I Get Knocked Down.
In high school, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call one of the “popular girls.”
I don’t know. It probably had something to do with my frizzy hair… purple braces… geeky glasses… lack of fashion sense… tendency to blink during photos.
Take your pick.
My posture says it all, I think.
All. That. Denim.
So it’s not a total mystery why popularity evaded me.
Regina George totally would’ve complimented my jean jacket.
Nevertheless, I somehow managed to keep up a plentiful supply of deluded self-esteem. I’d develop a crush, absolutely certain that this boy would notice me back — that this crush would be different — that this crush wouldn’t crush. But inevitably, it always did.
But when I look back on my denim-covered self, the sense of embarrassment I probably should feel eludes me. Instead, I mostly feel impressed. Impressed by that girl’s ability to take the hit and keep on truckin’. Her uncanny knack for cyclical deniability. The magical way she was able to wear her jeans so high.
Of course I was blissfully unaware at the time, but that period of my life was like a hardcore preliminary drill for disappointments yet to come.
Let’s talk for a minute about rejection.
Some people think that because I’m married — and because I’ve been married since a pretty young age — that I don’t understand rejection. And sure. I haven’t had to face a ton of romantic rejection over the years, aside from those angsty aforementioned teen years and nights when Justin eats too much Thai curry (oh wait that’s me), but I think you should know that Rejection and I are actually very well acquainted. Even today.
I face Rejection several times a month — and, when I’m feeling especially motivated, several times a week. I often face him during my favorite time of day, over breakfast, while I’m sipping my coffee and reading my emails with the warm sunlight streaming through my wide office windows. It’s a time of day when I feel safe and warm like nothing could ever hurt me, and then SMACK. Rejection comes knocking. Sometimes he’s subtle, like “Oh sorry to drop in unannounced, but can I please borrow some sugar and maybe a second to dash your hopes and dreams?” And other times he’s super confrontational, like “HEY! Your dog crapped next to my lawn this morning, and it really makes me want to PUNCH you. In the BOOB. With a WIFFLE BAT so it physically hurts a little, but mostly it’s just humiliating. Oh, and I also want to smash your aspirations with my FIST. DO YOU HEAR ME?”
Sometimes he pops up on my phone at the most inopportune times, like when I’m happy, and just relaxing with Justin and some friends and maybe some really great food and wine and then there he is — not even asking if he can come over but just telling me he’s on his way and that he’ll be bringing that girl no one likes and mostly he’ll just be rude and make everyone uncomfortable and fart a lot.
Rejection, it turns out, is an unfortunate side effect of wanting to try all of the things.
I’m telling you this because it’s easy to imagine in this pristine, virtually communicative kind of world we’re living in that, aside from the people who suffer from severe public Facebook depression, everyone else’s lives are perfect and Pinterest-worthy and Rejection-free. We think that the likelihood of rejection decreases with age. Like pimples.
And that’s simply not true.
As a writer, I sometimes allow you to witness the bigger stuff, like my mini blogger breakdown and my bout of depression and that time that counselor made me feel like the dumbest, most worst person in existence, but what hardly anyone ever talks about are those regular little speed bumps — like when, halfway through hanging those shelves the other day, I had to sit down on the floor and cry from frustration because one of the screws — the last screw — wouldn’t tighten securely, so I sat down and cried because sometimes I can’t handle my emotions and the only thing that can help is a sixty-pound mutt trying to crawl into my lap while licking my face.
Or when I frequently get turned down for opportunities by an industry I’d really like to break into.
That hurts. I’m not going to lie.
And no matter how familiar I become with the feeling of exclusion from a clique — no matter how many times I tell myself, “It’s okay — I don’t need them. I’m meant to machete the shit out of my own path. Conformity is for the feeble,” on the inside, a sad and vulnerable little part of my brain is still asking, “But why don’t they like me?”
But then I remember that girl with the braces and denim, and I know why they don’t like me. They don’t like me because I don’t fit in. I find niches suffocating and confinement scares me.
And maybe that girl can’t tell me much about the world. And she certainly can’t tell me how to dress or do my hair.
But she can tell me that thing she’s been telling me from the beginning.
She’s telling me I can get back up.
I can always get up again.
“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba