642 Tiny Things To Write About: Thank You for Closing That Door.

Yesterday, I was notified that I’ve posted 100 blogs. Given that I never kept a diary or journal for more than a few weeks, this is quite an accomplishment for me.  And I owe much of it to the San Francisco Writers Grotto.


I purchased the book a few years back at an Urban Outfitters (of all places) when I was waiting for my daughter to buy some jeans.  I found it recently on our overloaded shelves while sorting out books to give to a book sale and decided to challenge myself to write every day and revisit my poor neglected blog.  Its been an interesting journey over the past month or so; some posts have been challenging, others funny and some exercises allowed people and events to finally step out from my brain cells and see the light of day.

Today’s exercise is this:

Think of your worst rejection.  Write a thank-you note to the person who rejected you.

Oh damn.  This one opens up the door to feelings that I have not dealt with and need to, as they say, ‘get over’.   My rejection came not from an unrequited love but an educational institution. Here’s the story for some context.

I moved out to the Bay Area of California in 1988 with very little solid plans (or an actual job) except to be with my future husband and continue my education.  I had received my Masters in Political Science two years before and was taking a break to figure out what to do next.    After settling in and finding a job at a commercial greenhouse to pay the bills, I set my sights on going to UC Berkeley.  I re-took the GREs, filled out a voluminous application and applied for the fall of 1989.

I remember going to the mail box at our apartment each day with trepidation.  The day the letter came, my husband’s sister was in the hospital, recovering from an emergency surgery.  He had already left to go to the hospital when I got that letter from the mail box.  I opened it up to find a nicely written rejection letter.  I didn’t even make the wait list.   I remember stuffing the letter in my purse and going to the hospital and trying to be cheerful, but feeling like the world had caved in.   All I wanted to do was go home and cry on my husband’s shoulder, but the immediacy of his sister’s health took precedence at that moment.

That rejection was the first one I had ever received from an institute of higher education and it was hard to accept.  I felt crushed, and slightly resentful that I couldn’t mourn that door closing at the time.  It felt like a dead end, not a new beginning and I wanted someone to validate the impact this rejection had on me.   The combination of the two things have been with me for a long time, and I tend to pick at them like unhealed scabs.

I need to let this go.  And hopefully this letter of thanks will start the process.

Dear UC Berkeley.

In 1989, you sent me a letter of rejection, stating I would not be your group of PhD candidates in the fall of that year.  At the time, I was crushed by this rejection. However, I would like to take this opportunity, almost 30 years later to thank you for the rejection, because in the end what I kept is far more important than the opportunity I lost those three decades ago.

If I had indeed made the cut, I doubt my relationship with my husband would have lasted, given the demands on a graduate student and our tenuous finances at the time.  Life threw us enough curves those first few years, and graduate school would have been the pile of straw that broke the camels back.   I was naive in my belief that I was ready for the intensity that the challenge of graduate school at Berkeley would have required.  You were right, I wasn’t candidate material

On the positive side, there are so many wonderful people who would have never come into my life if I had not steered my dreams in a completely different direction.   While I am skeptical of the ‘butterfly effect’, I do know that the closing of that door led to a great career in a field with wonderful and smart individuals.  I was able to move to one of the most beautiful areas in the United States and raise two children there, building a lifelong love with a guy who is worth a thousand times more than a degree on a piece of moleskin.

So thank you once again for that dreaded piece of mail.

Respectfully yours,





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