I feel like the word for this academic year has been rejection

I’ve gotten so much rejection this year.  Two papers have been rejected about once every month or two for a lot of months.

Flown out for a pre-job interview and rejected by the dean during my last meeting.

Not even conference interviews for the other places I applied– as if I hadn’t sent anything.  Is that better than thank you for applying but we’re not interested?  Maybe?

A grant proposal made it to the second stage and was then rejected.

DC1’s rejections aren’t mine, but there have been two three of those too.  (Update: ED2 rejection from Pomona.)

Heck, even my request to be reimbursed for my own copy of Stata was rejected.

It’s hard to have so much rejection without a single acceptance in between.  Not even a revise and resubmit, other than that grant that eventually got rejected.

Meanwhile my colleague who does no service but got all the internal money has gotten publications and grants.  We were pretty close research-wise when the money was initially assigned and now she’s doing much better while I’m just getting rejected at lower tier journals.

I’m burned out.  I don’t have any ideas.  I’m not excited about my current work.  I’m worried if I write it up and send it out I will have nothing left in the pipeline.  So I’m not writing it up, which is also no good.  I’m on leave and I’m dreading going back to work next year– we’re starting a new program and hiring 6 people and I can’t see me having time to do anything.  Which makes it even harder to get excited about new potential projects, even if I had any in mind.

I would quit except I’m afraid if I quit without having anything to go to that I will get severely depressed.  I worry that if I don’t keep busy I will have to contend with my thoughts and I don’t think this is something therapy would help me with.  I know me pretty well.

I feel like I should end this with an optimistic note, because I am generally an optimistic person.  Lives are long.  Work doesn’t have to define me.  We have enough saved that we could just move and I could quit without a job.  And maybe we should, I don’t know.

Update:  After getting this off my chest I actually got a paper out and restarted the next almost done project that needs to be completed.  So I’m a bit less down on myself and will be less down until the next rejection.  I still have some leave left and time to do more.  I can keep going forward!  I also met with one of my overworked colleagues and we strategized about what we need to keep from burnout and we’re going to meet with the chair next week.  I’ll let you know if that also results in rejection.


32 Responses to “I feel like the word for this academic year has been rejection”

  1. Alyce Says:

    I’m sorry everything has been tough lately. Hang in there.

  2. Debbie M Says:

    This reminds me of a New Year’s resolution I heard about from a short-story writer. He resolved to get 100 rejections. I thought that was kind of brilliant.

    I knew actors and other creatives had to grow a tough skin to deal with all the rejections. Now I know it’s academics, too. So sorry this is happening!

    I love your bonus 2nd upbeat ending! Maybe venting helped with your motivation? Anyway, so glad that things feel a little better now and you have some plans and ideas!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think venting helped, especially since it helped me focus on what I’m upset about (the future) so I can focus on what needs to be fixed so I have time in the future to actually do things.

  3. delagar Says:

    Rejection is the worst.

  4. anandar Says:

    I would also find that rejection series super discouraging, so you have my sympathies. I hope you (and DC1) treat yourselves kindly. Is there anything extra that you could plan for summer or future that would just be fun to look forward to? (And 100% in your control?).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 isn’t answering any questions about summer (like, did you want to go to Magic camp?) But zie is also drowning in a full set of APs plus Calc 3. Plus we finally just got the goahead yesterday from my sister to do our summer plans because she’s not going to figure out her wedding date any time soon.

      One thing that seems to be helping with DC1 is that we’ve said zie gets to pick a place to eat out with every rejection (or acceptance) as a consolation (or celebration) and I think it is helping hir to at least feel supported. I do hope zie gets some acceptances places zie wants to go.

      Oh, if you’re talking about me– no, last time I tried to plan something fun (20th anniversary trip) I started a pandemic and couldn’t go. Last time I got excited about travel I spent my time in Paris in bed trying to get over Covid. That’s also a form of rejection and I don’t want to look forward again only to get my hopes dashed so thoroughly again. Things I used to think were in my control but really aren’t… not sure what really is controllable. #stoic

      • anandar Says:

        Hah, yes, I stand corrected– nothing is 100% in your control. :( But I was thinking of a fun, short trip that both you and DC1 would particularly enjoy that doesn’t involve as many variables or as much work as Paris, like an interesting city a short and easy flight away, or a just a cabin in the woods someplace pretty.

        Fingers crossed for DC1. I am anxious that my DC1, who seems similar to your descriptions of your oldest (v smart but not “playing the game” when it comes to college admissions) will not get in to places she wants to go when it is her turn in a couple years. Attempting to preemptively practice non-attachment…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Nah, we started a pandemic when we wanted to go to Portland. There’s no way I’m falling into that trap again.

  5. CG Says:

    I’m glad getting all that out made you feel better and that you took some concrete positive steps. It’s so important to acknowledge that in any job, but I think especially in academic and creative fields, there are dry spells and strings of bad luck. And then they end and things get rolling again. I think the right approach is the one you’re taking: keep doing a little bit to move yourself forward, seek out colleagues for advice and commiseration, and sometimes decide to really take a break for a bit. Mostly academics talk about our successes. It feels better than talking about failures or setbacks and, looking back on one’s career trajectory, it’s easy to see those setbacks as part of a longer narrative of success so we skip over them. But they don’t feel great in the moment and not talking about them can make it seem like no one else ever has a rough patch, which is patently untrue. Sending you good vibes!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The woman whose no service has resulted in me having extra service and teaching (and who got the chair I had been promised plus another university chair) just got another NSF grant on top of the other grant she just got. That’s like salt in my wounds!

      I hate feeling jealous. I don’t like me like this. Maybe someplace will finally want her enough that she will leave, though no place has yet.

  6. Turia Says:

    I’m sorry things have been so rough lately. I know how rejections can compound and snowball.

    I don’t know if this would help but I belong to The Professor is Out group on Facebook. I am not planning to get out anytime soon but I find it very helpful to read the #howididit posts and see what people are doing outside of academia. Helps me realize that if I needed an exit ramp I could build one.

    Your department sounds unbearably toxic. I hope you can get out of there at least.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The weird thing is that it’s not actually that toxic. We just have a couple of people who do zero service and meh teaching, and that was fine when they weren’t rewarded and it didn’t affect me that much. The current chair is protecting/promoting her (but not protecting the other person who does no service, though he’s also not very research active). The current chair also heavily loads service on the people who are good at it, which has been causing burnout to several of us, which is what we’re going to address this week, along with the increased service workload from some university-level directives.

  7. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Paper desk rejected at the place that took a week and two tries to get into their stupid format.

  8. First Gen American Says:

    In the technical sales job I’m in, the close rate is about 30%. It’s 10% in emerging technologies. So on average, for every 10 things I find and work on, 7-9 of them don’t ever close. So, it’s less about your hit rate and much more about how many irons you have in the fire. So when I hear you’ve gotten a lot of rejections, it makes me think you’ve been productive, because you can’t catch a fish if the line isn’t in the water.

    This is why I loved coaching robotics. Because you have to fail a lot before things go your way and I think it’s good for kids to embrace failure as part of the innovation process instead of being paralyzed by it.

    Nevertheless failure still sucks and I remember being depressed for 2 months when one of my big programs I was counting on died recently. I have been burnt out since the pandemic started. I really should try to figure out what my next phase of life looks like but I just don’t have the brain cells right now to think creatively about that stuff.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      To be fair, there’s quite a bit of the same two papers being rejected over and over. But I do have a few other papers that were submitted in November that I haven’t heard back from yet (it can take 6 months).

      It would be better if there were, you know, an occasional acceptance mixed in. Or if I could check out of the department like the woman who just got two major grants does. I am just so bad at it and when I’m not there, things do fall apart (as I’ve been hearing this semester). Not that I’ll be getting any credit for that, other than more service responsibilities next semester.

  9. RS Says:

    I also had two proposals rejected today. I was so hoping for at least one to come through and perhaps both if we are lucky. Both were NIH proposals and they received scores (that means they were in the top 50% of proposals) but slightly below the funding line, so didn’t make the final cut. We had great last 5 years but now going through the dry spell. Hang in there. The tide will turn.

  10. Omdg Says:

    Well you’re right about one thing, this is not something that therapy helps with at least in my experience (they try to convince you that the problem is your thinking, but your thinking is accurate). The only thing that helps is putting one foot in front of the other and trying to care less. This is probably a low, and generally things eventually get better just because of regression to the mean. Your job is not your worth. Good luck.

  11. SP Says:

    Rejection is tough and I’m sorry this semester has been so full of it.

  12. rose Says:

    Support to you. Sometimes things really are painful and hard. Hope things improve for everyone …. fast. I think most of us are really ready for major stress relief.

  13. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I’m sorry. Rejection might be part of the process but it still sucks for both of you.

    The celebration/consolation food picks is a great idea, though, I might have to keep it in my back pocket.

    I’m glad venting helped a bit, and I hope it kicks the universe in the shins so that the acceptances start coming in soon.

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