Ariane de Gennaro
Last year, I had a crush on a girl. We got lunch every week, and one day, towards the end of the meal, I asked her, “Hey, do you wanna go on a date some time?” She replied, “Oh, I really like you as a friend, but no thanks.” And you know what? That might be my proudest achievement from first year.
Don’t get me wrong; my confidence in the Romance Department was in shambles after that. However, having the confidence to put myself in such a vulnerable position —especially with a high likelihood of failure — was a thrill no less. Yale has taught me a fair amount but figuring out how to embrace rejection might be the most important lesson I learned in Year One.
After a high school experience that was light on rejection — as is the case for many Yale students, I suspect — I felt like there was rejection everywhere on this campus. Classes didn’t want me, social spaces didn’t want me, clubs didn’t want me and apparently neither did that girl. And at first, I took each of those rejections oh-so-very personally.
Three Spanish classes in the fall politely decided to go in a different direction with their final roster spots. I had to fight to remain in my 500-person Econ 115 lecture. I begged my way into a first-year seminar after getting rejected from several others.
No matter how much I pleaded at the door, parties didn’t seem eager to let in some random first-year boy. People were too busy to grab a meal. I couldn’t seem to figure out where I fit in socially.
The first months of the school year were also full of lots of new and exciting moments of joy and acceptance. But the wave of rejections was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I questioned what I was doing here if the clubs, classes and social life all seemed exclusive. It left me feeling emotionally drained, and an acute sense of imposter syndrome swept over me after each of these rejections.
The improv cuts were the ones that really broke my heart. After getting cut by three comedy groups, I thought this was my shot at redemption. I had felt good at auditions, really funny and quick-witted.
On the night they promised to send out callbacks, I couldn’t help but check my email every ten minutes. It was 8 pm No word. Then 9 pm Then 10, 11, 12 and still nothing. I decided to go to bed. I couldn’t sleep. Every five minutes, I would roll back over and check my phone. Finally, at 1:02 am, it came. Sender: Will Wegner. Subject line: Just Add Water.
My heart was pounding, hands shaking. I opened it and read those fateful opening words, “Dear Andrew. Thank you so much for auditioning for Just Add Water. Unfortunately…” My heart rate slowed, I stifled tears, and then began the process of trying to gaslight myself into thinking I didn’t care. But I did.
The Purple Crayon and Viola Question didn’t even have the nerve to break my heart until the next morning. That was a sad, sleep-deprived day. Insomnia cookies could only do so much. I tried to relive the auditions, wondering which jokes missed the mark.
I thought I was good at being funny. If that was apparently no longer the case, what did that mean for everything else that I was even less confident about? But then two things happened that changed my perspective:
First, I started writing for campus publications and receiving some much-needed external validation from my friends. The more I wrote, the more confident I felt and the more initiative I began to take. Rather than writing articles that other people pitched, I focused on things that I wanted to talk about — like rejection at Yale. I started to realize that there was a place for my voice on campus, and my writing felt more meaningful than I think improv would have.
And second, I noticed how many fun, cool, funny people also got cut. And then even more after callbacks. And those fun, cool, funny people and I started talking more, realizing that we were still enjoying our witty banter, with or without the stamp of approval of an improv group.
It made me realize … Those rejections weren’t the end of the world, nor were they personal. The Fifth Humor, Good Show, Odd Ducks, Viola Question, Purple Crayon and Just Add Water didn’t accept me into their groups – so what? Publications don’t cut, and now I can write content like this to air out my personal vendettas. The classes I ended up taking catered to new interests I wouldn’t have thought to explore. And the people who wanted to spend time with me proved to be top-tier friends.
After every rejection, there was always another opportunity lying in wait. I wish I knew that before I started here. I didn’t need cookies and tears and pep talks to cope with rejection. I just had to find different opportunities, and learn to take each rejection in stride, knowing that acceptance would eventually follow.
Which brings us back to my romantic interest from the beginning. After her rejection, she started to explain herself and apologized. I cut her off. “Don’t worry about it. It’s all good. Lunch next week, though?” She replied immediately, “Of course.”
I walked out smiling, proud to have shot my shot so bluntly. And a few days later, we got lunch again — as friends — in the Berkeley dining hall. And again the week after that. And we remain friends.
Rejection happens here all the time. It’s not worth your tears.