Green Shirt Studio

Getting Rejected Is Helpful

Getting Rejected Is Helpful

Before I get to why I think rejection can be helpful, I think it’s best to start this blog by saying that experiencing rejection isn’t my idea of a good time and can lead to suffocating levels of bitterness, heartbreak, and self loathing.

BUT since it’s 100% a part of life, possibly 102% a part of life if you’re interested in pursuing a career in the arts, it’s important to get acquainted with rejection. To know it less as a monster and more as a necessary evil. Like doing the dishes after a big dinner. You’ve just gotta.

And I’ve come to find rejection can even be helpful on my artistic journey. To tell you how, I first need to tell you about one of the biggest rejections I’ve ever experienced. 

The set-up:


When I was 19 I got cut from the BFA Acting program at DePaul. At the time, they welcomed about 30% more incoming freshman than they invited back for their second year. That 30% that didn’t get welcomed back sophomore year got an email letting them know they needed to drop out of DePaul or switch their major. 

When I opened that “we regret to inform you” email, it felt like I got sucked into black hole. That summer I worked at a camp teaching children theater games and directing productions of Cinderella for 8 year olds and the entire time I was in my head trying to figure out what I was going to do next. During my lunch break I’d go into the bathroom, lean my full weight against the door so no kids could come in behind me, and let out little choky tears that I’d been holding back all day. Needless to say, those kids did not get the best version of myself for their teacher that summer. 

10 years have passed and I still have plenty of feelings about getting cut from DePaul. I mean – I’m writing a blog about it! While this experience was really painful, I do think it helped me learn so much about myself as an artist. 

3 things I learned from my biggest rejection ever:


I have to pursue my own version of success


Before I went to DePaul, my idea of being a successful actor was getting to act. I didn’t know the difference between equity and non-equity, or who the biggest agents were in town, I just wanted to do the thing I was most passionate about.

After I started school, my new version of success was not getting cut. I told myself that if I didn’t get cut, I could be an actor. Then another layer of what my new version of success looked like was created by the hyper focused environment of an acting conservatory chock full of ambitious 18 year olds. Our conversations around campus always  seemed to devolve into who would do what after graduation. “So and so has the perfect look for TV” or “I bet so and so is going to graduate and immediately work at all the prestigious theaters.” With the influence of these conversation, now I needed to not get cut, graduate from the program, and immediately start doing great things in order to be successful. So over that year I built this house of cards in my heart made entirely up of what other people thought success as an actor looks like and in that one email, it all came tumbling down, and I became a complete failure. 

After that summer of feeling that my life was over, I started taking improv classes at iO and Meisner classes here at Green Shirt. Then I got cast in a play, became a part of a theater company, and started working all the time with a group of people that inspired me. It certainly wasn’t a linear journey in my head or heart but over time I found that following the next thing that I was most excited about like acting in a show, producing an event, writing a 5 minute piece, and accomplishing those goals that I set up for myself was really fulfilling. I’ve grown so much more from pursuing my own version of success than trying to check the boxes I think I’m supposed to because someone else says I should. 

I shouldn’t put myself in a box


Before I got cut from DePaul, I only saw myself as an actor. Getting cut from DePaul forced me to really take a look at what I wanted to do and give some other things a try. 

In the years after getting cut I wrote more, did a lot of yoga and got certified to teach, tried improv, directed, produced a ton of events, and worked on the business side of a things for a couple theater companies. I think the rejection cracked something in my ego that said, “If I do anything other than act, I’m a failure.” In fact, doing all of these different things helped me learn a lot about acting in a way that I couldn’t have if I’d stayed hyper focused on acting. 

Because I directed I learned how to better work with directors as an actor, because I wrote I know more of what I want to say as an actor, and all that yoga helped me learn how to stay connected to my breath on stage. 

I shouldn’t take myself too seriously


Experiencing a giant rejection definitely helped me take myself less seriously. Maybe it was growing up with the influences of the internet, social media, or being a part of a generation told to “follow our dreams,” but before I got cut I was so hard on myself to accomplish everything I wanted to right away. 

I still hold myself to a high standard and work really hard to accomplish my goals but experiencing that giant dose of rejection so early in my career helped me understand that there’s so much in this world that’s outside of my control. So I do my best to keep working and not be too hard on myself if something doesn’t go my way. I try to take a day off every now and then, meet a friend for coffee to talk about something other than work, or go to the movies by myself, always making a pit stop at CVS before to buy cheap candy and bubbly water.

So if you haven’t gotten a giant rejection yet – don’t be afraid! It’s going to hurt but it might help you figure some things out.