I was getting a jump on cooking dinner when I got a notification that I had a new email. Normally, I would glance at my lock screen to see who it was from and make a mental note to check it later. But this ended up being different. It wasn’t just one of those crap spam emails that flood my inbox (No, Directv, I’m not coming back! Leave me alone!). It was from a literary magazine I had recently submitted to. I had found their call for submissions via the Discovery tab on Submittable. It was a call for a piece of poetry that contained certain words. It seemed like a fun little challenge, so I crafted up a piece and sent it their way.
When I was able to pull the pan off the burner, I opened my Gmail app. This was what I was greeted with (the name of the publication has been removed):
Thank you for your submission to XXXXXX Magazine. After careful consideration, we have decided not to select “Before?” for publication. There are many possible reasons for why a particular piece isn’t selected, and I regret that I am unable, given time constraints, to offer further explanation as to which of those reasons applied to your work. I will say that you’re in good company; as always, there were many authors and many pieces that I would have liked to include.
Now if you know me, you’re probably thinking I’m crushed. And there was a time, not even that long ago when you’d be right. Were I the Angela of a handful of years ago, I’d be sitting here in a pit of despair. My self-confidence, shakey like a young deer on ice, would have been completely annihilated. I would probably be ugly crying and thinking that the voice in my head, which sounds like a really weird combination of two women, was correct. I really couldn’t get anything right. I was a sham who would never know what I was doing.
But that’s not happening. What is happening is surprising.
Actually, I’m more than okay.
I feel proud of the piece and, more importantly,
I’m proud of myself.
So what changed?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t feel the cut that this declination would have once made. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not a misplaced apathy type of feeling. It’s not the depression I’ve grown like a bonsai tree my entire life filling my head with nihilistic whispers. I just legitimately don’t feel this is a failure.
This year, I’ve come into my own when it comes to my writing. I’ve tried new things, forced myself on shaky limbs, and learned to work within my own voice. I’ve also forced myself to become dedicated. I’ve developed a discipline to keep the hot or cold switch in my head in the right position. For years, I’ve wanted to do this. I’ve wanted to create words and ideas that I could share with people. And now I finally am.
This rejection is a good thing. And I’m not trying to blow smoke up my own ass here. I really, truly think it is. I’m showing myself I’m able to face the chance that I might not be everyone’s cup of tea and accept it. I’m flexing the muscle of my psyche that’s matured into an IDGAF self-content woman. So what if the piece wasn’t what the magazine was looking for? It was what I wrote. It was what I created. And even if it fucking sucks, in the moment of its creation, it was exactly what it was supposed to be.
Not all wins are trophies, championships, or acceptance letters. Some victories, and often the best ones, are the ones that ignite inside of you. There the ones that people can only see when they catch the glint of determination and self-appreciation in your eyes. They are the ones you will never have a newspaper clip out of, but will always remember.
And those are the ones current me strives for.
PS: In case you’re wondering about the piece itself, I’ve included it below. The designated words to use are still in bold so you can see what I was working with.
Not lamp, but light
The kind of brightness that prys eyes apart
The nightstand is long since emptied
Pictures gone, now filled with medicine bottles and phone chargers
Was this what life was like
Her electrical current is no longer current
The coil has thus been shuffled
But damned if she doesn’t still make
The hair on the back of my neck stand at attention
That’s the only attention being served these days
The TV never stops, but I don’t know what’s on
It’s just lights without sound
I thought I had turned it off
But it’s talking heads keep the remote hidden
So I can’t check for sure
I know that pain is a real thing
But feelings elude me
How much longer must I endure?
Eight weeks dead might just as well be eighty
Is this what life was like