This is my third rejection letter in 6 months.
I applied for the Konrad Adenauer Fellowship for Ateneo’s MA Journalism Program, got an interview but was rejected by the screening committee.
Before that, I failed the second level of screening for Al Jazeera Plus’ Asian Fellowship and never even got a ‘callback’ for Reuters News’ Video Production Program in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Now I’m not new to rejections in this career. In fact, they’re my norm, but there is really no getting used to seeing that letter that says: Sorry, but you’re not good enough.
It started when I was in Grade School. I started writing very early but was never accepted as staff to the Newsletter. I lost every year at the Campus Journalism competition too: I tried News Writing, Feature Writing, Editorial Writing, Copy Reading, but with no result.
The competition instructor would probably take a look at my face now and say: Hey, you’re the kid who joined every year but never won.
He was also the instructor for the Division Level of the Campus Journ Program when I was in High School where I managed to win twice — at Extemporaneous Speaking and Feature Writing — out of six attempts. But still, I thought that would start my lucky streak but I was wrong.
I joined other competitions: UP Sandiwa, and the Tarlac Private Schools Association Competition, even the competitions inside my own School, but lost each one.
With that record, I don’t know where I got the courage to pursue a career in Journalism, but I did, at the University of Santo Tomas where the rejections became bigger that many times it was just easier to quit. Leave this dream, do something else.
UST Faculty of Arts and Letters’ Newspaper, “The Flame,” rejected me twice, but Journalism Department’s Newsletter, “Journalese,” took me in and made me its Sports Editor one year after.
My friends and I also took the helm of Tomasinoweb, now UST’s official online publication, because we believed so strongly in the internet then.
It was these little accomplishments that reminded me there may still be a small place left for me in the industry.
It was a game of tug of war, though: the accomplishments would usually be followed by dismal grades in my Journalism subjects.
I remember a writing exercise for Business Journalism where my professor, one of the best in the beat, said that if you got a grade lower than 85 for that article, it was him being generous but that it meant you had no business taking up Journalism.
I got 82.
Heartbroken, I left the classroom crying, wondering whether it was too late to change courses. But what to take? Nothing interested me, nothing excited me, and there was nothing that I cared for in the world more than News.
So I fought a little more.
It has been a process of fighting, and fighting, and fighting ever since.
I knew when I was a College Senior that I wanted to pursue a career in Television News. Our curriculum in UST was Print, but I thought, I have been watching TV News before I even understood what I was watching.
Surely, this passion would account for something, I thought.
And I expressed this passion strongly, and clearly in the three letters I sent to GMA, all of which got no response.
My batchmates were, one by one, posting statuses on Facebook about their jobs in the company, and I was left to feel inadequate, and never good enough.
My friend, Apple, who got in as a News Writer for the now defunct News On Q, helped me by giving my resume directly to Human Resources.
Finally, I got a call, passed the exams and went in for an interview. I thought that was the end of my decade-long struggle.
But days, weeks, months went by and GMA never called me back.
Needing money, and something to do, I applied for a writing job at a Magazine, but still kept the possibility that opportunities may once again open up at GMA.
And they did. One day, I saw a retweet of then Senior Manager for Social Media Michael Josh Villanueva, looking for staff in a team he was creating.
I stalked him, emailed him, and with his incredible trust, I finally managed to sneak my way into my dream company.
I got luckier after that, which has led to this day, with an amazing job that gives me an opportunity to affect people, no matter how few.
But I guess it comes with having to be persistent althroughout that I’m also restless.
There’s always something more to do and something more to learn. That the world, and the stories don’t stop with just doing a job.
Several fallbacks at work have convinced me that to be able to continuously improve, I have to seek other perspectives.
And that’s when I started applying for fellowships, seminars, scholarships, in and out of the country.
I know that the best teacher is the field, but I look at it as preparing, in the best way possible, for the bigger challenges in the field.
Or maybe I just want to do something else.
But alas another rejection.
There’s this line in Rachel McAdams’ Media Flick, “Morning Glory” that I deeply relate to, then, up to now.
Becky, after being fired from work, went to her Mother to tell her that things can only get better from that point, a job at a network, who knows. Her mother told her:
“You had a dream, great! When you were 8, it was adorable. When you were 18, it was inspiring. At 28, it’s just embarassing and I want you to stop now before we get to heartbreaking.”
The embarassing part started early for me. At 10, maybe, I was already embarassing myself and at 15, I was already at the heartbreaking part.
Which comes next? I guess this part I am in now, which remains unlabeled, except that it is a process that may be repeated often, but hurts just the same everytime.
But as I said, this is not new to me, I have been fighting ever since and I guess this is just another round.
Lumaban na e diba? Ituloy-tuloy na.
There’s no stopping now.