I Got Rejected From, Like, A Million Internships & I'm Still Alive

My mission right now, before I do anything else, is to order a cup of coffee.

It really shouldn’t be that hard. I’m 90% of the way there, seeing as I already roamed around the streets of San Antonio searching for a coffee shop with outlets available for customers (what’s the point of a coffee shop if you can’t plug in your laptop?), and now I’m nestled into a seat in this adorable little bakery/cafe called La Panaderia where both my phone AND laptop are plugged in, and the counter where I could order a cup of coffee is, at the very most, ten yards to my right.

But I’m crying, and I can’t stop, and I’m not about to get out of my seat when I have tears streaming down my face.

I don’t live in San Antonio, by the way. It may be April 2nd, but, where I live, people are wearing their winter parkas to shield them from the snow as they walk to class. However, in what was probably the most impulsive decision of my life, I drove down 24 hours down to San Antonio a few days ago to watch my school’s basketball team compete in the Final Four. We won, so now we’re set to play in the National Championship game, meaning I get to bask in the 80 degree weather a little bit longer and make the most of the best weekend of my sophomore year.

Except, as previously stated, I’m in La Panaderia, crying so hard I can’t even get up to order a cup of coffee.

***

I’m crying because I got a rejection email from an internship I applied for. It’s the second rejection letter I’ve gotten this weekend. I’m a huge Michigan basketball fan, and I can’t think of many things that could ruin my spirits when I know that my team is going to the National Championship. But getting rejected from an internship...yeah, that’s definitely something that can ruin my spirits, no matter the circumstances.

It’s not about the internships themselves. I’ll find other ways to spend my time. But now I know that, somewhere out there, someone else worked harder than I did. Someone else had a stronger resume than I did. And maybe if I had just focused a little harder this school year, or written one more draft of my cover letter, or taken an internship last summer instead of working at camp, I would be calling my mom right now telling her that I made it. My roommates all have summer plans, and then there’s me. The next time I step in my apartment, I won't just be another roommate; I’ll be the roommate without plans for this summer. The roommate who came up short compared to everyone else. That’s just a crappy feeling.

I know life will go on, and that this whole meltdown is just an example of how privileged I am, but getting rejected from internships just feels like a blow on my character, you know? If I’m not going to be the very best at whatever I do, then why even try?

***

That evening, the Michigan basketball team loses to Villanova. They get destroyed, really. If you didn’t know the circumstances, you might think that they didn’t even put up a fight. But they did put up a fight, a really good fight. Villanova’s basketball team is just really, really good.

After the game, the Michigan players walk off the court in tears. Zavier Simpson, who managed to hold Villanova’s Jalen Brunson to only nine points that game, has a towel over his face as his teammates, Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole, walked with their arms around him. Later, Poole, whose miraculous buzzer beater was the only reason we made it past the Round of 32, struggles to talk to reporters through his tears. Senior Duncan Robinson’s voice is barely audible.

When the team huddles up to sing one last round of the Michigan fight song, Coach Beilein says, “In my heart forever, you will always be champions.”

Maybe to an outsider, the players’ tears seem superficial. Like, it’s just basketball, guys. Get over it. There are bigger problems in the world. But I know how these boys feel. When you give something your all and come up short, it feels like a testament to your work ethic. It feels like it says something about you as a person.

“I wish the team knew how proud all of us fans are,” I say during the drive home. “The last game was rough, but I’m so proud to be a Michigan Wolverine right now. They worked so hard.”

As I speak, somewhere inside me, something clicks.

***

When I step inside my apartment for the first time after my trip to San Antonio, I don’t feel like a different person. I’m not “Hannah who got denied from a million internships.” I’m still just Hannah.

The next time I get rejected from an internship, I don’t cry at all. In fact, I walk over to the counter at Espresso Royale and order a coffee, like the fully capable young woman I am.

My laptop is open to a Google spreadsheet where I keep track of all of the summer jobs and internships I’ve applied for. So far, I’m at 27. And if I end up filling in the “rejected” column for every single one of these positions, so be it. I’ll apply for even more.

I used to be so afraid of failure because it meant that I wasn’t the best. In fact, if I had known that I would be rejected from two internships while I was in San Antonio, I probably wouldn’t have even gone. I would have stayed home and written cover letters, studied for exams, done anything to prove to myself these rejection letters weren’t a testament to my work ethic. As if that would do anything to change who I am so a person.

So my advice for someone who just got rejected from an internship? Literally just stand up, walk over to the counter, and order yourself a cup of coffee. You’re still the exact same person as you were before you got that email. A million rejection letters, or losses in the National Championship, couldn’t change that.