Archive for April, 2009

I have a classmate who was born without a nose.  As an infant, he received successful cosmetic surgery; they fashioned a new nose out of skin and tissue from his neck.  As I said to him once, “And it’s actually a great looking nose, too.”  It is–it’s a little on the small side, but otherwise perfect–I don’t think you’d notice anything unusual about it.

A few days ago, we were talking about his nose.  I had pinkeye last week, and we were talking about allergies.  Interestingly, because his nose isn’t functional, he doesn’t have allergies, ever. As he put it, “No snot, no boogers, nothing.”

When he was born, his parents of course wanted to pursue the cosmetic surgery that would give their baby boy a nose.  BUT.  Because the nose would not be functional, it would be “only cosmetic,” and the insurance company refused to pay for it.

Can you imagine?  In the end, here’s how they solved it:  Paul also wears glasses, and would need to as a child.  His parents and doctors presented the following to the insurance company: Because he would need glasses, he would need a nose to hold the glasses up to his face. And…because that apparently was a reasonable need, the insurance company conceded, and agreed to the surgery.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about this.  What if he didn’t need glasses? It seems so _obvious_ to me that everyone should have a nose.  In my mind, I’ve been making arguments for having a nose, presenting the case in different ways* to imaginary insurance companies, listing reasons _why_ a person deserves something as basic as a nose.

It’s interesting, to think of needs.  Of what is or should be “obvious.”  To very simple things of life that we otherwise take for granted, and how we would make our case for needing them if we had to.

*Fancying myself like Portia, in _The Merchant of Venice_, of course.


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Justin, a friend from way back in junior high and high school, told me the following story on Facebook, to cheer me up about one of my rejection letters:

“When I got out of college I applied to the scouting departments of 8 different NFL teams….and I kept the rejection letters. Some teams sent nothing, but the Bengals sent a rejection letter on the best paper stock…”

How cool is that?  I know that if I sent something to somewhere famous, like the New York Times, I might keep the rejection letter (if I were brave enough) because it would be on the official letterhead.  I should note: Justin never played football–he was just a fan.  But his very personal souvenirs create a new version of “rejection letter” that I really like.

I also really appreciated Karin’s comment on my last post– I am really inspired that she sent a story off to five different publishers.  I would be so proud if I knew my grandmother, aunt, or sister had done that.  To believe in a story, and love it enough to want to send it into the world–that’s beautiful.

And finally, Matt found this video earlier this evening, and it thrilled me.  After watching it, I was wide awake, and remembered not only how much I loved teaching, but that _it will be okay_.  It might be cheesy to say the following about a really amazing video, but I actually thought, “In this moment, I don’t care if the next two letters are rejections, too.  There are tons of amazing things I could do.”


I know the link isn’t pretty, but just click to get to the video, because it is unbelievably great.  Fifth graders, singing _in goosebump harmony_, “The Eye of the Tiger.”  You will die when you see how _into_ the song and singing these kids are–and they are really, really beautiful singers.

See?  Tons of amazing things any of us could do.

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I’m applying to PhD programs.  Or, I’ve applied, and am waiting, and have since collected four rejection letters.  These I take personally (although I know intellectually this can’t be so) and so I have been avoiding lots of social contact lately.  People want to know, do I have any news, where am I moving after this semester…  And I only have waiting news, or rejection news.

When I applied to grad school three years ago, I was in Haiti when all of the acceptance/rejection letters came back.  My roommate Eric put them on my pillow waiting for me.  When we got home, we were filthy; I had the blood of one of the kids from the orphanage on my shoes still, and craved warm water and fresh food. After having spent time there, with small children, grad school (specifically, not getting in) didn’t seem like the most important thing in the world.  Orphans and third-world countries have a way of sharpening perspective. So before I went to shower, at four o’clock in the morning, I opened all five letters at once.

Back then, it was four rejections and one acceptance— but it didn’t feel like rejection at all, because I had one very, very exciting acceptance.  I woke up my other roommates, we cheered a little, I took a hot shower, and fell into bed.

This time, the letters are trickling in so slowly.  And I crave their arrival, but then am so sad when each (so far) has been a “no.”

I think I’ve been handling it well.  I have some back-up plans for if I don’t get in anywhere, some of which are exciting and fun.  My adviser has done a good job of reminding me that I’m a great applicant, and that it isn’t personal.  My friends have been sweetly shocked at each rejection.  I’m waiting to hear from two more places, on in DC, and one in Aberdeen, Scotland. I try not to think of it too much, to imagine living in either place, or to imagine my work there.  I don’t want to get my hopes up.

I’m not sure what else to say.  Do you pray? Would you mind praying that this path that I cherish might continue, that I might get into a program?  Have you been rejected?  What did you read, or listen to, during and after?  How did you not take it personally?  Or is it only human to take it personally?

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