Dealing with rejection

I recently found out that I was unsuccessful for my third attempt on getting a scholarship to fund my PhD. By recently I mean a week ago. Other things got in the way that distracted me from the actual fact, so it has taken a while for it to sink in. I think now it has. I got to say I don’t care half as much as I did about the last two rejections. It is also true that better things will be happening soon, but that does not take away the slight feeling of disappointment at the third rejection. After all, it’s just another small slap in the face to my research, so it should hurt anyway, right?

This confirms my intuition and the good move that working out a plan B was after all. The pre-emptive strike, the intuitive move of the already rejected twice, the wisdom of the experience, you can call it whatever you like. I’m glad I put a lot of effort on plan B, because I feel much less of a reject right now.

I know that this rejection is nothing personal. Eight universities, 54 scholarships, and many many graduate students – you do the math. I have never considered my mongrel to be of great quality or being able to change the world. But in the world we live in, if you study Arts and Humanities, you’re barely going to change a thing anyway. I am not presenting anything groundbreaking. My research is engaging in all ways possible, but my topic is very narrow, and it barely affects anyone from a British perspective. That’s why I was seeing it coming anyway. I just knew. But like a rite of passage, every January there goes my scholarship application, because, you know, if you don’t ask, you will never get. Funding bodies are wary of part-timers, and mongrels – there must have been a reason why we didn’t get funding in the first place.

I understand them, and I wouldn’t want to be in their position. Of course, this is something I understand now, after three years being unsuccessful: there was not a single person that could make me feel better or stop crying the first time around. Yeah, I did cry, a lot. I actually stopped cycling to wherever I was going. I stopped and got off my bike, and sat on the ground, in the streets, to cry my eyes out. I was actually sitting just outside the Hilton hotel whilst this was going on. Security personnel started to look at me weird. If I had told them what was wrong with me, they would have not believed me. Right now, if I saw somebody cry their eyes out like I did over something so trivial, I would slap them in the face. They say that when one door closes, another opens. It doesn’t really happen overnight or with the magic help of fairies. But if you try hard enough, another door will open. Just how much are you willing to work for that door to open, you must ask yourself.

In any case, this rejection now seems to me like an opportunity to excel in something else, and keep having a strong hold over the control of my PhD. After all, when an external body decides to fund you, you acquire both funds and an additional supervisory eye looking over what you do. I can see how that can be stressful. On the other hand, I would tell those people who are being watched by the Big Brother of their funding bodies that they have all the time in the world to make things happen. Time and resources. Which is exactly what we, the mongrels, lack and yearn for. I believe I am now granted with yet another opportunity (and a reason) to show the world they were wrong about me. I really do not feel like a reject. I have accepted to deal with rejection and take all the positives I can from it. Every year I get closer to the perfect funding application. One of these years, you never know, I might actually finish without funding. And wow, what an exciting challenge that is.

So, my dear mongrels, be resilient. Stay positive.


They say patience is a virtue, or a gift. That somehow you’re born with it and you cannot build it through the sheer force of experience. I am not sure I agree, to be honest.

I reckon that if patience is a gift, then impatience would be a gift too. A terrible gift, I must say, but a gift nonetheless. Using those opposites logically, you would not be able to switch between being patient and impatient. I feel, however, that I am somehow between those two mindsets at the moment, and I’m finding it difficult to work out whether I am a patient person or not.

I was an impatient child and young person. I really wanted things right here, right now. With time, of course, you learn that things only happen after a while, and that there’s nothing really worth your time and effort if it happens from one day to the other. Those things are just cheap thrills. Like getting yourself a new car, or a new phone out of the blue. Any time I have wanted to make a purchase of a certain caliber, I have always over-thought and I have been patient enough to: 1) either gather the money or 2) wait until an offer that makes sense comes around or 3) it was my birthday or some other occasion, 4) above all, make sure I would not regret it and it was a genuine need. It took three months of owning a dying Blackberry to get myself a new iPhone; we have been thinking about getting a new telly, but still haven’t made up our minds; I have been looking for new basketball shoes for over a year, and nothing matches my needs; I had been looking into getting new Nike IDs for refereeing for at least 9 months before buying my Lunarglide5s. I seem to be able to be very patience with purchases and owning things. If you wait for long enough and you still want it, then you must really want it.

Similarly, I have learnt to be patient with my research and its outcomes. I received some funding from the Fundació Mercè Rodoreda last year. I have been writing the text I proposed for such funding in the meantime. I believe the text is finished, but I am happy to go over corrections over and over again. The money pressure does not really exist. Whenever I get it, I will be happy to have it. Sooner than later, I guess, but I’d rather have a good text and not just something stupid. In the meantime, I am revising an article and hoping that I can publish it in a few months’ time, or next year if needed. There’s a lot of work involved and very little instant recognition in these things. Yet I am happy to do them with the premise that “One day…” they will actually happen.

Lately, however, it’s been more difficult. Due to external factors, I have been in an incredibly impatient mode for the past few weeks. I just don’t seem to be able to wait. I’m constantly worried and think things too much and I find it hard to focus because I feel I am riding an emotional roller coaster. I have learnt that none of those bad moods will help speed up things. I can’t seem to be able to talk myself out of it. I reckon (and hope!) that by writing this down, I will be able to see how stupid my position is, and relax. I have plenty of things to be doing and to be worried about, and I can’t afford to be impatient, because it will only interfere with the spiral of stress.

The last time I tried this technique (saying things out loud in order to commit myself to do or not to do something), it worked very well – I finished writing the article I was working on! I hope this helps me again – because I have to prepare the APR presentation and script and rewrite the full conclusions of that article in the next 3 days. Yay for challenges.

#beamongrel #beresilient


This is a post on positivism. I need to write it now so it encourages me to think positive. I feel my Mongrel resilience has been at stake for the last few days and it might be tested in the next ten days. So I am making myself stay positive by writing about how positive I am. Trumpet, I know.

I went to a careers advice appointment yesterday. If I had to summarise it in one sentence, it’d be “you can essentially do anything you want, just figure out what you want to do”. In all honesty, I think it was a great job of the adviser not to seem too dumbfounded or surprised to see the incongruous ratio between my over-qualifications and my under-achievements. “Yes, I have a Masters’ Degree by this university and I make coffee for a living”. I went to the appointment because I am working on a preemptive strike. Next week I will find out whether I get proper funding for next year or not. So I am working with the “no”, so that when the news come, I don’t feel like I have been punched in the guts and want to go home, roll into a ball and cry my eyes out. I have done this twice before, I think I’m done with acting like a child about it. Instead, I am working on “what am I going to do with my life once I find out I do not get any funding?”, so as to have a plan B at the ready for when the news come in. You really have to be ready for anything in this life, and this is one of those times.

The need to stay positive comes because I got told that 60% of graduate jobs are not subject specific. So in a bit of a wander, I went onto job websites and looked for graduate jobs. They were all rather scary. In essence, I can be trained to be a sales executive with one of the many languages I speak. It scared me. I realised that I know what I don’t want to do: I don’t want a job selling stuff. I don’t have a corporative bone in me. I would be a terrible seller, and it’d make me miserable. So, in essence, the career appointment did have a positive influence on the way I see myself: I know what I don’t want to do. There is no need for me to visit a job website again and search for “graduate”, because 90% of what I will find will not be suitable. It reinforces my initial idea that working in the administration of a HEI is probably the right move for me because I love university and I love education and the principles that rule it.

I am staying positive because next week I will be given the key to the next few years and I will be able to act upon it. We might even be able to buy a new telly, and we can start looking for real jobs (or not). I am staying positive because it is always exciting to do something new, nevermind what it is. And I am staying positive because my best skill or acquired quality as a Mongrel is resilience – and whatever happens, I will stay afloat. Mantras are not my thing, but let’s see how this one works.