I was encouraged to be perfect growing up. I was supposed to score a 100 on every test. I took on on other people’s expectations of me since I didn’t have any of my own. When I did score a 100, I felt great. But most of the time, I didn’t score a 100. Eventually, I stopped trying to learn new skills or hobbies because I started to think not doing something perfectly meant I was bad at it. Asian culture is in many ways a shame culture.
How do we achieve the things we want to achieve, such as success? There’s no easy answer or formula. We don’t entirely understand our reasons for success. There’s no clear cut way to learn that skill or reach that goal. Maybe it has to do with practicing or repeating something a lot. Maybe it’s biology. Something changes while we sleep, and the next morning we can remember how to use the phrase we just learned in French class or solve the morning newspaper Soduku puzzle. Maybe it’s luck. Maybe your mom is an executive at a company who is friends with the hiring manager at the place you want to work for. Maybe you’re Elon Musk.
No one highlights failure or rejection as contributing to success. We don’t talk about our failures and instead bury them under the rug. Maybe we’re successful because we failed once. Or perhaps many times. Or because we were rejected, also perhaps many more times. Maybe our rejections teach us how to succeed even if we’re unaware of it.
I’m a big fan of figure skating, and not just because I like the feeling of gliding on a smooth surface and it's something my parents didn’t want me to do. I’m fascinated by how my body continually finds a way to balance even when I’m not entirely conscious of how or why. One thing on my 2020 bucket list is to land a (single) axel jump in figure skating. It’s the hardest jump to land. It’s the one where you jump forward, rotate one and a half times in the air, then land while moving backward. I haven’t even learned the easiest jump - the waltz. So if anyone knows about figure skating here, yes, I absolutely am aiming for the stars here. It’s a ridiculously high goal, even for non-quarantine conditions.
To kick off the ice into a jump, rotate one and a half times in the air, and land successfully on one blade, it might take me hundreds of attempts. It will most likely take years of practice, depending on the consistency and intensity of it. But I’m committing to falling hundreds of times in attempting the jump. I won’t be able to predict how each failure will look like. Each failed attempt will be a unique one. Maybe some will look super embarrassing or ugly.
This time around, I still chase a 100 for what it means to me: discipline, practice, commitment, a grind.
It’s May 2020. My goal is to receive 20 rejections from all aspects of life before the year is over. I’ll broadcast them here so you can help me celebrate my rejections - past and future. This is inspired by #100Rejections, a writers’ challenge to receive 100 rejections of work submissions in one year.
I know failures and rejections are two slightly different things, but I want people to start believing that when things don’t go the way you wished, you still get a bit closer to the goal.
I’m excited to get some really interesting rejections to start bragging about. I’ll be getting rejections for the short stories I submit to obscure literary magazines and maybe from asking famous rappers for an interview - if I’m lucky enough. Maybe Chipotle won’t have lemons when I ask for them at check out (they always run out). Some rejections will just come in the form of hitting cold, hard ice.
Start with posting one about your past rejection. It doesn’t have to be longer than a few lines, and you can share as little or as many details as you wish!
Maybe it’ll be “I baked a matcha cake for the first time and it didn’t have as much matcha flavor as I expected” or perhaps, “I asked the girl I met on Coffee Meets Bagel on a date after quarantine, but she said she only dates guys over 5’11.”
I know my readers are musicians, writers, teachers, software engineers, business consultants, publishers, artists, nurses, journalists, and meme enthusiasts. All spaces with plenty of opportunities for rejection. I’ll congratulate you on each failure or rejection you post. There might even be a special reward for whoever reaches 20 first. Good luck on getting those rejections, because some of you will need it!
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