“Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
When I first started out as an actor, I faced a lot of rejection.
Auditioning was an excruciating and nerve wrecking experience for me – add rejection to that and it was definitely an “insult to injury” type of experience that made the process both extremely daunting and discouraging.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I got inexplicably nervous before auditions. I didn’t like feeling shaky and cold (what in the world?) before and after. I didn’t like feeling like I lost control of myself. Why couldn’t I get this under control? It definitely wasn’t a matter of preparation or practice. Or even self talk.
I got frustrated & angry with myself. What is my problem??
Was it a matter of talent? I had to question my whole impetus to act. Maybe my peers, acting teachers, and self analysis were wrong. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for acting. The string of rejections was telling me something. Wasn’t I getting the message??
It was sobering to consider the “reality” before me and the possible choices that I had. THIS was what I dreamed of doing, what I felt made to do. But if I couldn’t get past the audition phase, I would never get to the next step, namely a stage. An audience. A story to tell.
So I got a coach. My coach helped me prepare for an audition for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” I read for Candy, the prostitute. I think I only said one line, “McMurphy! You damned McMurphy.” But I killed it. It wasn’t so much the line, but I became Candy. So I delivered the line, all badass sexy, and then I leapt into McMurphy’s surprised arms, wrapping my legs around him. It was a spontaneous decision, unhindered by fear, that made magic happen.
When I got off stage some of the other actors were clapping and I got a few high fives. I was on fire. I knew the director was impressed. I was going to get the part.
Only I didn’t.
But, damn, McMurphy, I didn’t care. Because I was Candy and I was great. I knew it wasn’t me this time. It was them. And it was their loss. So I moved on to another audition and a much better role. Which I would not have gotten if I had been offered Candy. You know, sometimes, it’s best not to take the candy when you can get the main course.
And I wasn’t afraid anymore.
I realized something really valuable then and have reflected upon it many times. Those rejections were enormously important in my own growth as an actor, even as a person. We all take different paths to our goals and to self-realization, but mine necessitated rejection. Coaching, practice & preparation, heck, even talent were not enough for me to get through to the other side. I had to go through the pain of rejection. Several times. Nurse my wounds. Because it was painful. Take sober inventory of myself. Pick myself up. And try again. A different way.
And then, I found strength and my own value.
My son needs to go to Summer School in order to retake a course he failed. Because he had an excellent experience at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) two summers ago, this seemed the obvious choice. He thrived in their structured environment, away from the many distractions of home.
So I paid the fee and applied. There are many hoops to jump through in the application process and numerous people to coordinate in order to jump through those hoops. Not a small task. I devoted the time (many hours!) and effort (many emails, calls, forms) needed to get everything done in a timely fashion.
Then I received the rejection. “No, we cannot take your son.” What?
But he’s already been there and has a proven track record of success.
But Fork Union is exactly what he needs in his life right now.
NO, NO, NO.
I felt angry, misunderstood, and wrongly discriminated against. I stepped up my efforts by going up the chain of command. They weren’t going to budge.
I was so upset. But even so, because I had had my Rejection Experience, there was something in the back of my head that told me, “But something better is around the corner. And you need this door to close in order to get there.”
So in my fury, there was a glimmer of hope and anticipation.
I asked for help. I opened my mind to other options. Other schools.
I am indebted to the rejection that led to the dialogue that came forth, the compassion, help, and useful suggestions that poured forth. If nothing else, do we not get to measure the wealth of our friendships in these moments of need and desperation? I thank you all who stepped up and spoke up. You are amazing.
And a better option has indeed presented itself. For this summer, my son will be attending a smaller school that will be able to give him structure he needs, but serve it up on a more personalized plate. I have high hopes in Fishburne Military School and look forward to hearing about his experience there.
Maybe I ought to send FUMA a thank you note. 😉
Sometimes, you don’t get the candy because the main course is coming. And it is much, much better.
If you’re facing rejection, the pain is real, palpable, unbearable sometimes, but amidst that pain, it is my earnest wish that you will also feel the glimmer of hope that something great is coming.
And, if you’ve experienced this already, I want to hear all about it. Your stories encourage us all.
The main course is coming, people, get ready… and, Bon Appetit!