By the time you read this, we’ll know. Know what we’re on to next, know where the next three years will happen, know, finally, the future. This was going to be a comprehensive, contemplative meditation on the Match. I wanted to write what this is, here on the brink of it; wanted to capture some sense of what this time has been for us, applying and interviewing and analyzing and agonizing and then waiting and wanting but trying not to want too much. I wanted to write about that finespun balance, how the nature of Medicine’s matching system requires equal allotment of thoughtful, measured consideration and also near-complete detachment. You cannot get your hopes up. You cannot pin your heart to any point on the map. When anyone in the last little while has asked me about it I have explained I am hovering. They are all good choices, I say, only I cannot fall in love with any one of them, not just yet. I was going to write about that.
As it is, I am instead at the keyboard with hands shaking and my stomach turning somersaults so superlatively it’d make a gymnast jealous. What is it with your body doing that thing where it goes into exorbitant physical panic without any conscious mental anxiety to drive it? I haven’t once in the last month thought deliberately to myself, “Goodness, this is actually quite terribly nerve-racking, whatever will we do?” because in all reality I’ve been completely fine. Previous to the T minus 24 hour mark I was happily consumed by the present: busy with our school play and grateful for my own kind of March madness that always brings, thinking ahead only to count down to Naomi’s return and the spring break thereafter. I mean sure, I’ve indulged in a pro/con list every other Sunday (I swear to you we took all the usual practical things into consideration, but these lists are not those lists) and occasionally find myself humming songs mined from a subconscious loop of Match list city names (really since when do I know the lyrics to “Philadelphia Freedom” and where in my brain are those words filed?). Some stranger’s bumper sticker will say “I’d Rather Be in Ann Arbor” and for a fleeting second I’ll think it might must be a sign. But for the most part: hovering, happily.
Oh my word I could not kidding throw up right now.
The Match is a funny thing. After applying to and interviewing at any number of programs throughout the fall of their fourth year, medical students list those programs in order of preference and the programs do the same for their applicants. An algorithm then takes each applicant and attempts to match them with their program preference. You receive your placement on Match Day, where medical students across the country open an envelope to read their assignment. If this sounds a little like an Ally Condie novel, that’s because it is, minus the dystopian futility — the algorithm is “applicant-proposing,” which means the applicant’s preference takes precedence in initiating placement and therefore, scientifically speaking, you couldn’t possibly obtain a better outcome than the one the computer writes up for you.
To John there is a perfect fairness to the process; the math adds up and he abides by the equation. My arts to his sciences don’t follow that logic, and I was at first appalled by it, feeling instead like the Match doesn’t leave room for real choice. This conflict was the subject of our most recent heated contest, and while we had to agree to disagree neither did so all that agreeably, a cease-fire in the name of sanity only. I think in large part I was jealous. I have watched so many of my friends choose their next step, field multiple invitations and hand-pick their RSVP. My sister and her fiancé are in the midst of that now with graduate schools, and I wonder how I would be dealing with the decision if it worked that way in Medicine. They are handling it beautifully. I have realized I would not. It is only in this last week I’ve felt thankful for the Match. There is something to letting things go, to saying with surety come what may.
It is 1:22 AM on March the 18th and in nine hours, we’ll know. I need to sleep. I can’t sleep. I am thinking again of each city: the surprise sense of drowning I felt this last time in Manhattan and how Philadelphia felt like sweet wild country air in comparison. My sea-heart alive, radiant in Seattle, but the linger-yearning for favorite family in Charlottesville. Durham trees, endless, a place to me utterly new. They are all good choices, only I cannot fall in love with any one of them, not just yet. Nine hours.
On the playground last week our seventh grade teacher told me about her friend, married to a colonel. Whatever their new assignment this friend would say, “Give me ten minutes and I’ll tell you why it’s the best place in the world.” I’ve thought about that every day since. Texas, Okinawa, Kabul: Give me ten minutes, and I’ll tell you why it’s the best place in the world.
Okay. Let’s do this. I am going to slip out of bed for a glass of water and one sun salutation to the moon to shake out the last of these nerves. I am going to go to sleep and in the morning go to school and our Easter devotional, where the kindergarten will come bearing palm leaves as we sing hymns to new life. I am going to let Mr. Moffat take on rehearsals for the rest of the day and I am going to meet John at Rice-Eccles and we are going to open an envelope. And then we’ll know.