ROBYN DRIEDGER-KLASSEN "we regret to inform you"
Rejection is difficult for anyone, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s more difficult for those of us in the performance arts than most areas. Most of us have contracts that last only a few months, weeks, or even one single evening! Once the job is finished, we have to move on to finding the next gig that will put food on the table. Over time, I’ve learned a few things about how to deal with not getting that job that is so desperately needed.
For those of you not in the world of performance, imagine yourself having to do hundreds of job interviews over the course of your career. The upkeep of a list of arias, songs and oratorio excerpts is endless. They must be tailored just-so for the requirements of each ensemble or company. There are rehearsals, lessons, coachings, run-throughs of the audition, not to mention buying airline tickets, finding the perfectly flattering suit and praying for generous friends to offer up a spare sofa in NYC. To go through all of this and to fail at getting the job is disheartening to say the least. For myself, if an audition doesn’t go quite as smoothly as planned, then I’m not heartbroken when I get that letter of rejection. It’s when I feel I sang my absolute best that it can be so distressing to be turned down. I’ve had countless rejection letters in my life and every single one of them was hard to swallow. But I’ve learned in the past few years to be grateful for the bad experiences as well as the good. Here’s how:
- The most important thing you can do is to make sure you have a supportive group of people who love you for who you are, not for what you do. These are the people who will stick by you for richer or for poorer and will love you no matter what. Keep these people close!
- Remember that there are a LOT of people out there who are vying for the same job and many are just as qualified as you. Everyone who works hard deserves their day to shine. If today isn’t your day, then be happy for the person who is given their moment to shine. Jealousy will take you down a path of bitterness and anger. But teaching yourself to be content with what you have brings peace.
- Always put your best foot forward. Just because you’ve been rejected from all the young artist programs in the country doesn’t mean that you will be next time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with contacting the people you auditioned for and asking for their notes on your audition. Most mean well, but won’t have time to get back to you, but there are a few genuinely good souls out there who will make the effort. This gives you valuable information on how to improve for the next season of auditions. Don’t be afraid to hear the criticisms and to examine them closely. Did they feel that your repertoire wasn’t right for you? Did they find gaps in your technique? Were you uninformed on character, language or style? Take these issues to your teacher and coach and figure out where you can work to improve for next time. This will help you realize that failure is in fact a golden opportunity to grow stronger, better and more knowledgeable.
- “Thank you for your application. We are sorry to inform you that...” Once you’ve read those words, go ahead and have a good cry and vent to your best friend. Allow yourself one day to feel angry and frustrated. Then get over it. I can’t stress this enough. Think of unwon jobs not as lost opportunities or failures, but rather as closed doors. You can only walk down ONE path. It is yours and no one else’s. When it seems as if all your colleagues have the Midas touch, take some time to observe where your own path has taken you. I guarantee that you will see all kinds of interesting gifts along that path that have made other people wish they were in your shoes.
- Be thankful. There is nothing like gratitude to get yourself out of the mire of depression. Look around you. The sun comes up every morning, trees bloom in the spring, libraries are free and fresh water comes out of the tap! It might seem silly at first, but these are truly amazing things! There are millions of people who live in slums and refugee camps whose daily lives consist simply of survival. Us fortunate ones need to take a long look at our wealth of blessings and be thankful that we have the luxury of making art for a living. What a gift!
Rejection can be painful, but it teaches us to grow in strength, courage and character. Experiencing pain helps us to have compassion and love for others and that is what makes us better artists and, more importantly, better people.