Chargin’ at rejection like it’s a phone at 2%

Annhien Nguyen
Apr 27, 2018 · 5 min read

During the brief time I played softball, my coach said something that stuck with me — and it’s something I’ve been thinking about over the past few weeks:

“ANNHIEN. Why are you slowing down when you see the base?? Run faster!!”

In your free time, try running towards a baseball base. You’ll notice that when you start approaching the base, you start slowing down. It’s human instinct to slow down because you’re approaching an object and you’re like, not trying to die, you know what I mean. And what my coach was telling me to do was to go against all my instincts and keep on running, and not just that, but to run faster.

And boy. Did I feel like I was charging at bases all year this year.

To give you a brief overview, I had a lot of things to do (but honestly, who doesn’t at Cal). These were my responsibilities:

  • 20 units of classes
  • Honors thesis
  • COO’ing for a social impact venture
  • Doing cold calls every week for my own venture
  • Trying be a human being and hanging out with my friends and family
  • And last but not least, trying to find a job.

I died this semester.

And I also got rejected a lot. I got an interview at the House for my venture. Got rejected. I got interviews at firms. Got rejected. And if you know what UGBA 131 is, boy did I get rejected in that class everyday (hi Etter).

But the hardest rejections to take were all my job rejections. This is something I wanted to write about, because I think it’s something a lot of students are going through/going to go through. And I don’t know, maybe this might help.

First and foremost. Dude. Job rejections suck.

My family raised me to think, “hey, if you can’t deal with failure, you can’t deal with success.” And I definitely took that to heart, but after like my 20th job rejection I remember literally staring at my kitchen ceiling and thinking aloud:

“Hey, whoever is up there. You know, I get this whole resilience lesson thing and why it’s important. Honest, really I really do. But damn. Do you have to take an entire year to teach me how to be resilient?”

And it’s really funny because people only see or think about your wins, but really, there is so much behind it. I remember being so happy and grateful just to get a first-round interview/an email that didn’t start off with, “Thank you for taking the time to apply for our program. We really appreciated the time you put into this, but we are sorry to inform you that…”

People don’t see the anxiety attacks you get when you wake up in the morning. People don’t feel the frustration you feel towards yourself. People don’t see when you break down in the middle of the night because you really have zero clue what you’re doing.

And I really took my rejections to heart. I took them as a definition of who I was rather than just a part of life. And to add to this, I felt so incredibly guilty each time I didn’t get anything. I felt like a horrible daughter, I felt like I was letting my family down, because honestly, one of the things I want most in the world is just to get some income to help my family.

And I think in the face of all this rejection, I think what helps, but what is also incredibly difficult to do is to remember to stick to your true north.

To think about what it is that moves you, to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing — because honestly, how can you think about that when you’re remembering how you can lose everything in a split second. I remember ’08 very well, and I remembered that feeling with each job rejection I got. I remembered seeing my mother break down for the first time in my life, and that memory took hold of my heart like tar each time I saw that dreaded rejection email in my inbox. I don’t really want to get to deep into it, but if you get those memories too, here’s a hug to you. You got it.

In the face of all of this rejection, it is so easy to take short-cuts. And it is even easier to want it when everything feels so volatile because you think you’re killing it one day, and then the next day you’re up at 3am working on a problem set thinking, “why did I ever say yes to taking all this work.”

For me, there were three things that I stuck to this year that were incredibly hard to stick to:

  • Staying true to the love of learning. I strongly believe that whatever school you go to, why waste your education by just taking GPA-booster classes? Being in school is such a blessing — and honestly y’all, I could never take GPA-boosters. They really just kill the soul, you know?
  • Standing firm on my decision to take an extra semester to write my honors thesis. Like literally I’m not even going to grad school for this (I think). I just want to do it because when else are you going to have an opportunity in life to just take time to write about something that genuinely interests you?
  • Staying true to what it is that I want to do. Continuing to recruit and only recruiting for places I wanted to work at, even though I was scared of not being able to find a job.

And though I think it was stressful, it honestly really paid off. A year later of all this, I am on a path to getting straight-A’s, have the head of the entire Rhetoric dept. at Cal advising my senior honors thesis (who is amazing btw, hello Prof Boyarin!), and have an internship that I beyond incredibly excited to complete this coming summer.

And I truly believe I could not have gotten all of these things had it not been my dedication to sticking to my true north, sticking to my hope, and sticking to my integrity (or appreciating the power of a hug/phone call from someone I love).

And if I could do a TL;DR of my journey, here it is (and I genuinely hope these three things help you, whoever you are):

(1) Whatever it is you’re doing, do it well. What’s the point of doing something if you don’t try to do it well? Honestly, if you don’t do it well, it’s just a waste of time at that point — so why even say yes to it in the first place?

(2) You always have a choice. All the things you’re taking on, all the things you’re doing, they’re an effect of the choices you have made. Therefore, if you made the choice to do X, Y, or Z, suck it up. Don’t complain, and just do it.

(3) It is the scariest thing, but also the most liberating thing, to know that you always have a choice. That you don’t have to go to X, Y, Z path. That whatever path you create, you create for yourself. And it’s okay to feel scared. Who ever got anywhere amazing feeling safe?

Remember that when you charge at rejection, you also charge at its counterpart— opportunity.

Stick to your true north, because no matter what people think/say/do, you have a choice, and your choice is your own. Keep going against your instincts to slow down. Keep charging towards the base.

Stay optimistic, stay true, have fun, and remember, what’s the point of slowing down if you’ve already started running?

Annhien Nguyen

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