Match Day Eve 2018
I’m standing downtown in front of the most famous landmarks of New Orleans, surrounded by fortune tellers, ghost-tour guides, tourists, and about 100 of my classmates. In front of us, a man plays a drum while another speaks rhythmically, projecting his voice for the entire audience to hear. As he speaks, a woman walks through the crowd spattering us with a variety of sweet smelling oils. As one of our mottos states, “Only at Tulane, Only in New Orleans” can you find a widely-attended pre-Match voodoo ceremony. The speaker pulls my classmates up to dance to the drum beat as he sings a song to bring us good luck, good fortune, and enough prosperity to pay back all of our student loans. In the end, the voodoo practitioners give each of us a bean (yes, a magic bean) and tell us to store it with coins to bring us good fortune. I’m not a big believer in spiritualism, but I’m also not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially around The Match.
The ceremony is over, but they don’t completely assuage the pre-Match jitters. Since I’m already downtown, I drag my family over a block to Café Du Monde, where we share a late-night snack of beignets (a fried French donut), and they try to distract me from the coming day, pretending to be in town not for this life-changing unveiling of training destinations, but simply to chat over a decidedly unhealthy dessert.
It’s a bit later than my normal bedtime, and that’s a calculated thing. I’m hoping that going to sleep a little later will help me sleep the night through successfully.
No dice. I can’t sleep. Too much excitement, trepidation. My tossing and turning wakes my husband, who asks if I’m okay, then wishes me a Happy Match Day (in a tone he would use to wish me a Happy Birthday) before falling back to sleep. After a little while, I sleep again, too.
The alarm announces it’s time to get up! I showered before bed, but somehow managed to sweat through my pajamas during the night (ddx: TB, lymphoma, osteomyelitis, anxiety). So I shower again now.
My husband is making eggs and toast and offers me some. My stomach is fluttering a bit, so I pass on the eggs and stick with simple slices of toast.
I have a new dress for Match Day, but it was a bit too big when it arrived a day ago, so I’ve taken it apart and resewn the back. It fits now, but I’m nervous and a little paranoid today, so I spend some time reinforcing the new seam. I don’t notice until I’m doing dishes late in the evening, but I’m not the only one who is nervous. My husband is pushing his fried eggs around on his plate. He never touches the yolk.
My in-laws arrive to pick us up. I thought I asked them to arrive at 9:30, so I’m not decent yet. They wait in the car while I put on the new dress. I’m still not quite ready (and my husband needs to put on pants) so I invite them in to wait while we finish up.
We head out. I’m navigating, and while my father-in-law is familiar with New Orleans, neither of us is familiar with the hotel where Tulane’s Match ceremony takes place. I’m not used to his driving, so my anxiety is at an all-time high by the time we park in the hotel lot.
My sister texts me frenziedly, wondering why the online Match streaming link I sent her isn’t working yet. She forgot that we’re in different time zones. I remind her that the ceremony starts officially in an hour. We were told there would be a group picture taken promptly at 10, but we spend about half an hour mingling and talking with classmates we haven’t seen since our time together on wards, or even before that. We all try not to talk about the coming event, but it slips into conversation. Some of my classmates are certain they know where they are going. Others have no idea. A few share that they unexpectedly SOAPed. With those friends I speak briefly about the ridiculousness of the Match system. My stomach is still fluttering too much for the cocktails available at the bar. Emotions are running high, and I’m hugging my classmates at a rate not usually seen outside of funerals, weddings, and alcohol binges. We remind each other to add our five dollars to the class jar.
They call us to take our group photo. We are arranged in order of height, and it quickly becomes apparent that our class is huge. For some reason, my row is the only one kneeling on chairs. I can’t see the final result, but based on the jokes and laughter among the crowd as the photos snap, a good deal of editing may be necessary to make us all smile normally in the final version. When the photographers are either satisfied or too frustrated to continue, we are herded back into the auditorium room. A slideshow of students from the past four years is on the screen. My dad jabs me in the side when one of my wedding photos passes by on the screen. I missed it. I was staring into space contemplating the future.
With a rousing battle cry from a well-worn trumpet, our dean of students kicks off the Match Day ceremony. He reminds us of his personal mantra for the last four years “Tulane does well in The Match!” The Dean pulls our names out of a hat, and one by one calls us up to receive our letters. One by one we rush up to get them, then rush back to our waiting friends and families. I am reminded once again of how many students we have in our class. I hope for every name to be mine, and simultaneously to be the last one called. A friend of mine races back to his seat with his letter. I try to give him a high five as he passes, but he seems to have suddenly developed tunnel vision (ddx: lesion of the pituitary, alcohol intoxication, adrenaline rush). My dad says the room reminds him of a game show. All around us people are opening their letters, screaming, shouting, and crying about the results. To my left a student jumps up and hugs his fiancée. They managed to match together. Around them, their separate families are also crying and yelling and hugging each other.
Seriously, there are a lot of names.
My name is called, and I rush up, tripping only a little. Coming back to my seat, I try to call the family members that couldn’t make it to the event. I manage to reach my mom and two of my sisters on a conference call, but even on speakerphone, I can’t hear them over the din of excited screams throughout the room. I have two other brothers to try and call, but my mom has to get back to work, so I rip open the letter and read the result to them. It takes a few moments to recognize that I’m really going to be a doctor, going to be an internist, and going back to California. Only then do I notice that I too had tunnel vision. As the adrenaline melts away, my legs start shaking uncontrollably. My husband and my dad hug and congratulate me while I tell my siblings I can’t hear them and I’ll call them later. I send several texts to my missing family members, which is a good way to focus on controlling the movements of my extremities. My husband squeezes my hand, and I feel that the anxiety he experienced manifested in a different way. Usually a very warm person, his hands are as cold as ice. The last name is finally called, and the lucky/unlucky person gets the pot of money the students contributed to in the beginning.
The ceremony is over, and we toast to our futures. As we mob the stage, they start pushing us into the next room for lunch. We break off from our families briefly to find our friends and compare results. As I leave the room, I notice some tears aren’t joyful, but overall the mood is uplifting. It feels as though a huge burden has been lifted from my back.
They announce that the parade will start downstairs in just a few minutes, but I’ve suddenly realized that I’m exhausted and drained — emotionally and physically. My family expresses similar feelings, so we cut away from the celebrations and head home early.
I pull together the notes, contract, and information I have for my new residency, and my husband and I start brainstorming what our next steps should be. It’s bittersweet leaving New Orleans, so we decide to make two to-do lists, one for things I want to do here before leaving, and another for boring things I have to do to prepare for the transition (like find housing). Somewhere in the middle of this brainstorming session, we end up napping. I crash hard, and when I wake, I’m not covered in sweat, but in my own drool.
After calling our families, we get ready to go out to eat. I decide to get started on my New Orleans Bucket List quickly, and we head out to one of our favorite seafood joints for some raw oysters.
Despite our nap, we’re still too tired to do more than wash our dishes and brush our teeth before bed. It’s hard to believe the day we waited so long and anxiously for has come and is so suddenly over. But overall, I think we did well in The Match.
Erin Ricketts is a fourth year at Tulane University and is currently writing a book about medical myths.