Whenever I’m waiting to hear back about (read: waiting to get rejected by) grants and fellowships, I think about Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please! In her chapter about winning awards, she likens wanting to win to wanting some delicious pudding. Do you need it? No. Would you be happy if your friends got it? Absolutely! You try to ignore it, try not to think about it, and tell yourself it doesn’t matter whether or not you get the pudding – but deep down, you know you want the pudding, and sometimes that little piece of your mind sneaks out. You let yourself think about what it would be like if you got the pudding.
The NSF graduate fellowship is extremely competitive. I received excellent reviews but I didn’t get the fellowship – which is fine. Would it be nice? Absolutely. Am I disappointed? Yes – but not too much, because I know just how tough it is to actually get one, and also… how much arbitrariness and luck is really involved. The reviewers are rushed and, at the end of the day, they have to pick just a few excellent applications out of a mountain of essentially equally excellent applications.
So instead of trying to totally ignore the fellowship while I was waiting to hear back (read: get denied), I did the opposite of what motivational speakers tell their audiences. Instead of envisioning success, I tried to picture very clearly the email that would 99.99%-likely arrive in my inbox: “Dear Ms. Dzombak, We regret to inform you…” or “Unfortunately, your application was not selected…”, that sort of thing. Maybe it’s depressing (yes), but being very realistic about the odds definitely helps when the inevitable occurs. And then – if the .01%-likely event happens and you do get the pudding – it’s great. (I assume.)
Anyway. I have now placed all my eggs in the NASA fellowship, another extremely competitive gambit. I’m allowing myself a tiny shred of optimism because the reviews for my NSF were 100% .positive, and I essentially added more data and improved the application for NSF… but I won’t think about that now. For now, congrats to everyone who got NSF!!
PS. If you have not read Amy Poehler’s book, I highly recommend it.