The ultimate rejection letter

The hand of a person drowning in the middle of the ocean (sink or swim).

Four years ago, I applied for a scholarship to go off to study abroad during high-school. The scholarship was everything I’d dreamt of and more; a utopian location, a demanding program, the prestige that came with being part of something like this and -most importantly- it was abroad, which had been my dream for years.

Boy, was I excited. This was my chance! Finally, my dreams would come to life, I could already picture myself in that movie-like school with preppy uniforms surrounded by people who, just like me, dreamt of actually making a difference and succeeding.

So I worked my fingers to the bone on my application and hit send. I still remember how excited I got when I found out I’d made it to the second round. If I managed to make it to the next one, I was in! I tried to stay as cold as I could by telling myself It would be a miracle if I got it. But the more people insisted that there was no one better for this than me, the more I started believing it myself. I was going to make it. Why wouldn’t I? I was a top student, class valedictorian, I’d won writing competitions, I practised swimming, I cared about the world around me and aspired to make a difference… I swear I could practically feel the fabric of the uniform against my skin.

And then an e-mail came in. They regretted to inform me that my application hadn’t been chosen for the next round even though I had a high score (not high enough, my 15-year-old self guessed) and they invited me to consider applying again next year. By the way, here’s a document where we evaluate why you didn’t make it! (Yeah, that last part, well-intended as it was, felt like being stabbed).

I was heart-broken, I was so convinced I was going to make it, so sure this was the start of something great for me that learning It wasn’t going to happen left me crushed.

You see, now I would love to tell you how after I moved on I managed to get great marks in high-school and went abroad to study what I liked and fulfil my dreams. But that didn’t happen either. What happened is that even though I got very good marks in a highly-demanding program I didn’t get in the degree I wanted and now I’m heading for my plan B.

These days, I’m constantly afraid of seeing my teachers and relatives and having to explain to them that I didn’t make it, again. I can hear their voices whispering with pity behind my back about how I keep trying to bite more than I can chew. I wake up every day wondering whether if one day I’ll achieve at least half of what I aspire to, feeling like I’m not good enough, like I should set my goals lower, like I will always be that guy who never makes it to the third round.

I keep telling myself to not give up, shake off the dirt and carry on fighting. But It’s tough to work without getting results that make you feel closer to a victory. I wish I could say something about being on some road of self-discovery and retrieving my confidence, or give a list of tips on how to cope with failure and rejection. But I can’t do any of those at the moment.

All I can say is that I’m still standing, even on the bad days. Life’s tough, but I keep looking for ways to get through the day.

If this hits close to home, I want you to know that you are not alone, that some days are going to be harder than others and that's okay, as long as you keep waking up every day ready to fight or, at least, just to keep standing.