Winning isn't everything but it sure doesn't suck

I didn't get into the creative writing AND fully funded graduate program at the University of Arizona. I've actually let that sink in for a few weeks as I've known since the end of February. Here is what they emailed me:

Dear Jenice,

The Creative Writing faculty has made its selections for incoming MFA candidates and I am sorry to say that we cannot offer you a place in the program.

These decisions were more difficult than ever with our new commitment to being a fully funded program and not admitting more students than we can fund. That means we have had to turn away many very talented writers in the process. The volume of applications we receive makes it impossible for us to give commentary on application manuscripts, but please know that our faculty reads every application with interest and diligence. These selections are challenging when we see so much promise out there. I hope that you each find the path for your work to find its way.

I wish you all the best with your writing and send my thanks for your interest in our program.

All best,

Alison H. Deming

Professor and Director of Creative Writing Program
Department of English
Affiliated Faculty, Institute of the Environment
University of Arizona
P.O. 210067
Tucson AZ 85721
520 621-3250

I realize that I shouldn't feel this way, or at lease I've been told repeatedly not to, but I felt like a complete failure. However when I read the email my first reaction wasn't failure but relief. If you read my previous post, you know that everything in my life changed drastically and I chose to not move to Tucson. If the university accepted me, I would have had another dilemma that would have left the relationship I cherish in the throes of long distance. There was a blessing in the rejection. But once the relief washed over me, my heart still sank at the thought of being a "failure."

I've been rejected for a number of things or positions I wanted in the span of my 36 years and I know most of you are no stranger to rejection either -- unless you are one of the phenomenal few who seem to "get it right" every time. I wanted so much more for myself and my education. I saw all the homework I was actually looking forward to and working diligently in a subject I've been doing my entire life. Visions of late-night paper-writing danced in my head and went poof into a puff of imaginary, magical smoke. But I also realize that a fully funded graduate program means that exclusivity is paramount to success. Yes, I know. And it was pretty easy to decide that I failed. Why? Because as beings we instinctually recognize our placement in life. Even animals react to leadership roles in their existence -- the alpha and who follows behind. When we compete, we naturally strive to win. But does that even mean anything in the long run? Especially when we are now seeing a generation that receives an award even if the child didn't place in the top three. Where there are no first-place wins. Is that a better existence?

There is much to learn when you "fail." You see where your emotional strength is, how you cope with not getting what you want, who continues to be in your life even if you are not "successful" and what you are capable of in the next chapter of achieving your goals. This is the blessing because if loss isn't experienced, you don't get the benefit. It is as important as winning or obtaining a specific goal -- there is a specific benefit. We misinterpret failure by taking it personally. We tend to look at ourselves unfavorably when we don't get what we strive to obtain. This isn't about low self-esteem. Again, as breathing beings, we naturally want to succeed. The biggest blowhards go on and on about how winning isn't important but somewhere, internally, that person wants to win at convincing you about this. Yes, I found that sentence important because I don't believe in fooling ourselves!

I didn't write this post to justify not getting into that program. I write it as recognition that yup, I failed to get in but have realized I have misinterpreted failure for a long time now. If you believe in fate, I will tell you that because of this I am meant to move forward with other dreams I've held close to my chest for years. And with support, no matter how long it might take. I even spoke to someone in the creative writing department who loves my photography work and we struck a pleasant conversation that fueled my belief that my art is viable and appreciated. The thing about failure is that it pushes you over the cliff of possibilities. I am not a big fan of the "if one door closes" yadda, yadda. You build the door. Or open the window. Hell, make a tunnel in that house of rejection and crawl out of it. We gauge success by what we have been conditioned to believe it to be, whatever that is for you -- money, power, political advancement. But no one can take away what you believe is successful for YOU.  

There is no timetable to get it done other than your own death and that's not morbid -- it's the truest reality, not the false stories you tell yourself or about yourself. If you are destined to achieve what is possible in your life, it will happen. Even if it is in the nick of time.