Thursday, April 28, 2016

On Being a Loser

A particularly brilliant friend and fellow animation scholar posted this on Facebook. It's from a Princeton professor who put together a CV of his rejections, which well outnumber his acceptances. The exercise is meant to highlight the way in which we assume more success in those that seem successful and thus condemn ourselves all the more.

I read through this CV. He did not get into the Ph.D. program at the Stockholm School of Economics. He was invited for campus visits to Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley, but didn't get any of the jobs. He got turned down for a Fulbright. I for one wish my failures were so impressive. I would call this a humblebrag, but it sounds more like a plain old brag.

I grew up in a hyper-competitive environment. One of my high school classmates lived for years in shame because she could only get into (shudder) Tufts. Another was so embarrassed by his attendance at (horror) Johns Hopkins that he spent years extolling its virtues. They were both intelligent if not the most likable human beings. If they could be made to feel like losers for those accomplishments, there was probably little hope for their lifelong emotional well-being.

I guess I could do my own list. I was waitlisted for a middle-school magnate program. Six years later, I got into Columbia. In 2004, I was rejected outright for a position as arts editor at a newspaper in Spokane, Washington. Three years later, I got a Fulbright to go to Hungary. I came home from my Fulbright and could not get a job. Two years later, I just managed to get into an MA program in Film Studies. Now I'm in the fourth year of a Ph.D. program. Every single rejection made me feel like a failure. And they still make me hurt. I was rejected for a fellowship last week that sent me into an apoplexy.

(I guess we can add the rejections in romance and friendship, which are all more painful, but let's keep this list short.)

I have enough self-awareness that the "failures" I just listed would baffle the vast majority of the population of the country, the people who are made to feel like failures because they work two jobs and still can't pay for their kid's college education or the people who feel their low IQ reduces them to the subhuman.

We're a nation of losers.

1 comment:

  1. Like this one, Paul. I'm currently feeling the "loser" shame because I am having such a hard time getting used to retirement, when I thought I would immediately feel free and happy and be super productive as an artist.