There are many things in life that I will be, many places that I will go and many things that I will do…but unfortunately, joining the faculty in Vermont will not be one of them. After waiting on tenterhooks for my application to be reviewed, the final(ish) verdict came this evening: my application is, unfortunately, not a member of the “first round” candidate applications.
I got the call shortly after leaving work. Ironically, my iTunes app was playing Ryan Shupe’s “Dream Big” song. I made small talk with the attending on the other end of the line, the one who is chairing the search committee, for a minute before he launched into discussing the status of Vermont’s faulty position. I got the standard, “lots of outstanding applicants,” and “your application is under consideration,” and all the rest of the platitudes, that I’m sure everyone hears, and then the other end of the line got quiet. There was some throat clearing and a few pregnant pauses on the line, and those told me everything that I needed to know before the words hit the airwaves: I was not going to be invited to interview- at least not yet. The applicants had been sorted into groups according to the strength of their candidacy, and unfortunately, my application had not landed into the top-picks column in the ledger. I think the moment was awkward for both of us.
I was told that “of course, your application is absolutely still under consideration.” I was also told that the institution would be following up with me again, likely in three to four weeks, after the ‘first round’ candidates had been through. The utility of the follow-up is questionable. I strongly suspect that the second round candidates (and third, or fourth, or wherever my application happened to land) won’t be traveling to Vermont. I am sure that the newest member of their faculty resides somewhere in that first group of candidates. Sadly, the newest member of the faculty will not be me.
He kindly asked if I had any questions about the application review process, etc. In fact, he asked this question three separate times, not out of any sort of meanness, but because I think he genuinely wanted to give me an explanation. He is the sort of person that treats others gently, and for that I am grateful.
Perhaps someone with more objectivity than I possessed in that instant would have asked dozens of detailed questions about the review process in an effort to figure out how and why it all went wrong. But in that moment, standing in -10 degree weather on the outdoor commons of the University Hospital, it was all I could do to end the conversation politely whilst not crying like a three year old. After all, in weather this cold, the tears would freeze on my cheeks, an icy testament to my disappointment. I’m not prideful, but I have pride enough to want to avoid that sort of public display.
I asked no questions, partly because my mind had gone temporarily blank, but also largely because I’m not sure that the answers (if I’d even really been able to listen to them) would have helped me much. If there was something fundamentally flawed in my application, there isn’t much I can do to correct that, as the rest of my applications have already been distributed. If it’s a relative lack of blood-bank related research/publications, I can’t put up much of an argument. If it’s an experience issue, well, I can’t correct that, either. It’ll correct itself in about five years…I hope. And if it’s a lack of significant interest in coagulation…well, that may never correct itself. Asking questions, learning WHY it is that I’m not a “first round” candidate, wouldn’t change anything at this point. It would only make me feel more unwanted and inadequate. And so, standing alone in the frigid, grey Michigan evening, I began to let go of Vermont.
Even the saddest moments in life bring lessons. The lesson that I was reminded of is something that I have always known and generally tried to ignore – that rejection hurts. Years from now, I suspect that I will look back on this moment and while it will not be as acutely painful, it will probably always sting just a wee bit. That’s what happens when a dream tumbles down around your feet. And though the pain of rejection is fresh in this moment, I am also prompted to consider that sometimes the destruction of one cherished hope scatters around building blocks that can be used to build something magnificent. Knowing this doesn’t lessen the blow, of course; right now, I’m wounded enough that I am struggling to keep things in healthy perspective and I am by no means able to be completely objective tonight. But I suspect that one day, a couple of weeks from now, when my objectivity has returned to me, I’ll start to sort out those building blocks. I’ll decide which to keep and which to toss, and I’ll build a better castle in which to store my dreams. After all, there are far worse things that life can throw at one than the opportunity to rebuild and rediscover.
So play on, Ryan Shupe, and let your words be true.