At one interview day there was an intern talking to some of the applicants. We asked about his call schedule, and after a couple minutes of explanation, it appeared that that program has figured out a way to manage the 80-hour rule such that one gets two weekend days off per month, which of course works out to one Sunday a month if everything goes as planned and you don’t get stuck anywhere. And he thought it was a decent arrangement. So if I do find a good church in the city I end up in, I’ll get to go there once a month. For five years. This doesn’t sound good at all.

The more interviews I go to, the more the phrase “selling one’s soul [to the devil]” seems appropriate. They’re all nice and polite and courteous and eager to have us like them – and the end result is going to be we sign our lives away to them for five years, to have them tell us what to wear and what to say and when we can eat and sleep, and what we should read. We throw ourselves in their hands, with no practical recourse that I know of – and if they disapprove of us after a year, or two, or even four, they can throw us out on the street and we have no career. If we don’t get along with them, we can leave at year’s end – and our career is still over, because you can’t get board-certified without graduating from an approved residency program. They own us completely.

From talking to (happy) interns, I think the key to being happy as an intern is to make up your mind that your purpose in life for at least the next year is to do scut, and to do it efficiently, and to make mistakes, and to get chewed out on a regular basis; and if anyone condescends to smile and say good morning, or to allow you into their OR in any capacity whatsoever, it is an undeserved mercy, not a thing to be expected. If you start there, it can’t really be worse than you expect, and it could be better.

How apropos. My mother is reading an article from the Wall Street Journal about research into how to be happy: “When options are closed, the mind generates satisfaction.”

I’m trying to set my expectations for intern year low, and I think that will get a lot easier after the Match in March, when 1) I do have a spot assured, and 2) the realization sinks further in that I’m going to be a doctor, and I don’t begin to know the first thing about how to move patients through the hospital safely. At some point (July 1), just to get through a day without killing anyone will be a cause for gratitude.

When interviewers ask questions about “your surgical career,” I feel like looking over my shoulder to see who they’re talking to. When someone addresses the group of applicants and says something about how we’ll be responsible for patients in a few months, there’s a collective gasp, and we sink deeper into our chairs.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”