Second Chance: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Being Unmatched

Matthew Turner, MS4 - Medical University of South Carolina

For all my fellow EM applicants out there, I have good news and I have bad news.

Bad news first: some of us won’t match into our ideal slots. In fact, some of us won’t match at all.

I speak from personal experience – thanks to the specifics of my particular program, my match day was in December, months before the true Match Day for the vast majority of applicants. To be perfectly blunt, the news came as a very unpleasant shock. In a flash, you find yourself in a dreaded nightmare where it seems that every bit of self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome that you ever experienced was even closer to the truth than you feared. The typhoon smashes you out of nowhere, and it can feel like you’re drowning.

Now for the good news: eventually the tides recede, and it turns out that life goes on after all. It may sound trite and cliché, but I promise that it really does get better. While it still is painfully tempting to lapse into episodes of gloom and self-pity, I’ve found that focusing on what you can change will do wonders for your mental state and wellbeing.

For those of you who end up in these unfortunate circumstances, I encourage you to reach out to the various EM physicians and program directors that you felt the most kinship with for their thoughts. What were aspects of your application that could have been improved? What could you have done differently? For me it came down to weaknesses in both Research and Leadership, so I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to work on some papers and get involved in the community. Just as an example, I’ve started teaching weekly ESL classes, and I’ve found to my surprise that I absolutely love it – my students are far smarter than I could ever hope to be. Who knows, maybe at some point in the distant future I’ll look into academic medicine, something I’ve never really seriously considered before. If I hadn’t been given this opportunity to explore my community and brush up on Leadership/Teaching, etc, I might not have ever been able to discover this about myself.

So if you don’t match, remember that it’s not the end of the world! There’s a reason there are so many clichés about when one door closes, another opens and making lemonade out of lemons – life is unpredictable and you need to enjoy the ride. So listen to the song “Pick Yourself Up” from Breaking Bad on repeat and try to view this not as a punishment or failure, but as an opportunity. You may be surprised by what you find!

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