It’s ironic, I think, that I recently received a rejection slip for my submission to a magazine’s “Finish Line”-themed September edition, which will feature essays about winning and, yup, losing.
My “Finish Line” piece was about the end of my almost 20-year friendship with a girl from college. I have to admit that as I wrote it, typed it, e-mailed it, and waited for the reply, I had a background sense of dread. It’s better, I now think, not to have published this deathbed tell-all about the hospice period of what was for a long time a pretty solid friendship. And if somehow our relationship ever recovers from the Facebook virus that I inadvertently passed on to my former friend just yesterday, then a published article about all the reasons we came undone is sure to torpedo it again.
The bright side of this particular rejection notice is my optimistic daydream that since the essay was rejected two weeks before the “Finish Line” edition was due to come out, I’m thinking that it came within a whisker’s breadth of making the cut. I’ll never know one way or the other, but it’s better to be half full of baloney then half empty, right?
What’s doubly ironic is that this particular rejection experience has made me realize that, rather than writing a dubiously beneficial libel piece, I probably should have written about another “we’ll never know” episode from my senior year in high school. Seems that back in the ’80’s, USA Today was looking to profile the brightest of America’s graduating seniors, and Mrs. O’Sullivan, our high school guidance counselor, encouraged me and another girl in my class to apply. Long shot? Read on.
Part of the application was a letter of recommendation from a teacher. I asked Mrs. Waite, my “what in the world is she looking for in my writing” English teacher, to write mine. Imitating my own procrastinating practices, Mrs. Waite (who may have been divorcing at the time) kept promising but not actually writing the letter. When the mail-out drop dead date rolled around, Mrs. Waite was MIA. Home sick. Going over the marital cliff. Shopping the outlets. Who knows. She didn’t show up at school, so I missed the deadline despite having the rest of my package neatly pulled together.
When I next saw Mrs. Waite, I was as steamed as a high school honor student can get about being let down by a teacher. Mrs. Waite said, “It was a long shot anyway.”
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you whose picture showed up on the cover of USA Today that spring. Yes, the other girl in my class won the prize, and, perhaps better yet, won a full scholarship to Duke. And yes, I’ve wondered whether Mrs. Waite, in letting me down, actually spared me a much bigger disappointment. I guess we’ll never know.
What I do know is that when I finally accepted Mrs. Waite’s apology, she wrapped her arm around me, hugged me, and spilled coffee down my back with her non-hugging hand. Needless to say, I took not one single English class in college.
How’s that for rejection?