What to do if you did NOT match
I know yesterday was match day for US medical students, but Facebook just reminded me that 10 years ago today was the day I DID NOT MATCH in Otolaryngology. For those med students who did match, congratulations! For those of you who didn’t, ITS OK. I swear, you will be fine.
For everyone not in medicine, match day is the day where all the medical students in the US find out where they are going to do their residency and in what specialty. It’s a very intense day; happy for those who get a top choice, sad for those who get sent somewhere they didn’t really want to go. It can be devastating for those who don’t get a spot at all.
Right out of med school, I was one of the people who didn’t get a spot at all. My spirit was crushed. I loved surgery so much there was nothing else I could see myself doing. I knew in my heart I was destined to be a surgeon and couldn’t understand why the universe was keeping me from my dream. It was the saddest I have ever been in my life. I felt confused, because it seemed I had been led to my dream …and then dropped.
THE BRICK WALL
Once the dust settled I looked for answers and tried to form a plan. I remember a good friend telling me about the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. In the book Pausch says “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are NOT there to keep US out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the OTHER people.”
When I thought about it like that; it was just another hurdle, not the end of the road. There are tons of hurdles in med school: MCAT, admisssions, Step 1, 3rd year…I had jumped over each hurdle so far. This was just another one. I wanted to be a surgeon badly enough to jump over this brick wall too. It was a tall one, but there was no other choice. Surgery was the only thing I wanted to do with my life and there was no other career where I could see myself. So I did a general surgery preliminary year (which in retrospect was one of my favorite years of training) and reapplied. Second time there was no issues with my application, I got multiple interviews, and matched at my first choice!
The non match was just the first of many hurdles. I had to repeat my general surgery intern year, I switched residencies, I had to get a fellowship, I had to get a job, and what felt like 100s of hurdles everyday of training. I’m still jumping hurdles as I leave my first job out of training to move to a new location. The hurdles don’t stop!
Climb the brick wall
What each person has to do is ask themselves, really, truly, how badly do you want it? Can you live without it? Can you do something else and still be happy? If so, take the easier, softer road! Maybe the brick wall is there to help you change directions and show you another path. Maybe this path is not the best fit for you, and that’s ok. But if there is no other path that you can see, then you must climb the brick wall. Not matching isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a brick wall. You will climb it! You get over it, and you will be reminded why you wanted this goal in the first place. Then the wall will keep out the people who don’t want it as much as you.
I wanted it. I got it. You can too.