Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daily Rejection and Transformative To-do Lists

Perhaps one of the hardest things that any person or creature has to deal with is rejection. No matter how independent or laissez-faire we may be, it still hurts. To put yourself out there only be turned away, turned down or simply ignored. It bruises your ego, brings on self-doubt and breathes life into that inner critic that you've spent your whole life trying to ignore. In my former job, I had to write grants to raise all the money needed to run my programs and pay my staff as well as my own salary, health insurance and fringe benefits. Actually, I had to raise that plus an additional 22% that went to the organization as a whole. The only outlet I had was foundation grants. I couldn't go door-to-door asking people to donate. It takes a lot of time and energy to write a good grant proposal. But even if you write a proposal that is a work of art, you still have about a 10% chance of it getting funding. Even though I knew that funding decisions were incredibly impersonal, every single rejection letter had it's own distinct and painful sting. After five years, when I finally left that job, I swore I would seek out a new situation where financial panic and constant rejection were not part of the daily grind.

I'm not there yet. Applying for jobs when you are a stranger in a strange town is far worse than supporting your work through foundation grant writing. Instead of getting rejection letters every few months, you get a rejection letter every single day. Sometimes multiple letters in the same day. Often they are form letters, but every so often you get a personalized letter telling you, even though you were not chosen for the position, how impressed they were with your cover letter or resume. These are the worst, because they lift you up just a little higher only to find yourself falling a greater distance when it sinks in that yet another job you could have really done well has disappeared into pile of countless other jobs that you haven't been hired for.

Here is what I have been learning: 1. Before now, I have been tremendously fortunate in my professional endeavors. 2. It can be even more draining and stressful to be unemployed than to be over-employed. 3. Job hunting is a full time job that doesn't pay. 4. Waiting turns you into a zombie. 5. It is far easier to survive with no money in the mountains than it is in the city. 6. Even in the city, soup beans and cornbread still taste good and keep the belly from grumbling.

I have two different kinds of days: 1. "Productive days," spent composing and submitting multiple cover letters and resumes - sometimes up to 8 or 10 a day. 2. "Blank days," spent laying in bed, staring at the ceiling feeling and thinking nothing. Seriously feeling 100% blank and hopeless.

I am hoping to kick myself into gear and have myself some creative days. Blue Artichoke, one of my best pals since childhood, has been making a list of new things to do/try that corresponds with the number of years she's been alive. I am working on a similar list myself of things to do my first year living in oregon. This gives me until October 1, 2009 to complete the list. For the most part, they are new experiences. I only have 15 so far, which means I need 17 more to equal my age. Send me your suggestions.

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