You’re picking someone up at the airport. You’ve checked the status of the flight online, you’ve arrived at the terminal right on time, but your person is not standing there on the curb at the ready. Curbside parking, of course, is not allowed, and arms waive you off emphatically at the mere flicking of your turn signal. So you drive on and circle the airport with as much restlessness as a cheetah in too small a cage, waiting for the phone call that will deliver you from this special hell. You’re in a holding pattern.
I finished my job interviews in early January. To clarify, I didn’t apply for real grown up jobs but to train for a future grown up job. I applied for pediatric residency training, which consists of three years of closely supervised hospital-based training that is a prerequisite to becoming a licensed pediatrician and practice general pediatrics. Additional years of training are needed to become a specialist, such as a pediatric cardiologist. When I explained this to my family, they said “Oh, so you have at least three more years of school then. That’s a long time to be in school.” It is not school, ok, not school. It can’t be school, because I have been in school for 27/31 years and I am done being student. Yep, that’s 5 years of college and 8 years of graduate school combined PhD and MD (graduating in 111 days, but who’s counting).
Applying for and obtaining a residency position requires more flexibility than doing the sun salutation B sequence in ashtanga yoga. Online applications, program selection, frantic email checks for interview offers, rushed email replies to secure interview days, travel arrangements, and finding the suit, the one that is just a shade of grey sharper than the dozen others on the rack. Then, the airports, the cabs, friends’ couches, three separate alarm clocks, retelling your life story over and over, free lunches, intimidating interviews, and uplifting conversations. And then … nothing. At the end of interview season, which is mid to late january for most medical students, everything comes to a screeching halt. Match Day, the famous/infamous day when all medical students find their “match”, the hospital/program where they will train for a few years, isn’t until March 15. Rank lists, fervent prayers where each applicant ranks the programs they interviewed with from top favorite to least favorite, aren’t due until February 20. And so there is a lull. A long, anxiety-inducing lull.
This is week 3 of being on hold. I actually have plenty to occupy myself: study for the USMLE Step 2 (I can’t match if I don’t pass that – stressful much?), finish a research project (it was due last August), and put my rank list together (not even close). But instead I looked for fun things to do: produce a play, color my hair with an expired box of hair dye, have lunch dates, and sleep. Funny thing though, none of those fun and not-so-fun things are helping quiet the unnerving feeling that my life is on hold (where will I match? will I match at all – there are guarantees?). But this morning I met Kid President and got served a healthy pep talk about life.
“This is life, people. We’ve got a heart beat. That means it’s time to do something.”
I get it. For me, it’s time to be in a holding pattern. To suck it up and make peace with it. To make the most of it. For one, because in a few months I will be working my ass off, creating a new life in a new city and making new friends, so the extra sleep now is most welcome. But mostly because it is part of the process. And because it’s ok!!! It’s ok to feel unsettled and seriously dislike it. It doesn’t mean that all of life has to be paused.
So today I am writing and sitting in the sun on this unbelievably sunny and warm January day. How do you like that, Kid President? I’m doing something!
Holding patterns: we may not like them, but there may be a good reason why it’s not quite time to dock at the curb and move forward.