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.

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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.

7 comments

  1. reading this was strangely comforting. recently, i tried out for something that my parents were convinced i would get, and when i didnt, they said it was fine, but i could still sense their disappointment. i guess its just nice to know im not the only one experiencing failure. sometimes, its so hard for me to live up to the expectations everyone has for me and my own expectations. there is this immense pressure to do everything and be the best at it.

    sorry for kind of going on a tangent, its normally really easy for me to open up, but for some reason i havent been able to talk to anyone recently. anyways, thanks again for sharing your experience~

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seriously? This white, privileged kid goes to Stanford University and he’s upset for not getting what he wants? Sounds like a familiar narrative.

    Like

  3. Hey hey! Laila here! Josh, I really appreciate you sharing your perspective in this piece. Your ingenuity shines through, which is awesome.

    That being said, I just want to point out that you are a white, cis, straight, able-bodied, thin, affluent, young man, getting your education at one of the most elite universities in the world, in the most powerful country in the world. So like, it’s ok that you didn’t get Tree. I think you are right that for some people it can be helpful to stay positive if they’ve been denied an opportunity, especially if they know there will be literally 100 other opportunities instead. But for others (i.e. my Black younger sister who suffers from mental illness and learning disabilities), opportunities are more scarce and rejection much more daunting. In fact, rejection can be a curse, even with the most positive mindset. Take, for example, some trans* women who are rejected from their families and forced to live on the streets, often times being coerced into sex work. Or perhaps ex-felons who, having only been in possession of a few ounces of weed, find themselves unemployable and face rejection after rejection, leaving no other option than to engage in crime and land back in prison.

    Perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but I do think another way to cure a case of the blues is to put things in perspective. As someone with essentially all of the privilege, a little rejection here or there can be humbling in the best way, and a good reminder to be thankful for the things you already have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Laila! Thank you for sharing your point of view– Love love love that a conversation has begun 🙂

      I know I didn’t author this post, but I just want to jump in here as a Dear Reader myself. I worry that by saying Fagel– er, Josh–‘s rejection isn’t “as bad” as it could be if he had been born into another body suggests that his slumpy feelings are invalid. It sucks to be rejected from anything, really, no matter who you are or what the thing is. I don’t believe it’s constructive or relevant to compare Josh’s rejection from Tree to a trans* woman’s rejection from her family. I think it’s safe to say that Josh has been extremely humbled by his experience, as suggested by his full admittance of the fact that the sophomore slump has been “rough” for him. That all being said, it certainly never hurts to see things from a new perspective, so THANK YOU for that!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. For a person with your kind of personality (I have a ton of people that are very confident and exude a sense of perfection almost), that took massive balls to admit something as personal as this. I applaud that. Just keep grinding and you will for sure score every shot on goal (soccer reference).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this post. I really needed to hear this. Good luck on all of your endeavors Josh, hoping everything works out!

    Like

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