On February 28, Josh Fagel, personal friend and ex-prospective tree, posted a Facebook status that received over 730 likes. In part, it read:
As you may or may not know, I tried out to be the Stanford Tree this week. I didn’t get it. In fact, I haven’t really gotten anything I’ve tried for lately. I’ve been rejected from every single summer internship and campus job I’ve applied for, and now the Tree, which requirements seem to be identical with my personality traits. And let me tell you, it f*cking sucks.”
Click HERE for the full status.
You may remember the video Fagel and I made for his Tree Week campaign, in which he went around shouting Snapchat superstar DJ Khaled’s mottos at visiting tourists.
Back in March, I asked Fagel to expand upon the thoughts that fueled his Facebook status for a CiC guest post. (Clearly if 700+ Facebook friends deemed it worthy of a little blue thumbs up, I wasn’t the only person with whom his message resonated.) And given the influx of emails I received from heartbroken readers who did not receive an offer of admission into Stanford University last week, I thought now would be the a good time to share his incredibly honest words. Though he focuses mostly on the sophomore experience, everybody can learn something from his perspective.
Take it away, Arq.
Seeing the Positives of Rejection
Any email titled “Job/Internship/Stanford Tree Decision” makes me feel incredibly anxious. I’ve already thought about how qualified I am. I’ve already measured myself up to my friends who are applying to the same position. I’ve already thought about how my friends who help make the decision wouldn’t screw me over.
But then I click on the emails, just to read the word “unfortunately,” and I immediately “x-out” of my browser and rest my forehead in my hands.
After 2 weeks, spending 200 dollars, falling behind in all my classes, waxing my body, pouring a trash can of piss on my head, and eating a banana peel out of the Sigma Nu trash can, I’m told that I will not be the Stanford Tree, a position for which the requirements seem to align precisely with my personality traits.
Nothing before this year prepared me for rejection on this scale. I was incredibly self-confident– one might even say cocky– in high school. In high school and freshman year, rejection was easier to swallow. Perhaps it was because the jobs I got rejected from weren’t realistic positions, or maybe I just wasn’t that excited for any of the potential jobs. This year it’s been different.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m decently optimistic and that I rarely show signs of being sad. Yet this year, I have had six nights and counting that I have excessively cried alone in my room. I have had days when I don’t feel comfortable even making small talk with my best friends.
And the reason is simple. Everything that I have pursued this year has been something that I sincerely want to do, and every position I’ve applied for, I considered myself close to an ideal candidate. And let me tell you, being rejected from these kinds of positions f*cking sucks.
When you, your family, and your friends convince you that you’re the ideal candidate for something that you really want, any rejection is taken personally. “Is it because I’m mean/lazy/stupid/annoying?” are the kinds of questions I’ve been asking myself lately. These questions are parasites for my well-being, leaving me mentally exhausted, socially awkward, and academically unmotivated. Rejection can make everything else in life worse.
Is it because I’m mean/lazy/stupid/annoying?”
Through all the pain and sorrow I’ve experienced, there’s been one hackneyed phrase that has gotten me through it all. And that’s:
“Everything happens for a reason.”
It sounds like a cheap way to cheer someone up. But it’s so much more. With this mindset, I’ve seen rejections as opportunities. Not becoming the next Stanford Tree will allow me to study abroad. Not getting counselor at Camp Kesem will allow me to travel to Israel at the beginning of summer. Not being an RA, (an opportunity from which I was forced to voluntarily withdraw due to campaigning for Tree Week) will allow me to drink more than once a week next year!
So yeah, the sophomore slump has been rough for me. But I know I’m not the only one. When I have a tough time, I’m open about it. But not everyone is, and that’s totally fine. What I ask of all of you is to make sure the people you care about have this “everything happens for a reason” mindset. None of my friends knew about my mental breakdowns, and I’m one of the most outgoing, extraverted, and annoying people on this campus. So check in with the people you care about, and show them that rejection is only a curse if you let it be.