The great and daunting Match Day approacheth. On March 18, myself and every other matching medical student will find out where in the country our residency position will be. It’s an interesting sociological phenomenon, because it combines the seriousness of training to care for the sick and dying with an application process akin to online dating, and the outcome is announced in a Powerball Lottery-style celebration.
The main emotion I have towards match day is that of the famous Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. The poem may be over-cited, but that doesn’t make it’s meaning any less important. Every day in our lives, we make decisions large and small that set us off down one path and not the other. It’s a daily occurrence, and so these intersections don’t give us pause. But it’s rare in our lives to have major decision points in our lives wrapped up and presented so elegantly, where the branch-points are so clear. I could end up on one end of the country or the other, and my response and that of the residency’s will send me off on one path at the exclusion of the other. All of these different possible universes now exist, but after Friday only one will.
If being in the hospital has taught me anything, it’s that nothing in life can be taken for granted. In comparison to matters of life and death, results from the Match are trivial. But the Match is an institution, a ritual even, which puts in plain view how we are presented in life with different branch-points. Sometimes we choose which way we go; sometimes we don’t. Either way, our job is to keep imagining what lies ahead, keep on hiking, and keep on celebrating.