Thank You for the Rejection Letters

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I remember realizing that I wouldn’t be going to graduate school last year. I had just graduated a semester ahead of schedule from my undergrad, and I felt ready to keep charging ahead. I was on a train back from New York last January (2018), when I called my dad, balling my eyes out, saying that I had bombed the audition that I was really hoping for. I distinctly remember saying, “I need to move on. I can’t stay at home.” It’s not that I had anything against my home. However, being told I couldn’t move ahead to the next step in my career crushed me a little. My dad made me feel better in a way only dads can, and he said, “you’re finally going to get the chance to experience your youth.” At the time, I thought, I’m not sure what the value in that would be, but I’ll take your word for it.

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As an opera singer, I had been laser-focused in school, had a longterm boyfriend most of the time, and only cared about getting to the next step. My circumstances and mindset served me in a lot of ways at the time. If I was in a sorority or had a lot of opportunities for partying, I’m not sure how much balance I would’ve been capable of. Things were as they should have been.

Similarly, when I didn’t have the opportunity to go straight into graduate school, things were just as they should’ve been. I made the decision to live at home with my parents, find a new job (or four), and try again next year for graduate school. I was dreading it, and I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t go overseas on a backpacking trip, have a spiritual awakening, and claim that I “found myself.” Instead I stayed home, hustled, and had the time of my life. I produced a ballet chanté at a downtown venue, I got my first job teaching music, I made at least ten new, strong friendships, pushed myself to try standup comedy, and most of all, I started figuring out what it meant to build a life of my own.

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There were so many times I felt lost as we all do when we’re young. I was desperate for a boyfriend at one point; I was averse to dating at another. I felt like I had no one to hang out with on a Saturday night for a few months, but I had plans every night of the week before I left. I felt disconnected at certain jobs I held, but I never felt so proud as I did when one of my students overcame their crippling stage fright. Life isn’t a series of benchmarks. I think it’s constant struggle, intermixed with truly precious moments, that keep us going.

Everyone’s timeline is different. It’s a cliché, because it’s true. In fact, I only recently got over being self-conscious about living with my parents. Then it was time to move out. We should all remember that time is only wasted if we squander what is in front of us. Shame is only earned when we give up the fight and sink to the bottom. When the opportunities you hope for do not come in the time you imagined, what you truly need is coming & it might be better than what you imagined. I know it was for me. The unforeseen circumstances gave me the sweetest memories. I’ve done a lot of living this past year. I can honestly say I am grateful for all those rejection letters that made it to my mailbox. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten the one acceptance letter that mattered.

I also would not have met the woman behind the lens of these photos, and get to call her my best friend. I love you Victoria. Visit her website here.

Brady CollinsComment