Match Week: Monday. 16.03.2020.

We found out the world was being shut down due to the virus after Sunday brunch. Everything we were looking forward to — match day celebrations with warm hugs and happy tears, adventurous fourth year travel plans before residency, that we made it feeling of graduation with all the pictures with the people who were so proud of us — all canceled. So naturally we gathered together at my friend’s apartment for a final social gathering before retreating to our homes to bunker down for the ensuing social isolation. No one knew what was coming, but. 

What else could you do.

Each hour escaped quicker than the last, the stories spilled, the laughs bellowed and the glory of the you matched email gleamed in plain sight like the finish line at the end of a marathon. My classmate and I sat on the patio, drank wine, and debated where on our rank lists we’d fall like children anticipating what toys would lie beneath the tree on Christmas morning. But I knew where I was going. Saw the program director a few days prior at the outpatient surgery center. He ended our conversation with, “talk to you next week”. Asked my PM&R attending if I was overanalyzing it. She heard it too. She said, no, you know what he meant, enjoy your weekend and congratulations. I was at peace with everything. I was in love with everything and everyone. I was surrounded by people I love on the eve before the best day of my life. A genuine childlike smile never left my face. I was nothing short of euphoric. As the sun sank behind the horizon and darkness consumed the sky, my thoughts drifted from playful conversation to mindful introspection of the journey..

All those lonely hours spent studying and memorizing and agonizing over tiny details to ace tests that would allow me to pursue my dreams. Quizzing myself over and over and over again on the anatomy before surgical cases. Hand-tying thousands and thousands of knots on random household items until I could do it with my eyes closed just so I could impress when I finally got my chance. I was smiling all along. Internally crying. Tears of joy, tears of pride, a pat on the back, a congratulatory — you did it.

At this moment, I was in love with life. One moment in my timeline in which I could delete the stress like an old text message thread and simply say, I’m proud of myself. All I could think about was the joy of the ensuing week. How proud my friends and family would be. My mother and father, Jesus, this was the moment in life I can finally repay them and say — thank you, I love you, I did it. But most importantly, how proud of myself I’d be when I finally got that email. No one aside from me knows what I put into this, what I went through, and how triumphant this moment would be. 

Eventually, friends left, others went to bed, but my little brother and I stayed up until four in the morning watching movies. Rotations were canceled, so why not. We both understood the gravity of how special the moment was. We were going back and forth, laughing, talking, riffing off the glory of the moment. Tomorrow was a snow day. And tomorrow was Christmas.

At some point, I crept into bed. Nestled up with the pups. I didn’t have a single dream that night. My eyes cracked open and I groggily checked the time on my phone – 9:40 AM. Jumped out of bed like I was a late to a job interview. Paced around the apartment for a half hour, refreshing my email just in case they sent out the results early.

Alexa, play Let It Happen by Tame Impala, I said. Alexa, volume ten.

I felt the pounding rhythm and guitar riffs pulse through my arteries. Heart thumping louder than the drums. Euphoria leaking from my pores. I ran around the apartment, pacing, jumping up and down, dancing around like I was a football player in the locker room before the Super Bowl. For nearly an hour straight I did this. Playing the songs that reminded me of different eras of this eight year journey. Looking down at my phone every minute to see how much time was left. It felt like my entire life had been leading to this moment. Every minute I had spent studying during the past, what ten years, it was for this. Today was the payoff. Alexa, play Seven Nation Army. Alexa, play Reptilia by The Strokes. Alexa, play 30 by Danny Brown. Alexa, play All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem.

I continued jumping around like I’d just consumed an entire container of pre-workout mix. Singing along with the songs. With five minutes remaining she looked at me. And I’ll never forget that look for as long as I live. Her eyes wide and glossy. She didn’t say any words. She just stared at me. And then shook her head. Her lips trembled and her mouth moved. A single tear slid down across her cheekbone. She shook her head… “no”.

For the first time in an hour, I stopped moving. I looked down at my cell phone. Email notification read, 2020 Main Residency Match Results. I opened it. Those bold letters.

We are sorry, you did not match to any position.

I read it again.

We are sorry, you did not match to any position.

And again.

We are sorry, you did not match to any position.

And again.

We are sorry, you did not match to any position.

I stood still. Staring at the wall. No expression on my face. Lost in confusion. Drunk on defeat. Melting into the floor with helpless despair. Ankles strapped to cinder blocks sinking to the bottom of the ocean while the light of the sun on the surface grew more distant until everything faded to black. They were unsure of what to do. Or say. They just stared at me. I couldn’t speak. I wasn’t even making real thoughts. There was nothing in my brain. Nothing. Uncomfortably numb. Eventually trying to convince myself it wasn’t real. Like a dream when you’re falling, but there was no ground to land on. Nothing to wake me up. It wasn’t going to end. There was no waking up to realize everything was okay. This nightmare was real. And it had just begun.

8 comments

  1. Jesus, man… I can’t imagine how you felt.

    All through your absence I was hoping you’d matched and now were too busy or tired to post anything, but someday you would come back.

    This whole process sucks, all of this subjective bullshit, putting in an insane amount of work just to get a door closed on your face out of nowhere. I hope you did not blame yourself, as you said, only you know what you went through.

    I sincerely hope this is only a sad twist in the larger picture of a terrific story yet to be written.

    Thank you for having the courage to share this to the world.

    Like

  2. I am using your Anki deck now to study for my Step 1. I hope your story has a happy ending, and thank you for sharing.

    Like

  3. You guys in the comments need to fuck off with “why didn’t you match” or “no worries”. This, plain and simple, wasn’t right. Soze worked his ass off for so many years and did everything write. Him not matching is absolute bullshit and the key example of what we all fear: being as qualified as possible, getting the grades, making the connections, and “falling through the cracks”. The fact that this can happen in the match is ridiculous. And the fact that his home program did the things that they did is not okay. I’m so sorry, Soze. This is not fair and never once did I think you wouldn’t match. I kept checking here thinking that you were just too busy with intern year to post. I hope that whatever you ended up doing turned out well whether it was reapplying or SOAPing. Whichever program got you is so lucky.

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  4. This was courageous of you to share and written like a thrilling teaser to a scary movie. You are such a good writer and I do hope there is a follow-up. Rooting for you J Soze!

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  5. No worries doc. There’s always a second chance. Take a break, then get to planning your PlanB.

    wishing you the best,
    a fellow med student. ❤️

    Like

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