Being Rejected? Don’t Regret It! You Showed Up.
May 3, 2022
by Dr. Plastic Picker
I’ve never understood regret. The Korean word for regret is 후회. Honestly, I don’t think I even know the word in Vietnamese despite being fluent. Just googled it. I do know the word. It’s tiếc. I guess I don’t hear my parents regretting that much growing up, unless it was a some food that was actually spilled. I remember once going to Costco (Price Club back in the day) and an entire large tray of eggs flipped and was summarily all broken and unedible. My father, young back then, had been joyriding on the shopping cart which caused the tray of eggs to be broken. My mother probably did regret it, and likely said ” tiếc” in Vietnamese. But I don’t think my father would have regretted that moment, because I remember him laughing and joyful and handsome in a young father way.
So here I am, older than my father when he was joy riding in the Costco (formerly Price Club) parking lot on the shopping cart. The tray of eggs, since they were mostly biodegradable, have been cycled back into the earth somehow (hopefully). And I’m thinking of regrets.
I’m thinking of regrets because I talk to more people now. No, that’s not true. I’m listening to more people now. I’m trying to share the burden of more of my friends, especially climate friends. And what I’m hearing is regrets. I’m hearing reflections. I’m hearing them processing professional and personal experiences and wondering, was it worth that time? Was it worth all those sessions preparing, when the session did not go as planned? After the comments, after the rejections, was it worth it?
I listenend and shared and tried to reflect some of their emotions back. Friends are dealing with it. Job rejections. Grant rejections. Feedback that may be intended to be constructive but feels like professional rejection or dismissal of your efforts.
I don’t have regrets. That’s all I can tell the readership. It’s your journey and it’s often circuitous, and that wandering in life is what makes it yours. Maybe that’s the commonality among those I love personally and professionally and their difficulty in processing things. They’ve never been rejected that much, and they live with too much regret when it rarely happens.
Dr. Plastic Picker wants to share, that it’s a superpower to not regret. Or regret briefly and move on. I guess the reason I don’t regret because my entire existence only happened because the Vietnam War ended with the collapse of the South Vietnamese nation. I only exist, because my parents had to flee their homeland where our ancestral temples date back at least until 1400. How can I regret the war or my entire existence? I was conceived somwhere en route from Vietnam to Minnesota (I think likely Malaysia). Same thing with my daughter. She is at that stage where she is questioning and putting undue expectations on herself. I look at her, and remind her that she is alive because of this amazing meeting of circumstance where her paternal side and maternal side from countries that are very far apart – happened to converge in Boston. And then she happened to be born at a time that the technology had advanced enough to save a 2 lb infant born 3 months premature. How can she regret any of her decisions? How can she regret that volleyball session? Every day that she is with me, is a blessing.
Dr. Plastic Picker despite my updated and gloriously long resume, now filled with climate and health publications – has been rejected many times in my life. I was rejected from Princeton College. I was rejected from Stanford Medical School. I was rejected from Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia Residency and also Stanford Pediatric Residency (not even offered an interview). I didn’t want to attend those places necessarily but I was rejected. My AAP Catch Grant on “Rewild the Child to Counter ACES” was recently rejected and I was sad, but I never regretted the time I spent on it. I spent an extra year at Cambridge Health during my chief year working in continunity clinic, and was never offered a job there. Yes I was indignant back then, because I was cocky and thought with dual BA/MD Crimson University degrees and being an ex-chief resident I would at least get a job offer. But no, rejected. I don’t regret the four years I spent learning primary care pediatrics though. Have I shared enough? Do you get it now?
When you get rejected, it means you tried. It means you showed up. Don’t regret too long. It’s a waste of time. Better to eat something sweet and then move on. A sweet treat my daughter and I shared this weekend at Bread and Cie in Hillcrest. Wonderful spot by the way.