Life can be hard, both personally and professionally, yet at the same time life can simply push you towards a more pleasant option along the way, seemingly using rejections to get you on to the right track. I sure hope this will be the case, but only hindsight will tell. [addition one day after writing this post: while sharing these ideas on Facebook, I got such an inspiring response from my network, I decided to add the ideas and remarks they had below, between square brackets]
Today I was informed that my co-authored paper for the eMOOC summit 2019 in Naples was rejected. Rejections rarely result in joy, and this was no exception. For some reason writing a paper is also a personal effort. You try with all your ability (and mostly under a bit of time pressure) to come up with a paper that shares your research in just a few pages. Referencing to prior great minds in your field of expertise. So, when a paper gets rejected, it simply hurts. It feels personal to some extent.
The rejection came one week after my submission to get a prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship got rejected as well, it did not get the threshold. The review did have a lot of positive points though (which did soften the blow). Granted, I wrote this submission as a plan B in order to increase my options to get back to work after I recovered from the year rehab after the cancer diagnosis. I put my heart into it, not only me but also the professor who was willing to employ me in his department if the fellowship was successful. Luckily, I was able to get back to work and on good terms, and on an inspiring project.
[It seems that rejections are common to everyone, even the highest esteemed scholars get them despite their obvious wisdom and knowledge. My friends shared some good advice and resources that help to bounce back from rejection. First off: upward and onward, as simple as it sounds, it works ... once you have managed to soften the feeling of a work being rejected. The process is to reflect, look at the feedback (or if they did not send any, ask for all the feedback, of course, anonymized), and rewrite and resubmit. Next, a great article in Medium on The Iceberg Illusion, adding the picture here as well.]
But the above two rejections just made me realize once more that I am not a traditional academic and as such, I doubt whether I can ever be part of the whole deal. Maybe this frequency of rejection is simply normal, but at present, I just feel I need to take another leap. Just like I did three times before. Maybe I am not made to gradually move forward? Maybe my thing is just this .... jumping ahead and then working on that 'new' concept until it becomes more mainstream.
[Feedback is an essential first step, next of course is to get going and to know thy self. And to repeat to yourself that critique is not personal, and it can be based on a number of reasons that do not even have to be immediately related to the work you did. In a way, emotion wins over ratio every time, but that does not mean we cannot rationalize after the first emotions have gone.]
Ciska sometimes tells me: "don't wine because you are living off the beaten track, even if you could walk the straight and narrow, you still would roll out your own route to get to the next place". Maybe she is right, but it does not make things easier. Maybe, it is never easy for any of us. Even for those who walk the more traditional roads to achieve a professional space in society. I don't know, but each time I get such a rejection, I just feel it's because of me, and it feels personal.
Okay, time to move forward again. Working on a project which combines human resources, AI and learning... fun, I must admit.
[and this is - and has always been - an inspiring Last Lecture]
Cartoon in this blogpost is from the fabulous Nick D. Kim - the http://www.lab-initio.com/ site