For most people, rejection is so painful that they cannot see anything good coming from it. But, I believe there are silver linings to be found in rejections, for the cause us to move forward when we fail to see that a pathway has been closed to us.
For example, during the summer before my junior year of high school, I fell in love with a very dashing young man, whom I will call Barry. He was from the more wealthier black enclaves in our hometown, and I was from the poorest section. I was so surprised that Barry chose to be around me!
For the whole of that summer, he would come every day to visit me, and we would sit and read books and talk and laugh. He was so well-dressed and I looked forward to going to the movies with him, like the other young couples in our town, but we never seemed to go anywhere but around my neighborhood.
I had never had a boyfriend, so it was a great time for me, although I admit that Barry saw us as just friends. We never kissed or held hands, but I believed that I was “his girl.” I wanted (craved) to hear someone say that they loved me, and even though he never said the words, I thought that I felt what love was supposed to feel like, so I was happy.
For nearly three months, Barry and I were the best of friends. He remained at my house until late every day, leaving only when it began to get dark outside. I would fix us sandwiches, which was the usual fare at my house, because my mother did not cook but on Sundays.
Then, the summer ended, and it was time to return to school. I was so excited to be able to see him in school, hoping we would still hang out together some days. But, that did not happen! Instead, I suffered some of the worst hurt of my life, prior to the intimate violence of the next summer.
I had a nickname of “Little Monster,” which kept the boys from wanting to date me. But, because of how Barry had been towards me all summer, I thought that the stigma was gone. I was wrong!
On the first day of school, as I passed through the halls, I held me head up. In the previous school years, I had usually kept my head down, trying not to draw attention to myself. I attempted to avoid the ugliness of being taunted and the nickname constantly thrown in my face. It was an onerous task to daily try to fend off the bullying. But on this day, I was looking for Barry.
I finally spotted him with his rich friends, the elite of the school, and as I went to speak to him, he saw me. Looks of horror and fear filled his face, and I knew that he was afraid that I was going to speak to him. With all my dreams of being accepted dying in front of me, I felt like my heart had turned to glass and broken into a million shards.
I looked away, quickly removing the smile from my face before his comrades saw me looking at him with joy. They would have started teasing him and calling me his “girlfriend,” which would have been social suicide for him.
Although I wanted to give him a good right uppercut, I just walked down the hall with tears flowing down my face, knowing that I was again friendless and seen as ugly. He never spoke to me that whole school year, avoiding eye contact every time I encountered him.
It was a rejection that I thought that I would never overcome. But I learned from that relationship that you have to always listen to people’s words and be mindful of what people say or don’t say, rather than live in a fantasy world. I came to understand that our emotional yearnings can cause us to see what we wish to see, not what is really true.
I learned that what we crave the most can leave us vulnerable to violent and selfish individuals. You have to look beyond the outward appearance and seek to look into the heart of people, for it is in the heart that the true nature exists. The silver linings of Barry’s rejection were not realized quickly, but I did learn, eventually.
I remember praying for the opportunity to marry Barry, but that never happened, and, realistically, it never would have occurred. Garth Brooks sings a song that says, “Thank God for unanswered prayers.” Not having spent my life with someone fake and selfish is truly a silver lining.