If my Mother taught me anything, it is that life isn’t fair. I know you probably just read that, rolled your eyes and began to consider hitting the “back” button. The last thing you need is some preachy blog entry to remind you of this kind of thing. I agree. It’s just an opening line. Stick with me here.
This year, I got squeezed out of two conventions that I’d been regularly showing at: New York Comic Con and, just recently, Illuxcon. In both cases, it was explained to me that demand for the number of slots was just too great, and that there simply was no room for me.
That this bothers me should go without saying. The fact is, while I understand that such decisions aren’t personal, they often feel like they are. It is very difficult to be left on the sidelines while almost every one of your friends and peers get to show off their wares. The feelings involved are not unlike being the last kid chosen for a team in gym class. Put simply, it stings.
When faced with rejection, you tend to immediately seek to try to understand the reasons behind it. Was it because I’m not good enough? Is it a political decision? Did I say or do something wrong? Has my personal hygiene gotten in the way? Questions like this run through your head and the pain tends to turn to anger pretty quickly. Anger that gets directed either at yourself for being inadequate in some way, or directed at those who made the decisions that brought on the situation to begin with.
Whether or not those questions have any validity in the long term depends on the circumstances. In the short term, however, such questions are moot. The answers do not change the situation (my Mother’s lesson rears its head). There will always be time down the road for analysis and analysis is always better done when you’ve got a clear head. So, the first thing you have to do is come to terms with where you’re at. Once you’ve done that, it’s all about figuring out what to do.
I’m not saying this is easy, mind you. Sure I can neatly sum those steps up in just two sentences, but how to actually get your mind to that state of acceptance varies wildly from person to person. Some folks might just shrug it off. Others might have to find some way to vent the pain and anger through exercise or crying into their pillow. Still others just need some time alone, or need a distraction to get their mind off of things for a while. You see, I can’t really say how you get to the point where you can begin planning your next move rationally. The important thing is to find a way to get there at all.
For me, being excluded from the conventions in question resulted in the following decision: do I suck it up and go to the convention or do I take my toys and go home? In New York Comic Con’s case, it was a simple answer. They had free badges for professionals, and the convention itself was a mere subway ride away. I got to hang out and chat with my friends and have a laugh or two without a whole lot of time or money invested, and at the end of the day had a good time despite the rejection.
Next year’s Illuxcon is a tougher decision — not because it’s a more bitter pill to swallow, but because of the financial state I’m in. If nothing else, I want to go and support my brothers and sisters in the field. After all, they have supported me in so many ways, and if my going could encourage them even a little it seems like a worthy way to spend my time. On top of that, it’s a blast! Being in a room full of illustrators is a nice reminder that you’re not alone in the grander, meta scheme of things. It’s a reminder that everyone’s at least as crazy as you. It’s a good feeling.
But, as luck would have it, the decision to go has to be made sooner rather than later, and I’m currently at a point where I need to be super aware of where my money is going and how much I have to play with. Right now, it’s not much.
So, naturally (or unnaturally as the case may be), a new fear starts to kick in. If I don’t go, will people perceive me as a petty jerk? Will they talk smack about me behind my back? For me and my part, I have to let that fear go. Everyone has to make the right decisions for themselves. If these decisions cause folks to think lesser of you, so be it. You have to do what you have to do under the circumstances you are in at the time. You can’t carry that weight. If they feel that way, and it results in getting snubbed again then it would seem you dodged a bullet, no?
The decisions you make in the face of rejection are never easy ones, but what I’d like to stress is that it’s important to at least try and take the high road. I could have spent the last day writing nasty emails to Illuxcon’s organizers and raising a big stink. I didn’t. Even if I wanted to, it wouldn’t do me any good and would damage any chances I might have in the future. Instead I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, then painting to keep my mind off of it, and doing laundry (that last one is mostly because we just got a new washer and drier and things had piled up). Then it was all about whether or not to go, and now it’s mostly about whether of not I even can.
Anyway, when rejected, it’s important to tread cautiously and not do anything rash. Don’t lash out or become confrontational. The reactions you get from such actions will not be the kind you want, I assure you. At best you will be shut out further, at worst you will permanently damage your reputation. The best thing you can do is find a way to keep your cool (at least publicly), and buy yourself some time to process things.
One last thing to consider is that the folks on the other end are people, too. In regards to my own predicament, the organizers who had to make the decisions that resulted in my not making the cut didn’t do it lightly and had a difficult time even deciding that they needed to decide. No one wants to leave people out. Okay, maybe they want to leave them out over the personal hygiene thing — but apart from that, they don’t want to do it. They have feelings, too. They feel bad about it — maybe not as bad as you might feel as the rejected party, but that’s life. And if my Mother taught anything, it’s that life isn’t fair.