If there is one thing I love more than that beautiful cup of piping hot coffee first thing in the morning, it’s having control. I think most med students would agree with me on that. And no, this doesn’t mean I want to control everything and everyone in my life, but I like to be able to control my fate. Maybe that’s part of what I actually enjoyed about medical school. For the most part, I’ve had control over my future by working hard in school, studying hard for step, and overall keeping it together through rotations. In the back of my head, I always knew that if I wanted to go somewhere in life then it meant take control of my destiny and work hard. I don’t go to a great medical school, but I always told myself “work hard, dream big” and that anything is possible. With this mindset, taking control and moving forward was all I knew. I can only think of a very minute amount of things that I haven’t had control of (I’m looking at you surgery evals). With all of this in mind, maybe that’s what has made applying for residency and this whole process terrifying.
Recently, fourth year students will be hitting submit on their ERAS applications and essentially letting go of control of their fate. This is the thought that terrified me. As I said previously, having that control in my life was something I enjoyed. I really did like being able to work hard to get to go where I want to go, but now, it will be gone for a bit. In one mere application goes more hours than I can even fathom. I mean, think about it, what goes into your application? Grades, CV, board scores, letters of rec, and Dean’s letter (along with other stuff for some people). Sure that’s one sentence, and doesn’t seem like a lot on the surface. But hold on! If you really take a step back and think about it, those are countless hours that go into that. All those late nights pulled studying for your preclinical tests. The time spent in the anatomy lab studying before finals (and worrying if that cadaver is going to come alive). The hours you sat on your butt in the library staring at UWorld questions, occasionally wanting to smash your computer when they give you ridiculously hard trick questions. The panic attacks you may have had when you thought you failed a shelf. The time spent sitting around waiting for something to happen during your rotations. That’s just the surface, but I think you get the point. What might not seem like a lot at first really boils down to this: your application is a summary of your life over the past three years. Hitting submit on that button means packaging all those hours of work into one tiny file that will be shipped across the internet at an incredible speed only to land in the email box of program directors for them to judge you. If that thought isn’t even slightly scary to you then you must not care about your future at all.
But while this is all anxiety provoking, there is something liberating about this. I really have done absolutely everything I could for my career over these past years. I have worked so hard, studied more than I imagined, and really gave it my all. I have zero regrets and wouldn’t change a thing. So what do I have to worry about? Even if you wish you could go back and change something, you can’t. Scary? Sure. Liberating? Even more so. Maybe this is what I was trying to get at all along. Now, this whole process is out of my hands, and the control is gone. There’s no more worrying about making the perfect personal statement; it’s gone. I will never be able to completely let go of control, or even be able to stop worrying. But even if for a few hours, I will be able to relish in the freedom of having everything out of my hands. There is going to be so much more excitement and anxiety with interview season, but for now, my friends, enjoy that little free time you have. Start up your favorite game, take a long walk outside, or get a great drink. You deserve it, and with that here’s to our future, whatever it may hold.
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