As more and more strands of my hair began to entwine around the bristles of my brush instead of staying attached to my head, I knew I had a problem. I immediately contacted my family doctor, made an appointment and requested that he run any battery of test needed to determine the cause of why my previously thick and healthy hair was becoming so very thin and brittle. After robbing my veins of several vials worth of blood, he explained at my follow-up appointment, “The tests ran indicated that all of your levels were well within normal range.” Then, he posed the question, “Have you experienced any life changes or been going through any stressful situations?”
Well . . .
Describing the APPIC Match process as stressful to any student beginning the process is by far one of the understatements of the decade. Even now, writing the above paragraph and thinking about the initial horror of it all sends waves of nausea throughout my stomach. It was a brutal, agonizing period of time that was never, ever going to come to an end. If you have ever heard the colloquialism, “ Hurry up and wait!” that’s exactly what it felt like. Well that accompanied with questioning your skills, whether you studied hard enough, how will you compare to other students, why would anyone pick me and any other self-doubting questions you could possibly fathom. And that’s just submitting your essays and waiting to see if you are selected for an interview! The fun is yet to come!!
So, after weeks and months of writing and re-writing your essays, strategically selecting internships sites that better suit your knowledge base, and finding the needed funds to apply to the allotted amount statistically proven to help you Match; you get invited to interview!!! Alas, the excitement is short lived because now you have to plan your travel itinerary.
Not only does your itinerary have to encompass the locations you are interviewing, but you must tactically juggle it in a way so that you won’t miss or be late for any scheduled or rescheduled interviews. By the way, did I mention you have to pay for your travel, lodging and most of your food out of pocket? Oh yes! Most all of your interviews are in person and not by phone. Plus, it’s right around the holiday season when funds are often already strapped. I hope you remember how to build that bird house out of popsicle sticks you learned in second grade!
Nonetheless, here you are. You have arrived. You white-knuckle drove your rental car for hours thru bouts of snow and ice but have somehow made it to your hotel in one piece. The thermometer in your salt covered chariot reads 9 whole degrees Fahrenheit but you don’t care because you’re alive!! Reality quickly swirls around and thru your clothes as you unload your luggage with glove covered ice cycles that took place of previous fingers. You penguin waddle into the hotel lobby, hurriedly check in as other guests strangely eye your wildly, windblown hair, drag your belongings to your room and fall face first into the lumpy pillow.
The five o’clock a.m. wake-up call you requested comes way too soon. You make your way to the lobby for your “free continental breakfast” not thinking twice about how you look because you….must….have….coffee. If looks truly could kill, all the other patrons partaking in breakfast food and drink would have literally fallen over where they sat. As you slowly begin to resemble some form of intelligent being, your anxiety begins to creep up your back, over your head and into your stomach. So much for free breakfast.
There is no time to be sick. You must brush/floss, shower, dry/fix your hair, do your make-up, pack your luggage once more to the rental car and check out of your hotel all before you head to your interview. In your mind you have planned and allotted so much time for each stage of your “get ready” process. To save on time, you will brush your teeth as the shower gets warm. You place your tooth brush in its handy, dandy travel tube, pull back the shower curtain and step in. BAM!!! There was no shower mat when you stepped in. Your right foot slide on the slick, wet bottom of the tub. You fell into the tub wall landing with all of your weight just beneath your left knee. You are literally in your birthday suit rocking back in forth on the dirty, hotel bathroom floor. Tears are streaming down your face and you are too afraid to look at your leg because you know it’s broken.
Moments to minutes later, you still feel the intense pain but it is accompanied by the throbbing of your heart in your leg. You know you have to look but think to yourself, “What am I going to do if my leg is broke…..I’m naked in the bathroom!” Slowly you peak ever so slightly and see no blood so you open both eyes. A gigantic, purple plum has sprouted and is now housed on your upper shin. Slowly you climb up on your good leg and try to put weight on your injured one. The intensity of the pain increased under your weight but you can stand flat footed long enough to know if it is broken it’s only fracture. So, you hobble on one leg and shower the best you can.
“Oh crap…how long was I on the bathroom floor?!” You are 18 minutes late. You have to choose from wearing make-up or curling your hair so you forgo the curlers and opt to straighten your two cowlicks instead. You still have to make up time. You swiftly hobble around your hotel room like a puny tornado that has lost its wind and try to repack all of your belongings. Dragging your bags and injured leg to the reception desk, you check out. An attractive male and female take pity on you and help you carry your bags to your car. Normally, you would turn down the gesture because you never can be too safe but pain overrides intelligence when it is severe enough.
The smooth yet oddly irritating voice of your GPS comes to life directing you where to turn and leads you towards your destination. You know you have to speed but potentially will still be late. Once again, you find yourself white knuckle driving, weaving in and out of morning traffic. All speed limit signs are being ignored and you pray that any and all police officers on your route are getting coffee and not gunning for speeding cars. “Do they really like donuts?” Shaking this ridiculous thought from your head you try to be hyper vigilant as you barrel down the parkway, come to your exit and make a screeching stop at the bottom. Your destination is so about a mile on the right and you have 5 minutes to spare.
You literally slide in the drive-way on two wheels and hope your professors were just hazing you when they claimed some interview sites watch and judge you from the moment you arrive on their property. Three minutes!! You whip around their circle drive and are lucky to find ONE parking spot open. You zoom in, jump out quickly remembering your injured leg and hobble up the walk to the….”Oh no, stairs!.” “Don’t cry. You are an adult. You are a professional.” As quickly as possible, you make your way up each agonizing step and come to the door. You walk in and see a couple of other people in the same black suit that you are wearing and sigh in relief. You might be one minute late but so are they and there does not appear to be anyone in the group that is in an official capacity. You have not missed your interview and the important people who you hope to impress do not know you are late. You still have a chance with the site that you most hoped to make a good impression on.
The accounts above are true and will not soon be forgotten. Short of a tragic accident or actual broken limb, I could not imagine a worse start to an interview or a more stressful period in my life. However, with passing time comes perception and clarity. The anxiety and stress that I placed on myself by questioning my abilities, measuring my worth in terms of interview invites and viewing any outcome but a match with catastrophic thinking was ridiculous and harmful. My anxiety levels were so extreme that my hair was literally falling out! I was creating a toxic environment for myself when I needed to be at the top of my game. And furthermore, my emotions really did not fit the situation.
Be mindful of your emotions and the reality of the Match process. We all know entering that there simply are more students seeking placements then there are placements to be offered. When you break it down, it’s simple math. Additionally, this is a time in your life that you should be celebrating because a long, arduous course of education is finally being put to use. This is our transitional time from student to professional. And guess what, if you don’t match the sun is still going to rise tomorrow and a new day begins. We all blossom when it is meant for us to do so. Your not matching with a site that may not suit your individual personality, skill set and future objectives is a good thing. Build your wall of support with the boulders of like-minded individuals who share you ideals, not the pebbles of those you maybe can tolerate for a year.
Crystal K. Bray,
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
**Director’s note: We had no idea this poor woman had wrecked her leg prior to interview and made her walk all over the hospital! And, clearly, she is our intern, so the interview went well despite all the outside disasters. And this: no matter how Match goes for you, you will get through it, and ultimately persist and prevail, if not this year, then another. You are all valuable to the field. You can do this! –sv