My name is Maggie Sanders. I am from Dallas, Texas, I went to college at the University of Arkansas, and have lived in the US my whole life.
This summer I have traveled to Dublin from the US, and am working with MyMind as a marketing intern. I am here to share my story, as a student transitioning into the adult world, and share with you how Rejection has become my best friend.
A bit about me: I was raised by parents that I like to call, “hippies with high expectations”. They taught my two siblings and I that no dream is too big, or too small. They taught us that money is not everything, and to chase our passions with fervor. But most importantly, they ingrained in us a strong faith in God and the Universe, letting us know from the beginning that no matter how much work we put in to something, if the Universe has other plans, it will not happen. This is an absolute fact. I have tried to fight it, I have tried to change it, but as time will tell, it is an unwinnable battle.
As an overachieving, positively reviewed student, I set my sights high for my university studies. I applied to countless Ivy League schools across the country that I knew only by reputation. My hopes were set on Vanderbilt University, a prominent business school and one that seemed within my grasp. My first heartbreak came when I received the envelope containing their response to my application. It was a tiny, weak looking envelope, betraying the words inside before it was even opened.
I was devastated. How could I live up to the expectations of my family, my friends, my teachers, if I could not get into a good school? As the days passed through my senior year, I received one rejection letter after the other. I began to hide my shame, my anxiety, and my deepening depression. I would not tell people where I was applying, so that when I got rejected, I would be spared from their pity and judgement. Even my family was unaware as I slipped further and further into a negative, depressed head-space. I felt unworthy of excellence, unworthy of success, unworthy of relationships. Self doubt was my companion, and Rejection became my only friend.
Eventually the Universe stepped in and made its intentions known. I was accepted into the University of Arkansas, mere hours away from close family members, and in an area I know well. I grew up driving to Arkansas to play in the woods with my family, and gained a lot of confidence knowing that it was a familiar place to spread my wings.
However, I promised myself that no matter what experience I had, no matter how amazing I found Arkansas to be, no matter how comfortable it was there, I would never forget how big the world actually is. Thus, I chose to study International Business, because not only did the program recommend a study abroad experience for its students, it required it. I knew that even if I faced financial obstacles, this would require the school to help send me where I wanted to go. As a result, I got to live in Reims, France for a whole semester on a scholarship, studying the French language and management at NEOMA Business School.
Every stereotype you have ever heard about study abroad is true. While majority of people travel to sites for the photo opportunities, every single person left their experience fundamentally changed. They grew as people, they learned outside of their comfort zones, they developed newfound independence from their conventions and routines, and they saw a new way of looking at even the most menial of things. I found myself shifting from a ‘Type A’ person, obsessed with planning and organization and constantly frustrated with my family’s ‘laissez-faire’ attitude, to a much more relaxed, accepting, and adaptable person.
Okay, Universe, I see you. If I had been accepted to Vanderbilt, I would be in major financial distress. Between loans, jobs, and savings, there is no way I would have been able to afford the international experience that I craved so badly. This personal growth that I am immensely proud of would have never happened, and I would have remained the anxious, self-doubting person that I was in high school. A big thank you must go to my friend, Rejection, for everything that I gained by the Universe saying no.
Fast forward. After graduating from school, I had been accepted into the Peace Corps, where I would have gone and worked in Senegal for 2 years as a business volunteer (notice the past tense). Once again, my dear friend Rejection reared its ugly head. After turning down several other job offers to pursue this experience in a Francophone country, I was told I would not be able to depart with my group of volunteers, and withdrew from consideration.
I was chasing my degree, my passion, and it still was not working out. Yet again, I could not see what the Universe was trying to direct me towards. There was nowhere left to go. My bed became my primary residence for two months, and my bank account suffered from the scourge of online shopping. Self doubt, Rejection, and depression marked by perpetual sarcasm were my roommates, and we never left the house.
Rejection returned to become my constant companion, my friend, and my armor. I could always blame the Rejection on why I was not able to leave home. I could blame the Rejection as to why my face was breaking out. I could blame the Rejection for my feelings of shame and sadness. But in reality, these feelings were created by me, and they needed to be managed by me.
Slowly I cut through my instinctive sarcasm, and I started to speak positively about what I was going through. I began to find positions that gave me hope, and although it was dashed many times over, that glimpse of happiness made me feel almost human again. I returned to work, I buried myself in my search, and I fought to be recognized. But from experience, Rejection is harder to read when it’s in French.
Through my searches, I found an agency called Global Experiences, that works to pair students and young adults who want work experience with companies around the world that are hiring interns. I was accepted, and placed with this organization in Dublin: MyMind, a non-profit that works to make mental health care accessible to all. Working within the nonprofit industry, as a marketing intern, is a dream come true. This is the career path I want. This is the goal. This is exactly what I want to do in the future, and I am immensely lucky to have this opportunity now. I truly believe that this is a crucial stepping stone for my future. An added benefit is that it is here in Dublin! I know every American claims they are Irish, but I actually am. Full blooded, DNA test confirmed, Irish. This is home. Of all the places I have been, this is by far the most effortlessly comfortable. I feel at home, at peace, and in good company.
Once again, the Universe has proved me wrong. Rejection, you rock. All the struggles I faced this year have melted into the background. It is true what they say; growth is never comfortable. If I had pursued the Peace Corps, I would not hav
e gotten the marketing experience I need for my career. I would have missed out on this amazing opportunity, working in my field, in the industry I wish to enter, in a country that I love. This was my dream that I never felt worthy of. But my best friend knew that I was worthy, and kept me waiting until the perfect time. I would go through my Rejections one hundred more times if it meant that at the end I would be here.
My advice to anyone who faces self-deprecating feelings, depression, anxiety, doubt, stress, and pressure from external forces, is to breathe. Breathe deeply, and know that no matter what, you are exactly where you are meant to be in this moment. Know that the Universe has a plan for you, even if it is unclear now. Know that nothing lasts forever, and growth is never comfortable. After all, try enough things, and Rejection might end up becoming your best friend.