It's okay not to move on straight away from being disappointed, says Juliette Bretan.Mike Haeg

It rained on that fateful day and, typical English student that I am, I focused more on the pathetic fallacy rather than my own emotions. It seemed so utterly ironic that, at this moment of my sheer misery, the weather had obnoxiously decided to cooperate and allow me the fantasy of a fictitious failure. But the story is never as entertaining and attractive, though, when you realise it is reality – especially not when it is you who is the protagonist.

We don’t talk enough about the unadulterated manifestations of sadness, no matter how much we claim otherwise. Thinking of methods to combat sorrow is not the same as thinking of sorrow. And so long as we continue to refuse discussion of this topic in all its gruesome, aching agony, and instead skirt around the issue by blatantly avoiding a wholesome indulgence of ourselves in it, it will continue to pose a threat to our wellbeing. This is the key conclusion I came to after the disappointment I experienced last Wednesday.

‘But what happened?’ you ask. In a nutshell: I failed to be elected onto the JCR. And, yes, I know I cannot claim the stupidity of these feelings to be anything other than insignificant. It is the JCR; it means nothing, there are so many worse things that could happen. But, despite everything, it hurt.

“Alas, it is often these seemingly insignificant matters that have the potential to wound us as if they, in fact, meant the world.”

It hurt, of course, because I hadn’t won. It hurt because I had tortured myself by scrutinising the voting numbers. But, worst of all, it hurt because it shouldn’t. 

I know, to most people, being elected (or, in my case, not) onto the JCR means very little at all. It is a transient position, held for only 24 weeks, during which one’s power is limited if non-existent. It isn’t a deep and significant matter; it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of opportunity; and it certainly does not reflect our worth. Alas, it is often these seemingly insignificant matters that have the potential to wound us as if they, in fact, meant the world.

The truth was (and still is) that I wanted to care for my college community so very much. I know exactly how important the provision of useful advice and nurture can be, and so I put absolutely everything I had into my campaign to prove that I was good enough for the role. I longed to be good enough: I thought that though I sometimes struggled to care for myself, I could do so well in supporting others. This, in turn, would give me external validation, a sense of worthiness I had been craving for so long. I would be helping other people, and also myself. It was to be a win-win.

Ultimately losing out on the position was an excruciating triple blow of disappointment: a blow to my ability to help myself, a blow to my ability to help others, and, most prominently, a blow to any sense of self-worth I had been tenderly cultivating. Though I did not expect to get the role, and I certainly did not feel I was more qualified to have it, I still hoped. And even now, whilst I do not doubt, at all, that the figure elected will do an incredible, inspiring and phenomenal job, and I remain firm in my belief that she deserved to get the position, I cannot stop my heartbreak when I remember that my name will not be the one featured on my college’s website under the Welfare Officer title.

After I had found out I had lost, it seemed I had a choice: move on, and face spontaneous bouts of despair at some unknown time, or become catharsis incarnate. Whilst I feared the melodrama of the second option, I knew I had to remove the pain from my system. I could not immediately draw a line under the event, because it was too painful for that.

I acknowledge that it is so difficult in times like these for others to know how to react and best offer help: people asked me what I wanted them to say, and all I desperately desired to do was beg them to tell me my feelings were valid. I did not want to be ashamed of my emotions, or saddened or furious at myself for being such cold-hearted bitch of a sore loser about the affair. I did not feel that I had a right to my sorrow – and I needed someone to tell me that I did. This is true, I think, for all matters of sadness: regardless of anything else, if someone is down, remind them that they are entitled to their sentiments.

I know I was lucky to receive some wonderful support on that day: a friend of mine said they had voted for me because they thought that I would make a great officer, another brought round a Toblerone, and two others came to my room, even though they had an imminent appointment with Cindies, just to check I was doing okay. Helping others does not have to be complex – it can be the simplest things that mean the most, and the actions of my friends on Wednesday absolutely meant so much.

But, when something causes you upset, it is solely and unequivocally you who is the focus in these matters. It is your choice, and yours alone, of how to react, and how to cope, and how to feel – others should not attempt to force you to behave in a certain way, and you should stick to your emotional gut instinct in your responses. The central lesson I learnt from the fiasco of rejection that was Wednesday morning was, contrary to popular belief, that indulging in despair is perfectly acceptable, because your despair is perfectly acceptable. You do not have to try to help yourself, or begin any semblance of progression away from your pain, or think of a brighter future. Though dealing with disappointment, or sadness, or sorrow, can be done through active methods, often the more passive approaches can work just as well. The expectation may be for the disappointed figure to move on, and move forward, and move away from their despair, but it may be more useful to move back into it, and explore it and dissect it, until you are ready to live again.

So sometimes not dealing with your disappointment can, in fact, be the best way of dealing with it