Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Learning to Love Rejection Season

by Sara Duchovnay

Here we are again, Sexi Sopranos! ‘Tis the season for rejection letters! In 2013 I wrote a blog post about my own particularly gratifying coping mechanism for dealing with rejection, and now, two years and many, many rejections later, I would like to share my slightly revamped system with all of you.

I collect my rejection letters. They sit in a special email folder and part of me feels slightly excited when I get a new one. Allow me to explain:

My teacher in undergrad told me a story about how as a young singer living in New York at the start of her career, she was rejected so often that she was able to use her rejection letters to wallpaper her bathroom. Though I loved the quirkiness and irreverence of that idea, in my opinion, it was lacking in actual pay-off. I’m someone who enjoys attaching special meaning to things. I am also someone who loves researching and dreaming about exciting purchases. If there is anything that excites me almost as much as getting hired to sing opera, it’s jewelry. I decided that I would begin collecting my rejection letters, start saving a little extra cash for every rejection letter, and when I reached 50 rejections, I would purchase a special piece of jewelry for myself. This item would serve as a daily reminder of my perseverance and fortitude in the face of rejection. It would also take a bit of the sting out of being rejected, because I would be one letter closer to my sparkling reward. 

Here are two major tenets of my system:
  1. A freelance career is a numbers game! It is a given that you are prepared, talented, wonderful, unique, and bursting with your own special magic. You are still likely to experience a good deal of rejection, because being rejected is simply part of your job! That’s just the way it goes. Get used to it. Think about dating: just because someone is attractive, accomplished, and interesting does not necessarily mean that you will want to have a relationship with them. There is nothing wrong with them, they just aren’t the person for you. There is a certain “something” that you either feel or you don’t. That same person might be a dream come true for someone else! Auditioning is the same way. You just have to get out there enough times until you find yourself in front of those people who feel that spark when they hear you sing! A very wise friend and colleague once explained this in a wonderful way. She said that every role is meant for someone. If you don’t get the role, it’s not a failure on your part, it just was meant for someone else this time. Sometimes, that role will be meant for you.

  1. It is totally ok to reward yourself for not “succeeding”! Getting the gig already feels great! You don’t need to reward yourself for that...that’s the easy part! The hard part is being rejected and continuing to put yourself out there! How many people go through what we go through on a regular basis? Treat yourself! You deserve it!

Want to start your own Rejection Reward System? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A shiny new email folder marked “rejection letters”
  • A shiny new savings account or one you already have. The important detail is that it must only be used for this purpose. You cannot just dip into it whenever you want. You ABSOLUTELY cannot use it toward application fees and/or work-related travel!
  • Rejection letters

Each time you get a rejection letter, contribute some money to your rejection savings account.  When, and only when you reach 50 rejections, you may use the money that you have collected to treat yourself to something special. You can celebrate the fact that after 50 rejections you are still standing tall, resolute, committed to your career, and ready to be rejected another 50 times!
When I go into an audition and look down at that tiny sparkly band on my right hand, I am reminded that being rejected is far from the worst thing that can happen to me. Handling rejection is a commonplace annoyance that is part of my job. It has no power to hurt or deter me from my goals. When my rejection ring catches my eye in rehearsal or performance, I feel proud that I didn’t let the fear of rejection keep me from finding the opportunities that were meant for me.
Two years later, I am also in a different place in my career than I was when I first began collecting. Most of the time these days, my rejections don’t come with a letter, they just come in the form of never hearing anything. This provides me with a chance to write my own emails to put in my rejection folder. I use this as an opportunity to reflect on the audition and collect data. I often write myself notes about what I sang, what I wore, and how I felt. Sometimes I write objectives for my next audition. If I received feedback in the audition, I write that down too.
It’s not that rejection isn’t upsetting. Especially around this time of year, it’s very easy to become discouraged or to feel like your rejections define you. The truth is that they really don’t. How you handle your rejections is what defines you! In my opinion, there is nothing more exciting than someone who doesn’t allow rejection to deter them from their dreams.
This rejection season, be proud of the courage that allowed you to even be in a position to be rejected! You are already winning!