My Thoughts on Psychology Internship Match

In less than 48 hours I will know where I will spend the next year of my life. I don’t get to choose, I get matched to a site for internship and need to go, uprooting my home, selling my condo, leaving a city I love with a wonderful network of friends, and possibly being separated from my partner and dogs. It will hopefully be one of my last requirements for my Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology and will serve as a clinical immersion year to make sure that I’m ready to enter the real world and be a real psychologist.

Some of my friends going through the match process right now are freaking out, which is reasonable: after 6 (or 7) years of grad school, their hard work comes down to an e-mail notification. I am in a top-tier program and so all of my colleagues are high achieving and want to continue their incredible personal and professional successes. This makes match loaded both professionally and personally, and also out of people’s control- or does it?

See, the problem is that I don’t see a problem. I’m not freaking out, I’m not anxious, I’m not counting the hours until match notification because in most ways match doesn’t matter. Yep, I said it. Match doesn’t matter. Internship is a milestone, a check box, a yes or no to the question of “Did you do it?” The way I see it I have three outcomes to match:

  1. I match at my first choice. That would be awesome, easy and reason for celebration. My first choice has a great program for what I study and I’d be able to live with my partner and dogs.
  2. I match, but not at my first choice. I will successfully be able to check off the internship box. Some of my non-first choices are prestigious, but will be far from my family. Some of my non-first choices are less prestigious but in awesome locations. Regardless, I’ll get to move to a cool new city, meet new people and finish up the Ph.D. I’ve been working on for six years. Me and my partner have the means to travel to see each other and we’ll only need to do so for one year. Plus, I have the good fortune of having friends in every city I ranked. I am so lucky that wherever I go I will have love and friendship.
  3. I don’t match. I’ll move with my family and apply again next year. I’ll finish up my dissertation, wrap up some publications and use the time off as an opportunity to travel and volunteer.

So what is the difference between me and my colleagues that I’m ok with all the outcomes while some are anxiously waiting for Friday morning? There could be lots of  very good reasons for anxiety about the process including the enormous amount of time and money already invested in applying and interviewing, difficulty moving or traveling, or the possibility of uprooting a spouse or kids. All of those things suck, but I think the reasons I’m not experiencing anxiety about them is because of things I’ve cultivated from ultra endurance and adventure travel.

When I was leaving for the Amazon I had a moment of pure panic at the airport. I was hugging my partner goodbye and I had this overwhelming fear that something terrible could happen and I’d never see him again. I didn’t want to go, but I knew that I had an obligation to my team and a kernel of trust that it would all turn out okay. And it did. I trekked 100 miles, educated kids around the world, and had an incredible adventure.

When I ran the JFK50, around mile 28 I fell apart emotionally and physically. I couldn’t imagine taking another step, let alone running another 22 miles. I was so spent that I broke down in tears, sobbing and barely able to move forward. The volunteers thought I was injured, and I was too broken to speak, only shaking my head at them and moving down the course. I knew that it would pass (it couldn’t go on forever), and I kept going until I crossed the finish line. I pulled myself through an incredible physical and emotional low to end up triumphant.

When I was dumped in Antarctica (true story) it felt like my flame had been snuffed out. I was unbearably sad and embarrassed, and felt like I would never regain my spark, except some part of me knew that I would. And not only did I rekindle my fire, but I ended up burning much more brightly than before. Living an active and full life has tested me and from that I’ve learned that I can deal with things that seem scary, uncertain, and overwhelming. I have developed a trust in myself that I can handle any situation- whether it is a cross-country move, a nasty breakup, an expedition, or a milestone in graduate school. My match notification will not be a sentence I need to serve or a potential lost opportunity, but instead an opportunity that I will make the most of.  Through this process I’ve realized that when you cultivate the trust in yourself, you can be okay in any situation, and suddenly life (match included) becomes far less scary.

Check back on Friday to find out where my next adventure will be! 🙂