Dear Diary, Here’s My Match Day Story

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Op-(m)ed ran the “Match Day” contest in March 2018. We are excited to announce this piece as an honorable mention.

3.12.18 7:00am

I find out in exactly 4 hours if I matched. It CANNOT go fast enough. Why is the clock ticking in SLOW MOTION?! I am consciously forcing myself to think positively, because if I start to entertain any alternatives, I start plummeting into despair. Which is silly, right? Silly to despair at the mere thought of not matching. It’s only residency. It’s only my job. It’s just a career. There are more important things. Right? (Commence frantic searching of other things in my life that are important right now). I know, cognitively, that the Match is far from the most important thing to me BUT my brain also knows that this is what I have been working towards for over a year, and it all comes down to this moment — 3 hours and 57 minutes from now.

I feel like if I think about it too much I will actually self-combust.

3.13.18 6:30am

I matched!!!

Yesterday’s wait was AGONY. Not a physical agony, but a dramatic, visceral, rethinking-everything-I-have-ever-done emotional agony. I was really not expecting such restlessness in the hours leading up to the email. I am the sort of person who went through the Board exams without many butterflies at all, because I always mentally steeled myself long before, and never let myself sink into the pit of feeling the crushing weight of the high-stakes long-term consequences of my performance. But this was different; all the mental preparing I had been practicing fell apart (into smithereens on the floor) an hour before the email came and I was left in inner turmoil and agony. I was calm on the surface, of course, but in my head, I was doubting EVERYTHING. Did I make all the deadlines? What if something didn’t upload? What if ALL the other applicants are way cooler and ranked higher than I am? Agony, I tell you.

But the agony is over, forever, because I have matched into some program. Someone on my list thought I was good enough to put high enough on their list, and I get to find out who and where on Friday…3 and a half more days. Days which are already so much more peaceful and tranquil with the knowledge that I am going somewhere, wherever that is. I am already bracing myself and trying to mentally prepare for any place on my list, because I don’t want to be one of those people who is disappointed when they get anything but their first choice.

I am so grateful for matching in the first place that it seems nice, pleasant even, that I am allowed to bask in that hazy simplicity for a few days (even though I know that is not the purpose of this week delay, and my heart sinks thinking about the people who didn’t receive good news today). I remind myself of my theme for the month: Everything is a gift.

I can use this week to prepare myself even more, prepare my heart to be the most charitable in receiving whatever news comes. One last hurdle of medical school almost behind me, so close to freedom. I feel the need to ready/steady myself for such a dramatic unveiling of my future. I am not really one for drama; I do wish it wasn’t quite so showy.

3.16.18 5:20am

Finally, a date that has been burned into my head for almost a year. The date I have told so many people as the answer to the question, “When will you know?” “Where will you go?” “What will you do?” March 16. The deciding factor. The future-bearer. The page-turner. The game-changer. Match day.

3.17.18 9:40am

WOW. I feel humbled and exalted at the same time. I must have slept so late this morning because my body was so emotionally exhausted from yesterday. The residency (my residency!) director called me at 1:03pm before I had even seen the email (because those darn NRMP emails always go to my spam inbox) and I could hardly contain myself. I had not really dared to hope too much for any of my top 3, knowing very well I might be disappointed, and here it was gifted into my open hands! Unbelievable. Incredulous with joy. Tsunami waves of gratitude flooded over me. I will be going home, practicing medicine back in my home state, which had become my dream over the last few years.

I will be going back to my roots as a very changed and different person. A person more hardened and jaded, for sure, but also more humbly aware of the miracles of life. Since starting on this journey as a naive first-year, I have definitely changed. It would have been impossible for me to stay the same. I have stuffed incredible amounts of information into my brain for exams. I have compared my study-buddy relationships to the deep bonds of soldiers in the trenches. I have seen death and birth and so much in-between. And this is only the beginning.

And yet when I re-read my personal statement from pre-med, it reassured me to discover that at the core, I still cling to the same values. What motivated me then is what still drives me today. And that gives me peace.

To have Matched and to be starting soon as an intern still feels very surreal, very futuristic, and the slightest bit daunting. After the initial overwhelming gratitude and sting of happy tears had their run, I feel a slight undercurrent of…what is it? Uncertainty? Unworthiness? The weight of responsibility? Terror, maybe? It is a dark whisper compared to the pounding hurricane rain of relief and excitement and anticipation. But it is still there, and I will remain conscious of it.

Thank you for such a gift. Let the cascade of planning begin.

Now the fun can really start.

Sarah Patzner is a freshly-minted intern still getting used to her pager at Sky Ridge Family Medicine Residency in Lone Tree, Colorado. She graduated from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in May 2018.

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