You’re absolutely in love. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. You give your whole heart and soul to make it work, showing up day after day as your best self, not holding back. And then….it’s over. You’re rejected. You’re told that, in fact, it’s not working. It could never work.
What do you do with it?
I am a professional dancer. Anyone in the arts will tell you that being rejected is a frequent experience. You show up for an audition and get immediately cut. You work with a company for several years and then are told that it’s no longer working. On a superficial level, the question “what do you do with rejection” could be answered with “you persevere” or “you give up”. But in my opinion, that’s only the beginning of the story.
Let’s just assume you persevere--that you love your art enough to continue to practice it. The next question is
Can you learn from rejection?
Are you so hurt that, to protect your ravaged heart, you must say to yourself, “Those people who rejected me are fools. How could they possibly not see that I am in fact perfect for this?”
Or can you ask yourself instead, “Those people who rejected me are wise and knowledgable. What about this gig is a poor match for me?”
Notice--I am NOT suggesting that you ask yourself “What about me is not good enough for this gig?” That is likely the default question. “Why am I not good enough? What is wrong with me?” And our brains explode with sadness and self hatred. My experience with those questions is that they led me to work extremely hard to fit in. I trained so hard that I injured my back. I ate so little that I barely remember several years of my life. I felt so anxious that woke up in the middle of the night again and again. Perhaps, if I were a less motivated person, I would simply have been miserable, rather than miserable and broken. Regardless, not a very fruitful path of action.
So what if you ask instead about why the GIG is not good for YOU? Then you arrive at a very interesting moment. How can you create the perfect gig for yourself? What does the perfect situation look like for you? The situation where you can truly show up as yourself, bring all of yourself, flourish creatively. What if the problem is not that they are foolish or that you are not good enough, but that you and your perfect gig have not yet met.
It was these questions that lead me to vîv. As a dancer who does not like being told what to do, I yearned for a company that was more creatively collaborative and where the dancers had more agency. It has been a tremendous amount of work, and also a beautiful success. Yesterday in rehearsal, we finished a dance. It is a dance that was born out of sweat and laughter and boredom and delight and the creative dreams of 7 brilliant women. We will perform it next week in a show that we have organized ourselves. We will share our work with friends a colleagues and family. The applause as the curtain goes down will be deeply satisfying--perhaps more than it would be after a gig that I struggled to make work. Instead, we are making ourselves the perfect gig.
And now, just for the fun of it, let’s apply this to relationships. Even if back at that early crossroads, you chose to give up your art rather than persevere, it’s unlikely that you’re going to choose to be single and fly solo for your whole life. So--you’ve been rejected. Your relationship is over. (Romance, roommates, friendship…) What now? Can you step back, hold your broken heart, and ask the hard questions that help you create a better relationship next time? I hope so...
For more information about vîv's performance, click here.