Minor Grief

I've been pretty lucky. I've not yet had to deal with the death of someone close, my health is first-rate, and my rent is usually paid on time. And I'm thankful. Things that worry me are pretty inconsequential; they're first-world problems. But I've been grieving a little lately, and it's on my mind.

Almost three years ago, today, I received rejection letters from three top-tier PhD programs in philosophy. Having just finished grad school, aced the GREs, and served as one of only two department TAs, I was certain I'd be admitted. 

I wasn't. 

I didn't talk about it. I couldn't. It was shameful and embarrassing. When I called to find out why they didn't admit me, each school said the same thing, "We hated your writing sample." I had written an Aesthetics essay on the morality of humor. I could have sent my work on Kant, Hegel, or Heidegger, but I wanted them to see me, how I wrote, in my voice. 

Fast forward three years and I'm living in Chicago which, ironically, is where one of the schools I'd applied to is located. After a year and a half of studying improv and trying to make my life as a performer, I wasn't chosen to be part of the newly formed house ensemble.

I was at work when I found out. The email hit me in the stomach, falsely leading with "congratulations" and catching me with the "unable to accept..." I have no poker face. My face broadcasts emotions like a fifteen year-old's Twitter timeline. You could dock a boat with the knot in my stomach. 

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance in two days.  

The frustrating thing about rejection is that it makes us look at ourselves. It politely asks if we're properly suited for the given task. It reminds us that we have no destiny. It asks us if we are strong enough to try again. 

I am a philosopher and an improvisor. They just don't know it yet. 


  1. "I'm like a fine wine. I get better with age. The best is yet to come."

  2. Snatchy, I love you and you are amazing. Besides Clark, you are actually the only man I've ever known who I thought was nearly perfect. You are intelligent and capable, and you are one of the only human beings I have ever admired and from whom I have learned what kind of person I want to be. I am proud of you for being Nick Delehanty--in that, you have already succeeded. Your life matters more than I can ever say.

    I love you.

  3. Nick, where do I begin? haven't read your posts in a while, and this one reminds me what I'm missing. First, I must commend you on processing the stages of grief in 2 days!! I'm jealous! (and I hate jealousy!) Let's go with envious :) Second, I recently read a story about a man who was following what he thought was his calling, was rejected, took a different path...and then was encouraged by a random person to "try again". He took the advice and the second time around was the charm. Third, I'm inspired by another author, who would say, "you may or may not be accepted into a top-tier PhD programs in philosophy....you may or may not be chosen to be part of the newly formed improv house ensemble...but you are something exceptional either way!" Your final sentence reveals that you already know this. After all, you are "a philosopher and an improvisor"

    and this is where i must digress to the first comment by "anonymous" - the best is yet to come!

    Dave G.

  4. @ D, I love you, Lady. You're one of my people. You always will be.

    @ Dave, Thanks for picking it up again. It means a lot. I'm keeping my chin up, my shoulders back, and my head high. It's Rocky II time.

  5. You got this. It's only a matter of time.