How to Handle Rejection

The video of any botched wedding proposal hits me like an eerily familiar punch to the solar plexus, even when these videos are staged. As I watch the rejected person on one knee, gazing in bewilderment as their world crumbles in front of strangers, I can’t help but empathize with what’s going on in their head. 

I have been there. I have experienced the forlornness of being rejected. And no, I wasn’t left clutching an overpriced piece of jewelry with an overzealous saxophone player hovering over my shoulders—my experience was milder.

I fell in love with the most beautiful being I’d ever set my digital eyes on. We shared a love for photography and indie music. After a few weeks of exchanging texts and testing boundaries, we established our mutual appreciation of dark humor and sexual innuendoes. We became thick as infatuated thieves. 

Even at the risk of being cat-fished, I invested my time and fiscal responsibility in this long-distance love affair. We talked every other day, sharing songs and watching shows on Facetime; this was before Netflix Party. I even got us matching sweaters for Christmas but had to send hers over because I couldn’t make it home. 

But everything changed two days after New Year’s Eve when she disappeared from the digital space. All her accounts were purged of her filter-heavy pictures. I tried to reach out to her only to find out I was now on the blocklist. No fights preceded. No warning signs or red flags. Just years of flirting and picking baby names flushed down the drain of unreplied messages. I had been chatting with a ghost. 

Months later, she reappears out of the blue, but this time, she comes bearing cards—a wedding invitation. I demand an explanation in anger, but she warns me to mind my tone because I don’t own her. Long story short, she explains why she couldn’t see any future in what we had. That’s why she’d gone for someone more prepared than I was. It was nothing personal.

Nothing personal? I was baffled at how someone I shared a lot of time and pent-up sexual energy with could just wantonly discard me. Not even my massive ego could withstand this surgical dismantling. These things leave eternal scars. 

Nowadays, I don’t bother myself with relationships because of the potential trauma of rejection. I panic when someone I’m texting sees my message but doesn’t reply immediately. Those blue ticks take me back to nights of refreshing the instant messenger and calling Kai to confirm if he paid for the internet.

After a few nights of couch surfing and tame debauchery, I always fall back to one conclusion: unless you were born with a four-leaf clover tattooed on your forehead, life will pommel you from time to time. I think it is the gods’ way of keeping us plebs grounded—a way for us to discover a meaning to all the madness going on around us.

That’s why I have conditioned myself to stomach the gut-wrenching feeling of getting ghosted after a date I thought went well. That’s the only way I can still function in society without channeling my rage at innocent strangers—well, I still do that from time to time.

The alternative would be to crawl back into my shell, a place where darkness thrives and dreams barely survive. Eventually, the resentment and self-pity might nudge me towards a path of bitterness that alienates me further from my close friends. And while I am there, the world will move on without me.

This is nothing new; life encircles us with these raging fires. The only escape is to push through and hope to emerge on the other side like a phoenix. Those who push half-heartedly end up with a crispy, half-baked interior that is good enough for nobody. Those who don’t push at all get cremated.

My first step out of this fire started by learning how not to take things personally. It shocked me to realize that the Universe was not plotting a multi-level conspiracy to screw me over (it feels that way sometimes). Even though I am the one getting rejected, it is not always about me. 

Maybe my crush married the richer guy because she was under pressure to provide grandkids for overbearing parents. Maybe she wants to have kids and not have to worry about the next meal. And besides, she doesn’t owe me any explanation since we didn’t sign any legally-binding contract.

I’ve finally accepted that this unfortunate misadventure could happen to anyone. After all, someone comes last every time I finish first. Someone goes back to an empty bed every time I get lucky in the bar. 

Instead of wallowing in the muddy waters of self-pity and cursing the heavens for my situation, I could strategically put myself back in the scary unknown. I could learn more social skills instead of hiding behind the cloak of faux-obscurity and enforced introversion. And who knows, I could be one “hello” from meeting the love of my life.

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