Thursday, August 23, 2007

REJECTION & unrelated pics

A few days ago I received a rejection letter from the good people at Andrews McMeel Publishing. I have included it below:

Dear Mr. Nickum
Thank you for submitting the “This Day in Bald History” calendar proposal to Andrews McMeel Publishing. I am sorry to say that there is not enough support among our staff for us to pursue it. We do wish you success in placing the work with another publisher, though, and appreciate the opportunity to review your material.

Apparently, the good publisher felt that a page-a-day calendar (the kind you tear out each day) detailing the many accomplishments and failures of bald people throughout history just wasn’t something they were interested in, even if written in an irreverent way. You might agree with the publisher’s judgment, thinking, perhaps rightly, that the concept is ridiculous and absurd. You’d be in good company. Andrew McMeel Publishing is not the first publisher to reject this out of hand.

I recall reading the first rejection of my calendar over a year ago. I was sitting in my rented “apartment” comparing the crushing rejection letter with the shiny announcement from Peace Corps announcing I’d been selected to serve in the Republic of Georgia. In one, there was a sense of hope and adventure. In the other, a sense of failure and the possibility I’d wasted a good many months on something frivolous and dumb. It was in that moment I decided to walk through the door that opened and away from the one that had slammed in my face.

The decision wasn’t difficult. I simply looked around my apartment, an unfinished room I’d rented from my friend Pojken. It was above his woodshop and beside his sagging and decrepit farmhouse. I’d enthusiastically agreed to live in the house at a very discounted rent in exchange for helping with its remodel. Living in a dilapidated house turned construction zone prepared me immensely for living in a redeveloping country.

I’d lifted my eyes from the two letters, imagined Georgia, and then scanned the room, noticing the exposed insulation, the unfinished drywall project, the mouse droppings, the rattling windows, the woodstove in the corner that was my sole source of heat, and the Gatorade bottle by the door that often served as my urinal while the bathroom was under repairs. The bathroom was often under repairs and the decision turned out to be not so difficult after all.

There are certain things that didn’t go on my resume or letter of purpose that I’d sent to Peace Corps during the application process that probably were more important than prior education and work experience. I have faced winters without heat. I am accustomed to days without electricity. I have not only used an outhouse, but even dug the hole for them, which is far worse. These were good preparations for life in a village in Georgia.

Early in training here, we were asked to tell the other volunteers why we were glad to be in Georgia. I’d been quiet for most of these training sessions, but immediately felt the urge to speak up. I recounted to the others a dream I’d had the previous night. In it, I was back in America at the temp job I held for a few months before departing for Georgia. I was working at a mortgage company in Bellevue, a bland sea of office parks and chain restaurants near Seattle, that should be razed to the ground. For eight hours a day, I labored in the basement listening to an overly talkative girl with a limited understanding of the alphabet. For a little more than minimum wage I’d endured her anti-immigrant rants and calmly explained that P, in fact, came after O and not the other way around. In the dream I was back there again. I was panicked, the walls felt to be closing in and this girl was rambling on and on about how she hoped the INS would take “all the Mexicans back to where they belong.” I awoke from the dream in a sweat. Outside, a herd of water buffalo noisily passed by my window. The room was unbearably hot, the baby in the next room was crying, something unpleasant could be smelled cooking on the stove, and I was relieved beyond anything that I was in Georgia and not back in the states. I was away from that dreadful calendar, away from that miserable job, suddenly living in a strange land full of surprises, and, thankfully, no longer peeing in a Gatorade bottle.

I try to remember things like that when life here gets a little frustrating. Of course now my previous life has come calling in the form of another rejection letter. And grad school deadlines are approaching and the question of “What do I do after Peace Corps?” is looming like a rogue wave. Another school year will soon begin, and with it un-measurable frustrations. Through it all I try to remember that basement filing room, and be thankful that if nothing else, Georgia is anything but boring.

This blog may seem to be filled with my bitching and moaning, but keep in mind that I can leave at any time. Peace Corps has a contract with a very reputable travel agent who will book you a flight at a moments notice and fly you directly back to your place of permanent residence. They are forbidden to try to talk you out of it. And I’m still here, still trudging down the dusty road every day and preparing for another school year. And even if bald history isn’t a bestseller, perhaps something marketable can be written about life in Georgia. Or, it it’s not marketable, perhaps at least I can gain some variety in my rejection letters.


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