Near the end of medical school, I applied to anesthesiology residency programs all over the country. When I created my rank list, I prioritized worldly and superficial factors. I desired to live in a glamorous city and I wanted more than anything to match to the most prestigious, recognizable brand-name residency program. I couldn't admit at the time, but I valued how others perceived me. I thought that gaining the approval of others would validate everything that I had done thus far in my life. As Match Day approached, I was so confident that I would match at my #1 program. I envisioned the neighborhood I would live in and discussed living arrangements with my nephew including our plan to split an apartment with the hopes to take over The Big Apple together. I clearly remember clutching onto that white envelope, feeling the significant weight of my fate hanging in the balance. Four years of sleepless nights at the library, anatomy lab, study groups, and clinical rounds finally culminated into this moment. I took the deepest breath that my lungs could allow and gathered myself to open up that envelope. All it took was one glance at the words on that letter to catapult my body into a state of shock, surprise, and confusion all wrapped up into a single moment. I went numb, as if the carpet had been ripped away from under my feet. Rather than reading the words that I had been expecting for months, I read something that I was not anticipating. I was going...home, a prospect that I did not entertain in the slightest bit.
To most people, the thought of going home is exciting - being surrounded by family and friends, embracing familiar environments, frequenting favorite coffee shops and restaurants. But for me, I wanted to come back home eventually, just not yet, not until I had fully experienced what the world had to offer. When I was accepted to med school in Philadelphia in 2014, I was ecstatic to finally fly away from my parent’s nest and spread my wings. Over the years, I enjoyed the complete independence to make decisions and pave my own path toward happiness. I loved every bit of those years as I grew emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I learned to challenge and push myself beyond obstacles, both in the practical matters of everyday life in Philly as well as in the rigors of med school. As I got further along in the process, I saw more and more of what this world could offer me. I believed that the sacrifices now would be worth the delayed gratification in the form of fancy dinners, sports cars, a “doctor” house, and luxurious vacations. It wasn’t until receiving that unexpected result on Match Day that I realized those worldly pursuits would never completely satisfy. I was chasing that next “high” of pride, fame and freedom despite having had my fix for the past 4 years. I asked myself, “Would it ever be enough?” Though I longed for freedom to do as I pleased, in reality, I was a slave to worldly matters, ones that ultimately deceive with a sense of temporary satiety, only to leave us empty in search of lasting fulfillment. As I fixated on the things of this world, I lost sight of what actually mattered most: my family, friends, and presence of God in my life.
God always invites us to be with Him, often in the most inconspicuous daily activities. Sometimes it's through catching up with an old friend, being generous to the homeless, or in my case, coming back home. When we are asked to follow God, we often think about the sacrifices and things that we’ll miss out on; seldom do we anticipate how much we will gain. Though I write about trusting in God and His plans for us, I still find myself worrying, questioning whether I’m making the right decisions in life. However, a friend recently reminded me that when we worry, it highlights our lack of trust in God, that we don’t have enough faith in Him to take care of and provide us with what we truly need.
I was briefly disappointed that I didn’t match at my #1 choice for residency training, but it took me several weeks to process and finally accept that I was going home. Through conversation with friends and family, prayer, and meditation, I came to the realization that God kept my best interest all along, even when it seemingly contradicted what I planned for myself. We often cling tightly to our desires, without any rhyme or reason as to why we desire those things, not realizing that getting what we want could be detrimental. During this unprecedented and tumultuous time surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, I am now more grateful than ever to be home spending time with my loved ones. Rather than feeling trapped by the mandated quarantine, I am thankful for the amazing memories that I'm making right now in the midst of this uncertainty. Like everything else of this world, this too shall pass. The constant that will always remain is God and His love for us. Time and time again, I’ve learned that God has my back. He always has something better planned for me than I could’ve imagined for myself. I was lost but have now been found.