The real life unfollow

Every year, on the third Thursday of March, medical students across the country pile into auditoriums, open envelopes with their names on them and find out where they’re going to be spending the next three, four or five years of their lives, depending on what specialty they’re going into. (God help all those girlfriends of neurosurgeons-to-be.)

There’s been talk of match day, as it’s called, basically since Dave started med school; and really, for me, even earlier (we’ll get to that later.) But up until now it’s all kind of been background noise, a far-off, passing “hey isn’t it funny that one day we’re going to have to pick up and move based on where a computer tells us to go?” kind of thing. And then I go back to eating my cheeseburger.

But this year is different. The fourth years listed on the crumpled piece of paper he brought home last Friday aren’t just names – they’re kids that Dave knows, kids he interacts with at the hospital and sees at extracurricular activities and honor society ceremonies, kids he can easily compare himself to. He’s making plans to apply for away rotations at hospitals across the country – four week stints next fall that are supposed to give you a leg up – and formulating a list of the hospitals he wants to interview at. He wants my mom to help him revamp his resume, he wants me to help him pick out a new suit. (Hey, we all know where my strengths lie.)

It’s all getting a little too real for me.

I know that the process is difficult for the med students themselves, who are finding out if all the studying and overnight-shifts they’ve endured over the past four years have paid off in the form of a prestigious residency, or whether their dreams of working in the ER or cutting people open are finally going to come true. (No, I don’t really get the attraction either, but that’s a story for another day.)

But I can’t help but feel that it’s almost worse for the girlfriends and boyfriends and husbands and wives, and, in a few instances, kids, who truly have zero control over the process. We’re not the ones going on the interviews or taking the clinical exams, but when it comes down to it, the contents of that envelope affect us just as much as they affect the kids who suffered through anatomy and pathology. When the news comes, we’re left with two choices: uproot our lives and follow them on their (purported) 80-hour work week residency journeys, or give up on our relationships (at least the day-to-day aspects of them) for now.

I have a pretty big problem with both options. In general, I think long distance can sometimes be a really good thing, but I’ve already put in my time. I played that game — for two years. And I’m done with it now. The past eight months have been a blast, and I’m just not ready to give up on this roommate quite yet.

Which leaves me with the “follow him!” option.

Which makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.

The whole concept just really bugs me for some reason. My Philly move had certain aspects of this “dependent on my significant other” theme, I guess, but the truth was, I was getting a little tired of DC and I adore this city and it was a terrific career opportunity for me. I came here just as much for myself as I did for him.

I definitely couldn’t say the same for match day. Even if we did end up going somewhere that would ultimately be good for me career-wise (New York) or fun to live in (San Fran), the uncertainty around the whole process and my inability to plan for any changes in advance clearly point in the direction of “it’s all about him.”

There’s really no way around it, no way to rationalize it or skirt the issue. I’m either going to have to accept and embrace it — this rolling back of decades of feminism — or try to coordinate weekends and train rides and plane rides and phone calls and time differences and 80-hour work weeks.

I think we all already know which way it’s going to go.


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