Disappointments and Diverges

by maxmosher

I didn’t get the writing job I had applied for at an expanding Canadian news and opinion website. I made it to the second round: last week, I wrote a test for them, a five hundred word column in three hours. Having not heard anything back, I wrote them today, and the kind recruiter told me that my application was still under consideration, and that “due to the large quantity of applicants” only those chosen for an interview would be contacted. So I was surprised when I got a second email from him this afternoon saying, sorry, the competition was just too stiff.

I’m disappointed because I would have been perfect for it, because it would have been the first job I had gotten in the field I’d like to be in, and because I’m ready to make a hasty retreat from serving coffee. The bad news capped off a tiring week in which the Gentleman was away in Montreal, I felt like I barely had a moment to stop and breath, and I missed my family, who are up at our cottage, where I would like to be. Perhaps the most pathetic moment came when the last episode of Road to Avonlea made me cry, because my Mom loves Anne of Green Gables and because Mag Ruffman (Aunt Olivia) is who I would get to play her in the Canadian-made movie of my life.

I’m disappointed, yes, but as I grow older I’m recognizing that events which first seem like setbacks can put you on a different track, a track which, like Robert Frost’s road diverged in wood, might make all the difference.

One year ago I received another very disappointing email, this one from the University of Toronto. Tired of waiting for the official letter, I had written asking point-blank if I got into their PhD program. (Evidently, patience is not one of my strengths.) When I read that my bid was “unsuccessful” I broke down. I had made nice with all the profs, had done all the assigned readings, had embodied all the characteristics that had led so far during my successful career in academia. But it was over. Even though it could have easily been something to do with my proposed thesis, or lack of a supervisor, or some other such thing, I couldn’t not feel inadequate and less intelligent then I thought I was.

By the end of that day, I had decided to go to Ireland, to indulge in pints and accented men and reading for fun. Most of all, to get excited about something again and to have an adventure. Only when I was away did I realize how depressed I had been at UofT.

Recognizing that I couldn’t run away from real life forever, I had to hatch a new life plan, so I went back to basics. I asked myself, What is it you love doing and know you are good at?

Since coming home, I have embraced writing and already have two Ryerson courses, an internship and a blog for which I receive compliments almost daily to show for it. Indeed, I barely have time to look back, but when I do, I recognize that these good things in my life happened not despite that earlier disappointment, but because of it.

And so I’m trying to keep this in mind, along with the fact that there are other writing jobs out there. (If you happen to hear of one…?) I get to review a play tomorrow and then it’s up to the cottage where, when I’m not google-image-searching vintage eyeglasses for WORN, I will relax and read Tom Wolfe or David Foster Wallace.

I have been lucky, and years from now I may view this latest setback as a diverging, not a disappointment.