The Year of Living Rejectedly

2013

Turned down for: freelance jobs and volunteer work; exam admissions and workshop sessions; writing competitions and anthology publications.

Reminded each day: too fat to wear this, too ill to do that.

Told to: leave a house; leave a relationship; leave a college; leave a dream; leave a hope.

Then the Other Day…

…I come across this article: 10 Rejection Letters to Famous People

And I realize: if Walt Disney can be rejected for “lacking imagination” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is just another animal story, if Kurt Vonnegut’s writing samples aren’t “compelling enough” and Sylvia Plath’s poetry needs to be cut, if Stephen King’s manuscript is sent back 30 times and if Abraham Lincoln can lose several elections, then I

sure as heck

can handle

a year of trying and failing, trying and failing, and learning to live rejected.

And so as a symbol of that resolve I’m sharing a poem about the rejections slips received by arguably the best science fiction author of all time. (Who had a great sense of humor too.)

Learned

Dear Asimov, all mental laws

Prove orthodoxy has its flaws.

Consider that eclectic clause

In Kant’s philosophy that gnaws

With ceaseless anti-logic jaws

At all outworn and useless saws

That stick in modern mutant craws.

So here’s your tale (with faint applause).

The words above show ample cause.

Gruff

Dear Ike, I was prepared

(And, boy, I really cared)

To swallow almost anything you wrote.

But, Ike, you’re just plain shot,

Your writing’s gone to pot,

There’s nothing left but hack and mental bloat.

Take back this piece of junk;

It smelled; it reeked; it stunk;

Just glancing through it once was deadly rough.

But Ike, boy, by and by,

Just try another try.

I need some yams and, kid, I love your stuff.

Kindly

Dear Isaac, friend of mine,

I thought your tale was fine.

Just frightful-

Ly delightful

And with merits all a-shine.

It meant a quite full

Night, full,

Friend, of tension

Then relief

And attended

With full measure

Of the pleasure

Of suspended

Disbelief.

It is triteful,

Scarcely rightful,

Almost spiteful

To declare

That some tiny faults are there.

Nothing much,

Perhaps a touch,

And over such

You shouldn’t pine.

So let me say

Without delay,

My pal, my friend,

Your story’s end

Has left me gay

And joyfully composed.

P. S.

Oh, yes,

I must confess

(With some distress)

Your story is regretfully enclosed.

--Isaac Asimov, "Rejection Slips"

Life

Aehl and I are looking for a new place to move to; a few weeks ago, we were held up at gun point on our way home one night and that was the last straw. Apartment living doesn’t suit her health (not that I’m healthy myself, but my issues have little to do with the apartment) and since this is a commercial building, we can’t afford to keep paying commercial rates on our utilities.

For a skeptic, spooky things sure have a way of happening around me. I would pass them off as hallucinations if there weren’t more people who experienced them with me. The latest weirdness involved a bottle of body spray: soon after Aehl packed up an engraving of Quranic verses (is there a special word for religious decor?) the bottle suddenly flew off the desk I had placed it on, right under where the engraving used to be, and smashed with great force on to the floor. Aehl assured me it happened because the bottle was on the edge of the desk even though I was sure it wasn’t. It was late at night and I didn’t pursue it further. This morning I noticed the cap was also unscrewed.

“It managed to unscrew its cap as well? No way was it on the edge of the desk!” I exclaimed.

Now safely sitting in a sunlit room, Aehl admitted that it hadn’t been anywhere near the edge. But she hadn’t wanted me to freak out because fear only makes things worse.

I cracked a few jokes about where we’d be if ghosts were Atheists (“Oh shut that mumbling, will you! Don’t you have any Dawkins to read to me?”) and left it at that.

As afternoon turned to evening, I remained quiet and finally Aehl came up to me and asked me if I was feeling scared or creeped out by what happened with the bottle. I looked at her and paused before replying:

“I’m 24 years old, I’m bipolar, I make my living freelancing online to earn barely enough to pitch in for the bills, and now I might have to drop out of a college degree I spent 4 years trying to earn because I can’t afford the tuition fees if I get detained and I can’t afford the mental strain if I go back, which is definitely going to have an impact on my career and how much I can earn 10 years down the road, and on top of that my health is failing, all of which makes for one very uncertain future. Any ghost shows up in front of me right now, Imma sit it down and say to it
“Let me tell you what’s REALLY scary–life.”

Love is…

You can feel butterflies in your stomach every time you see someone. You can think about them all day and dream about them all night. You can talk to them, palms sweaty and heart racing. You can get tongue-tied whenever you see them. You can woo them with flowers and candle light. You can f*ck like angry bunnies hopped up on hormones. You can write poems far too cliched to be shown anyone else and love letters too intimate to be kept anywhere other than a shoebox. You can send racy texts and fill up their Facebook timeline with LOLcats. You can hold them in your arms and forget the world exists, make love to them and know it doesn’t. You can feel each kiss like the tip of an arrow, plunging from your lips to bottom of your toes.

“Well played, Cupid,” you can say, “Well played.”

There are a lot of ways people express their feelings. But whether it’s infatuation, romance, lust or something else entirely, it’s easy to lose touch with where those feelings stem from. Enjoying someone’s kisses doesn’t necessarily mean you would enjoy listening to them talk for hours on end. Going to bed with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you would want to wake up next to them for the rest of your foreseeable future. Holding someone’s hand doesn’t necessarily mean you would want to hold on to them through the worst life has to throw at you both. But it’s easy to get carried away and think that it does. It’s far too easy to exaggerate the gravity of our own emotions, a kind of sentimental narcissism. After all, it fits right in with the idea that we are always in charge of everything we feel, every little quirk and behavior we exhibit, and therefore they are all important because we feel them or do them.

That doesn’t make it true.

Here’s a simple way to know if you really love someone: you’re lying in bed on a cold winter morning when suddenly a draft blows in and chills you to the bone. Instantly you reach over and make sure someone else is tucked into a warm blanket, no toes or elbows sticking out. They are. Or maybe they’re somewhere else, but in your mind they are right next to you.
And then you remember, you’re the one freezing.

Love is: caring. Instinctively, before you know what you’re doing, before you care for yourself, before they’re awake, even when they don’t know you’re protecting them while they sleep. Sometimes even when they’re not there.