Last week I rewatched the 90's Drew Barrymore film NEVER BEEN KISSED. This is one of my college favorites, but oddly, I've never gotten around to adding it to my DVD collection. So it's been a while since I've seen it.
And maybe it was because I was watching it at 2am while fighting insomnia or because I've been thinking a lot lately about young adult fiction/characters/scenarios...or perhaps because the publishing industry sometimes makes me feel like an awkward, delusional child whose dreams are there to be crushed...
But this movie GOT to me, in a way it hasn't in the past. During the flashbacks of "Josie Geller" in high school, with her frizzy bangs and unfashionable clothes...a little chunky and a lot awkward...I ACHED for her. I was fortunate not to have to deal with too much bullying in high school, but I was absolutely, certifiably NOT. COOL. I WAS, in many ways, Josie Geller. I was a dork, not quite smart enough to be a "brain", socially awkward, glasses-wearing...I suffered the embarrassing, irrational crush on the unattainable guy(s) (in my case, there were many), the excruciatingly cheesy poetry writing...the deep and fearful suspicion that the things I wanted in life - my dreams - were nothing but that...dreams, destined never to become reality.
The funny thing is...my dreams in high school stayed pretty consistent as I grew up. I wanted a handsome, funny guy to adore me. To accept all of my quirks and think I was the most beautiful girl in the world. I still can't believe that dream came true.
And of course, the other one....I wanted to be a writer. A real, honest to goodness, published author.
The scene where Josie finds out she's being asked to prom by the coolest guy in school, the one she's had a crush on for years....yeah, that's how I felt when my agent offered representation. OMFG IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!? I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!!! And....WHY is this happening? Did she really mean ME?! It's really not a mistake?
And when Josie discovers it was all a cruel joke...when her "prom date" appears with a more beautiful, sophisticated date, and eggs her on the porch on what was supposed to be the happiest night of her life? When she's all dressed up in the prettiest dress she's ever owned and feels like a princess...only to find out she's not a princess at all, but a cinderella whose fairy godmother never bothered to show?
I cried. Never done that before while watching this movie but boy did I cry. I could feel her agony, the buildup of happiness and excitement only to have her dreams splashed into the mud of disappointed hopes. That feeling that her dreams are within her grasp...only to have it all torn away. God, even thinking about it now makes me ache. (And I know it's only a silly movie!)
Rejection in the publishing world - hell, in any world - can feel like that. It can take you from feeling like a princess to a loser in seconds. It can destroy you.
But Josie Geller survived that moment. She survived high school. She survived and flourished, even, with a great job at a newspaper and...by the end of the movie, a hot boyfriend. :-) And she did that by not giving up. She didn't let her dreams die. Sure, going back to high school as an undercover reporter made her relive those awful moments, but she did it anyway. She turned a horrible experience into a defining moment. A triumph. She overcame the badness, got the guy, AND the dream job.
Rejection sucks. On some level it really does feel like someone egging you for even supposing you could live your dream. You feel stupid, like you should have known better. Bitter, sometimes. Cynical.
It makes you stronger too. If you can get back up, clean off your pretty pink princess dress, and try again...if you can win against the bitterness and disappointment and insecurity...if you can get knocked on your ass and STILL try again...
Well, then. You're someone who will succeed. You're someone who will learn from the experience, try harder next time...someone who will turn that awful moment into a building block on the way to achieving your dreams.