By Erick Rommel
Catholic News Service
One of the most emotional moments of your life will be when you walk out of your college dorm room for the last time. It’s undeniably powerful because you are literally closing the door on one path and opening the door to another path of life.
In my case, I left something behind that door. Taped to the wall was a rejection letter. To the person who sent it, it was nothing more than a few words telling me they weren’t interested in considering me for a job. To me, it was a letter from someone who didn’t know what he or she was missing.
That letter is one of many rejections I’ve received in my life. It’s what happens after those moments that shape the person we become. In that regard, I am no different from you, and we are no different from those we hold on pedestals.
Back in 1979, RSO Records sent a rejection letter to Paul Hewson. They felt his band was not suitable for a record contract. Today, Hewson is better known as Bono, and his band U2 has been one of the most popular in the world.
The same happened to Madonna in the early 1980s. The president of a record label refused to sign her, saying she wasn’t yet ready. Soon after, she took the world by storm and never looked back.
Musicians are not the only ones who face rejection. Anyone who applies for a job, an internship or project stands to face rejection. Rejection is painful, but it isn’t always bad. Those who received those letters proved the sender wrong. They exceeded expectation.
When I closed my dorm room door for the final time, I left that letter behind, but not what it represented. Its memory continued to motivate me. In less than a year, I had a job better than the one I had not received and I started on a path to become the person I am today.
What if things had worked out differently? That letter hung on the wall of my dorm room in Pennsylvania. It had been sent from a business in Idaho. What if I had received that job? It’s doubtful I’d be sitting where I am today. It’s doubtful my life would have unfolded the way it did. Maybe it would have been better, maybe not. Regardless, it would not be the life I currently enjoy.
The same is true for every rejection. What if U2 had been signed to an earlier contract? What if the person who rejected Madonna had decided she was ready for a career? Would we know them as the great artists they are today? What if they had given up? What would have happened to the people they inspired?
Every rejection is the equivalent of a dorm room door closing for the final time. It’s a moment when the path that we set to follow shifts. We can’t judge what would have happened on the road not taken, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look back at what might have been.
Be reflective. Question your failures, but also question your success. Don’t get trapped imagining a world that never existed. Don’t ask, what if? If you do, you’ll miss the next great moment to come, and you won’t be prepared for the way it will change the direction of your life.
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Copyright ©2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.