1. I didn’t get bangs.
Breaking up with friends is harder than ending relationships.
We don’t expect ghost stories to make sense. Neither do eating disorders. That’s not the point of either thing.
Rejection sucks, and I think you should still shoot your shot.
Not even joking, I was single for the first 25 Valentine’s Days of my life. I loved every last one of them.
Opinion: I don’t think one-sided love is as uncommon and embarrassing as people think.
I’ve gained weight, and it’s complicated.
Before we proceed, I need you to appreciate this meme and the brilliance that was Randy Jackson’s judgment on American Idol. Let us never forget that he saved Jennifer Hudson and brought her to the finals. She went onto upstage BEYONCE in DreamGirls AND win an Oscar for it. I get it, you didn’t come here for J-Huds IMBD page, but trust me, this ties in.
Randy also said, “It’s gonna be a no from me, dawg” a lot. I’ve heard “No” a lot. I fancy myself a good loser. I’ve lost enough that I understand that we are defined by our behavior when things don’t go our way. That doesn’t mean rejection doesn’t suck. There’s a sharp pain in the shattering of our hopes. How deflating it is to permit such free elation only for it to pop. I’ve had plenty of practice at people passing on me. Please enjoy the list below of things/ people who have rejected Marisa McGrath:
- My 5th, 6th, and 7th grade play productions– I WEPT when I didn’t get into the 6th-grade play.
- My high school newscast
- When I applied for my first job out of undergrad, I submitted 241 applications, went on 41 interviews (34 in person), traveled thousands of miles and finally received four job offers in total. That is a failure rate, and BOY did I feel like a failure at the time.
- A man with the charisma of unseasoned oatmeal and the personality of a cardboard box.
- A therapist broke up with me after two sessions (technically halfway through the second session) because I’ve “been through a lot” in my life.
- Boston College
Rejection hurts like a bitch. I don’t like to curse in my writing, but this is intentional. I use an exploitive because pain ejects our grittiest language. The bad, the muddy– it assumes sound when hurt. Acknowledging your disappointment is healthy. We place this irrational premium on being happy all the time, but frankly, happy is overrated. Break yourself open to uncomfortable emotions, to processing honestly. The more you do this, the more in touch with yourself you become. Hard feelings aren’t obstacles to overcome but part of personhood itself.
I know this is counterintuitive, but I react to rejection better when I put my whole self out there. Whether it is a job, my writing, or a crush, I beat myself up less when I know I gave that my best effort, that I didn’t appear as some affection but as my true self. The act of authenticity reminds me that rejection is about fit as opposed to “right and wrong”. Maybe that fit wasn’t right and the universe knows better. Because I don’t want to be somewhere that rewards an act. I don’t want my artificial self to be what is wanted. A genuine effort also pries me open for other opportunities. I’m less wed to an idea I’ve cultivated in my head, and more resilient in the aftermath. Being true blue is a deeply vulnerable choice because when someone says no to me, they are saying no to me. Yet, I’ve done myself the tremendous favor of no longer trying to “figure” opportunities and people out. If it flows organically, it will find me. Rejection is a redirection. Our response to rejection is really the same as our response to the uncontrollable. Can you meet that which is out of your hands with grace? Can you trust the timing and trajectory of your own life while still daring to put effort into it?
There’s an interim before the redirection reveals itself. The soft grief of what I hoped would be haunts me. It’s empty in the interim. All I can do is be positive, to meet disappointment with compassion. I know this sounds cheesy, Reader. This sounds like I’ve plagiarized from a Chicken Soup book. But I believe that when you experience pain and name it for what it is– you empower yourself to ask the following: I can make the radical decision to meet hurt with kindness. So, I do. Whether that was advisers of the organizations who did not have space for me, people who aren’t interested in seeing me, hiring managers who selected other candidates– they all receive my sincere warmth. Everyone is a flawed and fragile being who just wants to be seen and cared for. Why can’t I be one person who does that? It’s a shitty, cold enough world without me making it worse. I try to make it better. I’m not perfect at it, but if I can let people know that I will not penalize them for doing what they felt was right, I have a human obligation to that. Perhaps there is another time or capacity where the opportunity makes more sense, but in the immediate rejection, I have to let it go with tenderness and grace.
I feel like I cheated to arrive at this place, though. I palate rejection well because I am not seeking validation in my pursuits. The job is not me. The associations are not me. My lover is not me. I am my own definition, my own language, my own metrics– a self-contained labyrinth only in search of other things to multiply my existing light. When people nourish their own souls, when we participate in the grueling labor of fulfilling ourselves, we can recognize and chase the want without being defined by its result. Rejection is about the rejector, not the rejected. There are entire histories and contexts we have no right to behind the decision delivered to us. Your job is not to solve the history, but to move with the message.
Reader, resist the urge to reduce yourself to “game playing”. Advocate for yourself. Tend to yourself. Don’t exhaust your energy on having the upper hand. Having the upper hand signifies that you are less connected. That hand was meant to help others, to dig into the dirt, to give high fives and thumbs ups and here you are– so invested in looking superior. It is such a heavy weight. Drop it. Please, for your own sake. Drop it.
I’m not saying you don’t have to take things hard. Emotional purging is healthy. Cry and scream and mourn the things you desperately wanted, but life would just not gift to you. You are entitled to that. Know, through your pain, that better things are already finding you. Every closed door is just wall space along the corridor to the archway awaiting you. There are second and third acts in the wildness of this life. Jennifer Hudson lost American Idol only to go on and win an Oscar. So, be a good loser. Because I don’t know what winning at life is (I’m 25. I barely know what life itself is), but I know it isn’t keeping score, holding grudges, harboring hurt. Take rejection in stride because the right things will see you beam, “It’s gonna be a yes from me, dawg”! You deserve every wondrous yes on the other side of rejection.
The ethereal hum of my friend, Kristen,’s voice floated through the dense air. Her words, a cocktail of yoga rhetoric and Beyonce lyrics, sailed through the field of bodies already veiled in sweat. I’ve done hot yoga before– a handful of times. It was always at a different studio. I work out almost daily, but even in the presence of a mirror, something is always obstructing my view. Other bodies, equipment– there is always an intentional barrier distancing me from my full self. I own a full-length mirror. I’m not blind to my appearance, but in public, in motion, I’ve taught myself to avert my gaze.
But here I was, at Beyonce Yoga. And there I was– staring back at me. The heat paneled my skin matte and luster. My heels dug into my mat, each a tree trunk beneath me. Each of my legs a thick, infinite vine, my arms equally endless. My breath was the metronome steadying the normal staccato of my heart. As I rose in transition between poses, I looked at myself in the mirror. I didn’t hate what stared back at me.
I don’t remember a reflection of myself I didn’t scrutinize. If you’ve read my writing before, you’re familiar with how much I contemplate this. I don’t remember a time when weight and clothing size and the amount of space my body consumes didn’t consume me. The looping obsession of thinness has occupied so much precious territory in my brain. As I grew into adulthood, I dared to loosen my grip on thinness, to explore what would happen if my purpose in life wasn’t how little of me could exist in the world. I found body positivity. Largely, Body Positivity has been liberating for me. At the same time, themes of being “at home in your body”, “your body is beautiful”, Dove Beauty campaigns with curvy and white and able-bodied women with big grins don’t always resonate with me. My body isn’t beautiful all the time.
My body is not a metaphor. My body is my body. Nothing about this is a series of words intended to underscore its significance. The significance of my body is that it houses my indomitable spirit. I dislike flowery language in relation to bodies because the more words between the subject and the verb, the further away the subject becomes. And the truth of our bodies is that they are always the closest things to us.
Bodies can be lonely places. So often, they become graveyards where we hide things in plain sight. Our pain nestled in the shallow graves of tense shoulders and expanding waistlines. My body has been a wasteland, a crime scene, a rustbelt city I was desperate to leave, someone else’s instrument who was just lucky enough to get played. My body has been everything other than a body.
I never considered my body outside of how much space it consumed. I never knew bodies like mine were allowed to exist without the pursuit of weight loss. I never knew how to exist in a space with other bodies without comparing mine to theirs. But here I was, doing exactly that. Doused in sweat, soft midriff on full display– there I was, right in front of me.
The purpose of this essay is not to hail my body. It isn’t to gild what is flesh. The intention of this essay is to say that I saw my body for the first time through a lens other than hate, and I saw that it didn’t have to be pretty or adorned or anything other than exactly what it is. And suddenly, with all that weight and pressure evaporated in the heat, I inhaled. My lungs grew wide.
I always thought I would be daybreak—something pastel and ripe.
I mused myself a rising sun.
Obvious in my radiance,
Glazing over a honey-hued sky.
But I think I’m more midnight than daybreak.
I fled from this,
Parceled myself in prettier pieces.
But I’m night.
Plum-blackberry Rorschach, complex.
Midnight is equally riotous and secretive—
A backdrop for what is afraid to be seen.
And in the undesired hour, starts are born,
a celebration of illumination suddenly bursts through the black,
Moon-cycles guide the tides.
And it is still. Divinely still.
There is light and life on the other side of a set sun.
My whole life has been a wrangling of constellations from brief bursts of cosmic light.