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“No” Man’s Land



Rejection is not a new concept to me; it is a reoccurring one.

My relationship with the repeated no started in college, when I was applying for an internship with the largest employer in West-Michigan. I believed myself an ideal candidate for the position, because I was sure of what I brought to the table. As the application went through, I started visualizing myself in the role of a working class gentleman; you know, the light at the end of the tunnel that you see even if it isn’t there. I pictured trips to clothing shops, foregoing sneakers in favor of oxfords and brogues. I saw early morning trips to the office, gripping leathered briefcase in one hand, while holding a cup of coffee in the other. I thought of the possibilities that such opportunities could lead me to, as I imagined the valley of milk and honey lying ahead.

But when the automated email of rejection got to me the next morning, the world I had elaborately constructed the night before abruptly collapsed. That singular moment of revelation became the genesis of my numbed feelings. Scores of rejections later, and I had mutated into a sponge for unfavorable news. Being told “no,” became something that did not hurt me; it became something I expected.

Nigeria is even worse, because the country operates on the “no.” Negativity saturates the atmosphere and falls on the nation in a storm of denials. It is the answer given to the motivated, loan-seeking youth. It is the response given to the ambitious woman fighting for leadership roles. It is the retaliation to those who go against the cultural norms that have paved the way to profound levels of idiocy. The nation of the “no” runs on the principle of having an inside man. Opportunities in Nigeria almost never come based solely on merit, and in most cases, one does not even get a rejection; a deafening silence is what is received. Silence stings more than rejections.

Eventually, when it came to pursuing things, I started seeking internal validation from external sources. My confidence was shattered and I forgot the things I initially thought I had to offer. I felt something was wrong with me and I neglected genuine happiness to embrace the guise of a mask. It’s significantly easier to say you’re doing well when asked, compared to elaborating on the living hell on earth. I then dawned the dark cloak and found myself in a precarious position: my own psychological purgatory. It is a place I may share with many young people.

However, my realization came at some point when I applied for an opportunity I never dreamed of getting. I sent in my application, already anticipating the swift rejection but I ended up being the youngest person accepted into the program. And then it hit me: there are going to be people who will want me, and that’s great. Some people are not going to want me, and that’s okay too. It takes absolutely nothing from me, nor does it put a stigma on them in any way. Doors closing can be an indicator of other ones soon to open. One of my favorite YouTubers uses an analogy of the songbird to explain how to live. The bird does not pay attention to the person who loves its song, nor does it listen to the person who hates it. The bird simply keeps doing what it does best: it sings! The key is to continuously do what you do best. The moral lesson of the fable is to be like the bird and keep singing your song.

Not everyone will like your song, but the ones who do will appreciate and value what you do. I know what I bring to the table, but I am not afraid to eat alone for a little while.




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