I usually write posts for Growing Up MNL from a position of wisdom and experience, which has caused a little bit of a crisis on my end. Since February, I’ve been nursing a kind of writer’s block rooted in self-doubt and the fact that I haven’t really figured out a lot of things yet. What am I supposed to tell you if I don’t know the answers? Honestly, I didn’t plan for Growing Up MNL to be about answers; it was always about figuring things out and reflecting on our common vulnerabilities. Quite a few have approached me for advice or thanked me for making them feel less alone in their struggle, and though that’s been one of the biggest fulfillments of life, it is also terrifying especially now that I’m feeling lost and dejected.
This post is about figuring out what to do with my life and dealing with rejection. I have no answers right now. Maybe you do! If this is something you relate to, I hope you can share what you’ve learned or maybe feel a little less terrified after reading this. I sure would like to be less terrified.
Attempting to break the cycle of poverty
So here’s the long story short. Not having the safety net of family to support me means I can’t ever be without income. Job equals home and food. Because I’ve been supporting myself from the start, I don’t have enough savings to invest in money-making mechanisms/passive income (like real estate or stocks) nor the means to pursue further education (which will make more and better-paying jobs available to me). Climbing out of poverty is impossibly difficult without a leg up, y’all. I always have one foot in the hole.
So in the past 14 months I’ve been doing two things: 1) applying for scholarships so I can finish my master’s degree and be qualified for more jobs, and 2) applying for development jobs that pay well (which are already quite rare to begin with). Here’s a summary:
CAREER STATS Feb 2017 – Present
- Academic applications completed: 13
- Job applications completed: 5
- Total rejections: 8
- Total yeses: 1*
- Total conditional yeses: 2**
- Total pending results: 7
- Total pending applications: 5
*Had to say no because the job didn’t pay enough.
**Accepted by university but no scholarships.
Dealing with rejection when your life depends on it
- Total major breakdowns (lasted 1+ month): 2
If there’s one thing I had to learn in the past 14 months, it’s that rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. Each institution has specific things they’re looking for in a candidate (example, some scholarships favor those who work in government and you have to be extraordinary otherwise) so you could be good enough objectively, but not what they’re looking for. I guess it’s just like attraction. You can be smart, kind and beautiful, pero di ka pa rin niya type. Ouchy. In contrast to my love life, though, my career is swimming in rejections. (WOW?? Hahaha.) But, seriously, I can deal with the former more because rejection in love won’t leave me hungry and homeless.
Even if I knew why I shouldn’t let rejection affect my self-worth, it still did because I’m human and, well, going hungry again always scares the shit out of me. Every rejection makes me feel like I’m one step closer to homelessness and not-enoughness, triggering weeks of anxiety and/or depression. I had two major episodes in the past 14 months, which isn’t so bad I suppose because I handled them better this time. My most recent episode ended just a few weeks ago.
So, as for the question of how I dealt with rejection, it seems like the answer is not very well. But the things is, I also didn’t stop trying. I continued to apply and put myself out there. I continued learning to deal better. I saw the recent depression coming miles away so I told those close to me and asked to see my therapist. Recognizing the signs and talking about it with people I trust helped validate my fears and feelings, which interestingly also helped keep the depression from breaking into the house of my mind. It rapped persistently on the windows, but it stayed outside.
Many have told me that it’s pretty admirable that I don’t know how to give up. I wish I could attribute it to being unfazed and bravely persistent but, really, it’s just me being absolutely clear that I will miss 100% of the chances I don’t take. And every chance is a possibility for me to finally be free of the specter of hunger and homelessness and not-enoughness.
On a practical note, I am taking on side jobs to save more so it won’t hurt too much when my contract with my current job ends in June. I am also applying to all the jobs and scholarships I believe I’m qualified for— no longer letting self-doubt get in the way of my chances. There’s nothing left to lose when your ego steps out and takes one for the team.
Am I a bad person?
This is the question I’ve been asking myself everyday lately. I find that the aftermath of my latest slew of rejections and consequent depressive episode is that I’m not very interested in others anymore. From 100% I went to about 15%, which comes out in rare and surprising moments of giving-a-damn that usually happens when I’m feeling calm and optimistic. My 15% doesn’t choose so I find myself being indifferent, sometimes snarky, even to those I care deeply about. I feel super bad about it not even a second later but I really can’t help feeling indifferent. I’ve been controlling the snark but I still can’t get myself to care. Objectively, I know that focusing on yourself is probably a normal, maybe even primal, reaction to having your source of sustenance threatened. In this case both my sustenance and self-worth feel threatened. I feel enormous guilt nonetheless.
Trying to not make people feel my indifference has also resulted in me retreating very very deep into the house of my mind. I was happy not talking to anyone for the five days of Holy Week break and still only reply for a couple of minutes to people online then disappear. I usually can’t spend more than three hours interacting with people. I try to keep up a veneer of normalcy and composure, but I know those who know me best see through it. (Thank you for loving me still.)
I can’t wait to get my old self back, but I have a feeling she’ll come back when things are stable again. I know that the many many solitary hours of planning ways to move my life forward is what I need for the next few months. Honestly, I still don’t know if I’m a bad friend for doing this for myself, but I believe I have no choice at this point because this is the only way I’ll feel in control.
Is it okay to be selfish first?
This is where I’m ending for now. While applying for jobs and scholarships, I’ve also been working on Growing Up MNL and a new project. For the former, I’ve asked many beautiful people to talk about their experiences with various physical and mental illnesses that we should all learn more about. I’m excited to hear their stories and ask for your patience while everything is cooking. The new project is separate from Growing Up MNL and will not require too much reading. Haha! I don’t want to give away too much for now but it’s super exciting and planned to be released in June. It’s going to be fun, funny and probably a little shocking. Wish us luck! ❤️
I hope you all had a restful weekend. It’s so hot holy cow. Sweaty hugs!!
Thumbnail photo: Taken by P. Espina, Romania Oct. 2015