Remember a couple months ago when I was talking about the pre-doctoral internship application process that I’m in? Well, I just finished all of my interviews and submitted my rankings, leaving the fate of my future in the non-existent hands of some complicated matching algorithm. The hardest part of this whole process for me was deciding how to rank these potential sites, so this month I wanted to talk about how I made this literally life-altering decision.
Quick aside: I know my last blog I said that I’d be doing back-to-back posts on LGBTQ+ issues, but this topic has been so salient in my mind that I’m hoping people will understand pushing my second post to next month. So standby, it’s coming!
Let me start by saying I think it’s important for us all to acknowledge that being able to decide between two or more options is a huge privilege. I’m sure you can think of multiple examples where a choice is forced or made for you, so let’s take a quick moment of gratitude for the opportunities that we have when we can choose 🙂
Identify Your Goals and Priorities
The first step I made in deciding where to apply was identifying what my goals were for this year. What training opportunities did I want? What kind of site did I want to work at? Where did I want to be living? It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want, but the more detailed and specific we can get, the more prepared we’ll be to find the best fit. The next step was prioritizing those goals. This was hard. No option that I was considering had everything that I wanted. That’s kinda life, huh? So I had to decide which goals were most important to me and prioritize the sites that best fit those priorities.
Reflect on Past Decisions
I feel pretty confident in assuming that you’ve had to make a difficult decision sometime in your past. Past experiences are there, among other things, to learn from. I thought back to those big life decisions I have made: where to go to college, who to marry, when to quit soccer. Then I asked myself, what helped me to make those decisions? What would I have changed about how I went about those decisions? How can I gain some confidence and comfort from those experiences? Use your past successes and missteps to inform your future choices.
I hope for all of you that you have someone that you trust with the hard stuff. But I bet that there’s a person or two that will give you unsolicited and terrible advice whether you ask for it or not. In this entire process, I talked to a good handful of trusted people (thanks, guys). I talked to colleagues who had gone through this process before, professionals who were doing what I want to be doing in the future, interns currently at the places I interviewed at, my best friends in my cohort who are also going through this, and my husband who obviously has some skin in the game of this decision. This is all to say that it can be helpful to have the input of those that may have a particular expertise, learned experience, who know you best, or can provide a less emotional third-person perspective.
Be Flexible and Tolerate Uncertainty
For those of you unfamiliar with a matching process, what happens is that I rank my favorite sites, those sites rank their favorite applicants, and then a computer matches you (or in some case you are unmatched) to a site based on those mutual preferences. It low-key felt like I was a contestant on some twisted Bachelor episode. Now that I’ve submitted my rankings of which sites I want to give the final rose to, I have to wait (for two weeks!) to see if they accept it.
So what I’ve been working on is not letting the waiting and uncertainty occupy too much space in my day-to-day. I’ve tried to stay present and focused on my values because, at this point, there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve also come to accept that I might not get my top choices or may not match at all. But I’ve already decided that wherever I end up, I will make the most of that experience.
Making decisions can be really hard. Raise your hand if sometimes choosing what to have for dinner can take an hour. We all go through these experiences, and regardless of the outcome, we can choose to learn from those decisions and make the most of them, learning to trust ourselves along the way.