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No Matter Your Match Result, It Does Not Define You

Match Day is coming, and everyone involved in the Match is likely having a hard time not thinking about it. Anxiety about Match Day is normal, particularly in anticipation of this time of change and transition, whether it ends up being the one you expected or a relative surprise.

This particular day is also often billed as the culmination of all your years of hard work — which is, to some degree, true. Because really, Match Day is not just a day. It’s the hours of classes, the burden of Step exams (mental and financial), every single minute of rounds, the interminable applications, letter requests, finding a suit that fits and weathering the frantic travel to interviews and all the rest. It’s made up of the hours spent studying with friends, the laughing, the crying, the insurmountable frustrations and the evanescent hints of elation peppered throughout, and even the moments you felt you were standing alone on an island, no longer sure of your true north.

I think one thing that we often lack in the frenzied lead-up to Match Day is perspective. I’m not going to say the result doesn’t matter, because of course it does. The process represents both an end and a beginning, though, and it’s hard to predict exactly where in your journey it lies. The hardest parts are the uncertainty and lack of control as you wait for an algorithm to make the decision.

But, consider those moments when you get that email or open that envelope, anxious gaze searching for the few lines that will determine the direction of the next step in your future — and I ask that you listen carefully:

No matter what it feels like,or what anyone tells you, despite the crushing weight of expectations sitting on your shoulders, and no matter the result, these moments do not define you.

These moments are not a measure of your worth.

If you match at your top choice, will the stars align and everything fall into place in your life?

Not necessarily. Trust me, the real work is just beginning.

If you don’t match, will your future go into a tailspin, crashing into earth with the appearance of an email proclaiming you’re SOAP-eligible?

Not necessarily. There’s work left to do.

If you choose to pull out of the Match because you want to change specialties or just haven’t been able to figure out what you want to do in three short years of medical school, are you going to be a pariah or a failure?

Not necessarily. Take your time, and get ready to keep putting the work in.

Regardless of the result, there are a few things you can do to maintain your perspective during the process.

  1. Breathe. You’ve done what you can. Some anxiety is okay, but don’t let it take over your life. Distract yourself with things you enjoy as you are able. Lean on your support system, and be proactive about reaching out if you need more help. Though they might not understand the entirety of what you’re going through, those who care about you will find a way to support you.
  2. Be ready. Preparation, as always, is key. Even if you’re 99.9 percent sure you’re going to match, make sure you understand the SOAP process and have an application ready to go if this is part of your backup plan. If you have another backup plan, make sure it’s ready for activation and you know what your next steps are going to be if you need to use it.
  3. Savor the moment. Whether you end up getting what you want or not, there are moments over the next few weeks that will mark a change in your life. Take time to feel and reflect on what that means to you, and as you are able, find gratitude for all the moments leading up to this one. Before you open your envelope, take it all in for a minute, because it will be over in a flash.
  4. Remember, it’s not just about you. When the time comes, celebrate with the classmates who worked alongside you. Thank the family and friends and mentors who supported you. If you got a result you wanted, make sure you also freely offer compassion and support to those who may not have gotten what they wanted. As much as this is about you, it’s also about everyone who helped you get here.

Then, it’s off to the next adventure, in whatever form it may take for you.

Happy trails!

Amy Blake is an Internal Medicine resident and a 2018-2019 Doximity Author. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which she is or has been affiliated.

Image by DiA99 / Shutterstock

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