Sometimes you’re having coffee with a guy who wants to be a photographer who tells you five times how beautiful you are, other times you’re bleaching mascara stains out of your pillow because you’ve been crying yourself to sleep every night for a solid week. Can’t have the highs without the lows.
Not to get too far afield, my point is this: like so many other things in life, trying to get into an organization or a college has a rational side and an emotional side. Rationally, you are aware of the following facts, so aware, in fact, that it may bother you that I even took the time to type them out:
- You do not want to be part of something that—for whatever reason—doesn’t have room for you.
- The decisions that organizations make are based on severely limited information and cannot say anything about your merits as a person.
- The decision not to admit someone is never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (I could go on) taken lightly.
Just because you know those things, it doesn’t really make the emotional side of rejection any easier. After recruitment, in addition to being emotionally exhausted, I felt really, profoundly sad. I couldn’t explain why. It took my mom pointing out that even though one sorority had accepted me, several others hadn’t, and getting over that was going to take time.
After you face something painful, the world can seem like a really unfriendly place. Everything you might have brushed off before seems to cut a little deeper. I often get frustrated with myself when I can’t immediately bounce back after something painful happens and I have to just walk around feeling fragile. I hate feeling fragile. I’m not a damn leg lamp. It sounds trite, and maybe I’m reiterating it as much to remind myself as I am to anyone who might be going through recruitment or something similar right now, but the raw emotional reaction will eventually subside, and you’ll be left at the conclusion your rational side reached before you even submitted your first college application or sat down at your first recruitment party: everything is going to be fine. Your heart will heal, you’ll start to get better, and everything behind you will pass from view.