Hey [Insert Listserv Here]!
Are you interested in starting or continuing your extracurricular passions? Come to our open house! See us at the activities fair!! We want anyone and everyone!!! No experience necessary!!!!
If you have a functioning email, or eyes, chances are messages like these flooded your physical and electronic inbox within your first few weeks here at Princeton. Especially for the first-year population, Orientation is a nonstop bombardment of information, of presentations, and of walks to and from McCarter Theatre. On top of the stress of move-in, choosing courses the day before they start, and trying to understand the strange Princeton lingo tossed around by upperclassmen, applications and auditions for student groups get thrown into the mix straight away.
When I got to Princeton, I was eager to continue doing here what I loved in high school. Especially in my senior year, my extracurriculars became the focus of my existence. After acceptance letters were in and the academic pressures of getting into college were gone, I wholeheartedly immersed myself in what I loved: a cappella, choir, theater. By the end of high school, I’d climbed up the totem pole of all my clubs. President, chamber, director. These were my roles and I felt very comfortable where I was. My high school groups were full of my closest friends and were where I had most belonged.
With classes underway, the rush to find a place to belong began. I sat in my common room following my auditions, waiting for either the banging at my door and face-full of shaving cream or for that piercing ding of my email notification accompanied with the dreaded “Thank you so much for your time, BUT …” I auditioned for five a cappella groups in three days. I then got rejected from five a cappella groups in three days. The following days were cast in a shadow of hopelessness and self deprecation.
One of the reasons why rejection is so hard to swallow is because we’re not used to it. At least by the end of our high school careers we’ve achieved a certain sense of comfort, stability in what we’re doing. Especially by making it into Princeton, we’ve reached the top, but where do we go from here?
I recently found a post on Tiger Confessions that hit home with me. It asked, “Can we start a club or a group chat of students who feel like they’ve slipped through the cracks at Princeton?” This post, coupled with all the late-night rants I’ve witnessed from people who got rejected from a club, made me realize that the vast majority of us are rejects. Just think, there are dozens or even more applying and auditioning for various clubs, and maybe one, two, or 10 get in. Especially if you’re a first-year, you’re going to be disappointed.
Of course, if you told me this a few weeks ago, I’d tell you to get out of my triple, throw a pillow at you, and continue to hide under my covers and sob into my laptop keyboard. I don’t know what I expected going into the audition and application process. I guess I wasn’t really thinking about everyone that I would be competing with to get in. I knew I loved music, thought I was good at it based on past experience, and assumed that was enough. So when things didn’t go as planned, and I didn’t even get a single callback for the groups I was shooting for, I spiraled into an array of doubts.
Am I really not good enough at what I love?
If this is “my thing” and I’ve been rejected from anything remotely related to it, then what am I?
Naturally, there’s also the equation of rejection with being an outcast. Student groups are your ticket into making new friends and connections. Especially as I saw my CA friends and roommates getting into what they tried out for, I feared they’d enter their new social circles and leave me in the dust.
After my rejection extravaganza, however, I made an important realization. I was in bed, feeling sorry for myself, of course. That day was the final day of auditions for Princeton University Players’ 25th annual Putnam Spelling Bee. I was considering auditioning, but I was battling with myself over whether or not I would. I assumed the outcome would follow the trend from the previous week. While I was looking for excuses not to go, like not being prepared or just being a worthless, talentless toad with no singing ability whatsoever, I had a very interesting thought. What have I got to lose? Seriously. I already felt I was at rock bottom. It couldn’t possibly be worse. So at 12:20, I signed up for a 12:45 slot, ran to J Street library, and frantically printed out two copies of sides of “When He Sees Me” from “Waitress.” I annoyed my roommates as I sang it over a few times in my room, and then, off to the audition. Of course I didn't get in, or even get a callback, for that matter, but I’m so beyond proud of myself for doing that. I really don’t care that I didn't get it, but at least I gave myself a chance. Because God knows I had even less of a chance if I just stayed lamenting in bed all day.
The thing about “finding your place” is that it happens at different rates. Right now, I have no idea what my place is here at Princeton. I have roommates and friends that are in the same boat, but I know many others who are already in all the groups they wanted and meeting new people because of it.
But for all of those of you who are still lamenting your rejections, I propose a new student group: The Princeton Reject Club. It’s completely normal to be rejected. Princeton is a highly selective school to get into in the first place. And here we are, existing as a pool of extremely talented, ambitious, (slightly) competitive people, and we’re all fighting to belong. Chances are we’re not all going to get into what we want. If you’re on track or where you want to be, then congratulations. But for the majority of us, what we’ve done might be in the past, even if we’ve been the best of the best or truly loved what we were doing.
The Princeton Reject club is for all those people that are still struggling with that sense of belonging. It is not exclusive to first-years, although I’d say we are bearing a good deal of the weight there. It’s about taking comfort in the fact that you are not alone. We truly want anyone and everyone. No experience needed, but chances are we all have a little bit.