The Waiting Room: Applications, Acceptance, Approval and Anxiety


I’ve done a lot of anxious waiting in my day. You know how it goes:

waiting to see if you’ve made the team

waiting for test scores to be posted

waiting for an acceptance letter

waiting for approval on the apartment

waiting after a job interview

waiting for lab results and a diagnosis

Increasingly, that news is conveyed through the convenient form of email.

Unfortunately, so is everything else.

Every time a new message *pings* or notification pops up or the “unread messages” number increases, THIS COULD BE IT.

The. News.

But it isn’t.

It’s LinkedIn. Encouraging you to check out your wildly successful former colleague’s work-a-versary when you’re hoping your project’s budget gets approved for the new fiscal year. It’s Barnes and Noble, New York & Company and Target all reminding you they are having huge sales while you wait for medical bills to flood in. It’s a newsletter from the company you desperately want an interview with. PayPal wants your bank account number, but you just want that friend you screwed things up with to reply back, accepting your apology. Amazon has a deal of the day, and it’s all you can do to keep from buying the random item – not because you want it or for retail therapy – but because it feels productive and you need something to happen. Anything, really.

You’ve got mail.

Heart rate accelerates. Stomach flips. Breath hitches. Muscles tense. Panic rises.


Facebook would like to inform you a distant cousin has cordially invited you to indulge in a round of PirateFarmCrush Mafia With Friends.

This is our digital age.

You wonder if it’s possible to perish from spam.

Death by email. What a tragic way to go.

Here lies our dear, impatient friend. Waiting for email did her in.


At some point, the anxiety morphs to existential pondering. “What is it about this email that has me so in knots?” you ask. Is your sense of belonging rooted in their acceptance? How long should you wait before following up with a reminder email? Is their approval about more than the surface-level circumstances but instead a debilitating fear of rejection? What’s the etiquette about calling to make sure they received it? Should you see a therapist about the personally revealing things this email crisis has uncovered?

You delete the emails that were not the ones you were waiting for, irrationally angry at them for not being The Big News. Open the apps of all your social media accounts. Organize those Gmail labels all you want, darling. It won’t make the wait any shorter.

Walk away for five minutes. Check again. First thing in the morning? Just the new posts from blogs you’re subscribed to. Mid-afternoon rolls around and you nearly have a heart attack thinking IT’S FINALLY HERE when you forget about your daily news briefing email despite the fact that, by definition, it comes at the same time. Every. Day.

Hang in there, my fellow waiters. I’m here to tell you, the struggle is real, but it has an end. If it’s a rejection notice, remember the agony of not knowing and proceed in relief that at least that’s over. If it’s happy, before you get wrapped up in details and drafting a response, don’t forget the lessons you learned in the waiting and your initial gratitude. Hold that inner peace close for the next time you’re refreshing your browser “just in case.”

And know your worth, your value, your hope isn’t dependent on any email, no matter what it contains.


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