I’m sure you’ve read a lot about rejection because you’ve been rejected a lot. Me too.

By Madison Lotenschtein

It was a Friday afternoon when my boss told me to fuck off and leave him alone. Gripping my phone, I responded with a forced cheeriness: “Okay, sounds good.” Watching someone teeter near the edge of disrespect is one thing, but it’s another to face it. I handed in my resignation Monday morning, updated my resume and bid farewell to the comfort of a semi-monthly paycheck.

Almost two years had passed since I started this position straight out of college. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, life’s ever-revolving door, offered itself up to me again. I accepted. To reject is not human.

When I talk about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, I’m not necessarily talking about money. (A cessation of revenue via direct deposit does stress me out, but I had saved for a year’s worth of rainy days.) I’m talking about getting comfortable with waking up in the morning and having nowhere to go or be. You still have to mine LinkedIn a couple hours a day for your next 9-5, but what will you do with your new, endless free time?

I’m a writer and designer, so figuring out what to do with my time isn’t difficult. The difficult part is that I feel pressured to cultivate a profit during my unemployment. I wouldn’t be American if I didn’t want to capitalize on my talents that bring me solace and peace in a world that is the contrary. I do want profit, but it takes time to develop new ideas, new inspiration, etc. Like everyone, I want profit without the pressure. The pressure’s weight isn’t derived from people I know, it’s distributed by total strangers who I’ll never see outside of my phone screen.

Social media is an enigma to Creators. It inspires and kills in the same minute. The death of your individuality or the birth of a new idea hang in the balance. I am a person of the present and willingly bring unease and rot to my mind because I live now. Every generation deals with a cancer in their society. We study it, interact with it, love it, hate it; our minds grappling for a balance.

If we walk that mental tightrope, we can achieve mental peace. Rejection is part of the balancing act. I’m sure you’ve read a lot about rejection because you’ve been rejected a lot. Me too. It’s one of those voidlike pangs that continually echoes throughout unemployment. You adapt to the revolving cycle of applying, interview, writing test, interview, rejection. Even while I write this essay, emails beginning with “thank you for your interest” que in my inbox, ready to be “read” by its recipient. That’s when I start to feel life’s unfairness knocking at my door. I had to leave my job to retain self-respect and now I can’t find another one? Despair starts its engine and hums until I’m calm enough to ignite the second part of the balancing act: acceptance.

To live without acceptance is to live in the dark. I have to believe, at the bedrock of my being, that I will be alright. I accept that unemployment and rejection are colors in my current life, but they don’t have to be primary. I will never convert to feeling jaded. There’s immeasurable beauty in this world and it is unfair of us to withhold ourselves from its opulence. The only magic that exists is the connection we share between ourselves and what’s around us. Perhaps hope is born from this. Hope is seeing the “could” in a potential that may not materialize.

Ultimately, hope is a want cherished by its pursuer. You revel in its brilliance and protect it from those who would see it crushed. In the unappealing days of the unknown, hope is all we have. I used to think lines like that were corny, until I realized that hope only exists because we want it to. Difficult to cling to at times, yes, but it exists because we’ve willed it.

We live with and without the future. We envision a future of what we want and don’t want. We know something is coming but don’t know what. Everything hangs in a never-ending balance. Acceptance and rejection. Hope and despair. Comfortable and uncomfortable. Life wouldn’t be what it is without the contrary, so I wait in careful balance until my unemployment makes its inevitable reverse.

Madison Lotenschtein is a writer living in Iowa City.