Hegel said, "What history teaches is that men have never learned anything from it." In order to avoid repeating mistakes, at the end of the year instead of New Year's resolutions, I take inventory of what did and did not work. The first half of 2014 was brutal for dream chasing. I spent a ton of energy pitching articles to magazines, applying for writing fellowships and residencies, and writing contest submissions -- only to receive rejection after rejection. One residency's description of the ideal recipient seemed tailored made for my skill set and personality. Imagine my surprise when it rejected me saying that I was too ambitious.
When I started blogging on The Huffington Post in August, it felt like water in a desert place -- refreshing sustenance to continue the dream chasing journey. Finally, I had a platform to showcase my writing to a larger audience. I continued to apply for writing residencies and competitions. One fellowship was very prestigious. It started the careers of several contemporary authors and playwrights. I was sure receiving it would catapult me in the literary world. Last week, I received a rejection from a residency on Tuesday. Friday night, the prestigious fellowship finally sent a rejection email. On Saturday morning, I woke up to another rejection from a respected writer's residency. My first reaction was anger. Who sends rejections a week before the holidays? Thanks residency and fellowship Scrooges for ruining my Christmas! The second wave of emotion was dejection, deflation, and despair.
I worked so hard since moving to NYC in 2011. Was I crazy or delusional in dream chasing? As I read Saturday's rejection email, the third in the week, it became too much. I rolled out of bed unto the floor and quietly sobbed into my hands. What was all the sacrifice for if no one recognized or acknowledged my ability?! Literary agents and publishers care less about content and more about your platform (social media following). They want guaranteed best sellers. Maybe I was wrong in my assessment of my writing talent. I sent a text to my circle of friends about the multiple rejections noting that dream chasing had taken its toll. Since the move I made huge sacrifices that affected me financially, my lifestyle, creature comforts, and daily living with seemingly no dividends. Was the sacrifice worth it after all these rejections?
Like Nico and Vinz, I wondered: "Am I wrong for thinking I could be something for real? Am I tripping for having a vision?" Like Frodo's journey of the ring, I left the Shire of Chicago full of excitement and promise embarking on my journey to become a writer and published author. The journey was beginning to wear on me. After reading the three rejections, I lay wounded on the floor sobbing in defeat. The Shire of Chicago had always been a safety blanket of family, support, and security. My friends were like the elves of Rivendell. After my text of despair, they each tended to my wounds, speaking life to my broken spirit, and providing encouragement for me to continue my journey. Chicago was not where I was supposed to be. Take a rest, but do not stay.
I lamented that unlike Frodo, I had no one to accompany me on my journey. However, I did receive a companion. A year and a half ago, I met a native New Yorker. I saw dating as a distraction to dream chasing. Fortunately, despite myself, he stood by me. When I texted him about the rejections, he replied: "You don't need them for your dream. You don't need them for validation. Write your own ticket. Let's strategize. I got you. You'll be a rock star soon enough. Don't worry." He was my Gandalf-Aragorn all in one.
Visiting the Shire of Chicago for the holidays was a necessary respite in the middle of rejection. I walked around realizing that this was the makings of me, but it was no longer my home. My journey changed me. A dear friend I had not seen in years contacted me for coffee. As we exchanged holiday gifts (Auntie Ronda's Snack Mix in exchange for old world chocolates with liqueurs), he mentioned having a book of poems published in a foreign language. Would I consider editing the English translation? Like salve on a wound, this was healing. While speaking to high school students about college and career preparation, another opportunity presented itself. A voicemail: "I work for a snack food vendor. Your Auntie Ronda's Snack Mix is just the type of product we stock. Let's talk."
Christmas Eve was spent with family, eating, dancing, and cooking. I watched in amazement and love as my nieces now young ladies took over in the kitchen baking and preparing the Christmas meal -- tradition passed down. Christmas Day I woke up early and kissed my babies. As my sister drove me to the airport, I would always be Ronda from the Shire of Chicago. I benefitted from that upbringing. Friends' texts for safe travel reminded me that they would always be a rest station during my journey. As I landed in NYC, the plane flew by the Statute of Liberty and lower Manhattan. The concrete jungle may have temporarily knocked me down, but I was by no means knocked out. I will scratch my initials in the city's DNA. I have a good man by my side. We will build each other's empire.
For 2015, do not be afraid of the journey. It can be solitary, but along the way you will find some faithful companions. Last year, I wrote: "2013 taught me that the struggle and pain of dream chasing is where muscle is toned and your true self is revealed. Whether you're seeking love or success, it only comes from hard work, determination, compromise, and getting back up after you fall."