People are going to disappoint us, regardless of who they are or what role they play in our lives, it’s just the way it goes.
Disappointment begins early in life. We don’t get picked to play with the cool group of kids at recess, our siblings seem to get preferential treatment, our favorite TV show gets cancelled and it never really seems to stop. We don’t get into our first choice college, don’t get called back for the second interview (or maybe never get the first); the one we are crushing on likes another, and on and on the disappointment goes.
At the end of last year, I needed to step up my game and get very clear about what I wanted to study in graduate school. I had been researching a variety of programs, including the Masters of Public Administration at my current college but that just didn’t quite feel like the best fit. After talking with a past professor about my challenge in deciding on grad school, she suggested I look to my passion and my undergraduate program of choice – psychology. I shrugged it off in the moment because I did not want to do anything clinical and I thought that was pretty much everything psychology. Not one to completely blow off advice, however, I went home that night and researched all things graduate and psychology and low and behold – I found my dream program! I discovered this thing called Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I/O) and thought I had died and gone to grad school heaven. From there, I searched for a school in my state that teaches I/O, offering both a Masters track and a Masters-on-your-way to the golden Ph.D track (this was my desired track) in compliance with the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I mean really, could it get any cooler than having its own society? I think not) and I found 1. Yep, just one college in the entire state offered this program. Seattle Pacific University (SPU). Luckily it happens to be in my favorite city and located in my favorite neighborhood in that favorite city so I figured that was a very good sign.
It turns out that I discovered this program and where it is offered just in the nick of time to get everything done that was required for the application process. I scrambled to study for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) which, by the way, I had hoped to not have to take, hit up my references for letters and started writing my essay; all of this while I was taking full time classes for my undergraduate degree and working. Well, I pulled it all off (barely) and a month or so later, I received an invitation to interview for the Ph.D program! I was so excited, I could hardly stand it! This was fantastic news because again, this was really my only shot at pursuing this degree without moving out of state which I was not going to do. Now, there are other organizational development programs taught all over, including on-line, but this was the ONE! So the day of the interviews came and it turns out, this is a pretty darn competitive program – go figure. I showed up 15 minutes early and there were already @ least 4 other candidates there, all dressed in black suites and looking very serious. In that moment, I began to realize just how competitive this program/University was and I thought, bring it on God, I am ready!
HA! Well, even though I thought the day of interviews, etc. went very well, the competition was just too tough and alas, I received word a week or so later that I was not accepted into the program. In that moment, I was devastated. I really thought I was going to get into the Ph.D track and that would be that for the next 4 years. Along with the rejection (yes, indeed I felt rejected) was also an invitation to apply for the Masters track. This is a different, larger cohort and after completion, if one wants to go on to do their Ph.D work in the program, they must apply for that track. At first, I reacted like, well, a spoiled kid who did not get what they wanted but after consulting with my mentors in academia, I decided that I would be delighted and honored to get into the Masters track and I humbly threw my hat in the ring. For this next waiting period, I was far less sure of my chances and waited on pins and needles, as now I questioned whether I had what they wanted/needed for even the Masters track. And then…I got the email that said that I WAS ACCEPTED. I was very excited and very relieved. Although I had a back-up plan in place, my heart was set on I/O at SPU.
“Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” – Henry Ward Beecher
As the months have gone by since I received that incredible news, I have come to realize that I really am right where I am supposed to be and that getting into the Masters program was perfect. I also realize that the disappointment I felt was a gift; a gift of humility, of patience, of perspective and of gratitude.
I believe that each disappointment is a gift. A gift, which if one is willing to unwrap, is beautiful and limitless. Disappointment can teach us to let go of what we thought we deserved, expected, wanted, etc. Disappointment can teach us humility and most importantly, disappointment can provide a perspective of what is really important in our lives.
I have been through a lot of disappointment over that last several years and each time, I gain a deeper sense of perspective of what is worth getting disappointed over. Not getting into a Ph.D program when less than 7% of the world has a college degree, well, cry me a river. The FACT that I am getting to go to graduate school is enough to move me to tears of gratitude. How lucky am I to be so fortunate to not only get a Bachelors degree and figure out where I want to do my graduate work but actually get into the school of my choice and have the opportunity to pursue the education I desire. I can guarantee you that I will begin my studies with a much deeper sense of gratitude and humility than I would have if I had been accepted into the Ph.D track.
Disappointment, while it sucks in the moment because of all of the emotions it brings; rejection, resentment, fear and loss, also brings amazing gifts that are ours for the taking. We just have to be willing to accept the package, take the time to unwrap it and gratefully discover what we have been given.