Holly Richardson: Rejection is part of the human experience

Author J.K. Rowling poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them' in London, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Her original manuscript for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was rejected by 12 publishers. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

“You don’t have what it takes to be a nurse. You should seriously consider dropping out now.”

Ouch. Those words cut deep. I was at the end of my first semester of nursing clinicals, and those were the words spoken by the professor who was supervising my rotation. I cried. A lot. But, I did not let her wash me out of the program. I graduated three semesters later and passed nursing boards on my first try. I was 19 years old.

I was reminded of her biting comments on a recent thread on Twitter asked for people to share some of the awful comments made to them on their college work.

Some of the answers include “Once I got a paper back with the comment, ‘Stopped reading after the third paragraph. Pointless.’ It was a ten page paper.” or “In a meeting about why I didn’t get into the school of music: “We’re looking for already baked cakes that only need frosting and decorating. You're just a bunch of raw ingredients.” Ouch again.

Or, there was this one:

“I had a professor in a Creative Non-Fiction Writing class tell me to “stick to what [I] know that way [my] writing won’t sound so forced. It was about the birth of my first child.”

I know most professors are not like this, and I know that this types of biting critiques are not limited to the academic world. Rejection happens to everyone, in a myriad of ways. It’s part of the human experience.

Some of my recent rejections include: being told by a publisher that they weren’t interested in a book about serving others. Apparently, my having a large family plus doing service made them feel guilty, or so they said, so no book deal. BYU Education Week rejected my proposal for a class with no explanation. Even though I have a master’s degree in professional communication, I was rejected by a Ph.D. program in communication.

What happens next, though, is probably more important than the what, why or how of being rejected.

Although some Twitter responders changed majors because of the negative feedback they received, many did not. The thread is a testament to believing in oneself and sticking with a dream. Also, karma was in full display.

One tweet read: “I don’t remember specific comments, but my International Marketing prof gave my group a 72% on our case study project. 5 years later, as a professional copy editor, I edited his PhD dissertation”

Another was axed from the graphic design program of a local university, went to New York where he won awards designing for a publisher and now has begun designing for the very university that rejected him.

Another had a professor who told her she would amount to nothing and asked the student to help her (the professor) figure out how university could not accept students like her. She (the student) is now an attorney.

Jack Canfield’s idea for a book with short, feel-good stories was rejected 144 times before “Chicken Soup for the Soul” was picked up by a small self-help publisher. J.K. Rowling was told to keep her day job. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell was rejected because there was “no market for animal stories in the USA.” “The Greatest Showman” was rejected repeatedly because musicals were no longer a successful genre. Walt Disney was fired because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Rejection can be a great teacher and motivator. Lick your wounds and try again. Fail faster, as they say. As for me, I applied and was accepted to a Ph.D. program in political science at the University of Utah. I love it. And, I’m going to write that book anyway.

(Photo Courtesy Holly Richardson)

Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, has been rejected more times than she can count, but has been accepted and cheered on more times than that.