I was on an outpatient pediatric cardiology elective during Match Week 2017. I hadn’t slept well on Sunday night, the night just prior to getting the email that would either say “Congratulations!” or “We are sorry….”. Internally, I was a mess. I was acutely aware of my heartbeat and the seconds ticking by as I awaited that email. My preceptor was also acutely aware, repeatedly asking, “Anything yet?” between patients and echos that morning. I felt like I was going to die. Sitting in his office, my phone dinged with the receipt of an email.
Instantly, my tachycardia subsided. I sighed audibly and my preceptor’s face brightened. So, so very relieved that I did not have to SOAP into an unfilled position. And yet simultaneously a new panic took over. Which program?!? I had applied to too many, received 22 interview invitations, attended 19, and ranked 14. Who was I to have deserved a spot? All of those who didn’t Match were just as deserving…. there just are not enough spots to accommodate everyone.
My Imposter Syndrome had begun long ago. I had applied to medical school four times,by the time I had matriculated, I had not carried a full course load of hard science in over 4 years. I was old. Could I even do this?
To make matters worse, I was accepted to my school off of the waitlist at the very last moment – I had already put a deposit on a seat at a different school and had signed a lease on housing when I received a phone call and immediately switched directions. Subsequently, given that the switch had been so late in the game, I never received an acceptance letter to the school I was attending. I showed up to the White Coat Ceremony 5 days after accepting the waitlist offer and wondered if there would even be a white coat waiting for me, if my name would even be on the program. It had all happened so quickly, and at the last minute. Somehow, everything had worked out, my name was in the program, I received my white coat at the ceremony, and it was off to the races. It still felt like I had dreamed it. Am I really supposed to be here? Am I the consolation prize?
During that year, I was also pregnant with my first child, and just knew that I would be perceived as not being dedicated to my craft. Could I be good at more than just being a student? Could I also be a good mom and wife? Do I really belong here?
Later, on my first day as a second year medical student, my badge failed to give me access to the instructional building. I called the IT department to see if there was anything they could do. “Why would you want access to the medical building?” the man on the phone asked. “We have you down as being a Dental student.” I explained that, no, I was a second year medical student and my badge had worked on that entrance for a year. He said he’d call me back. After much waiting, I received a call from IT. “I had to call the Admissions Office to see if you were were actually a student here. I didn’t believe that you were.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry. Did others think I wasn’t meant to be here?
Fast forward to Match Week. I was the beholder of an email with happy news, but I had to wait four more days to find out which program I would start in a few short months. I had applied coast to coast, so my family could literally move just about anywhere based on the outcome of an algorithm. I agonized for those four days, even though I knew that no amount of worry or panic would change the program that would be unveiled on Friday. The morning of Match Day, it was raining – was that a poor omen? As the hours and minutes and seconds ticked closer to noon, my anxiety ramped into high gear. What if I just didn’t open the envelope? There is no way I Matched into my #1. There is just no way. They can’t want me, I’m not good enough for them, I’m not deserving of Matching there. And yet they did want me, because my top choice was listed on my Match letter, and it was binding.
During Orientation, my program director stood in front of my cohort and said, “You are in the right place at the right time and we are here to support you.” I wrote down his words and have read them over to myself many times. I don’t know why the first thing I always think about myself has to be so negative. Maybe someday I will finally grow out of my Imposter Syndrome.
To everyone who finds out where they Matched tomorrow, or for those who accepted a position in SOAP, know this: You are deserving of that spot. You are in the right place, at the right time. And the only person who determines your goals is YOU.