I can still recall the tone in his voice as he asked me the question that sealed my fate so many years ago. "So, because you went to a very small liberal arts college we have never heard of, I feel likely your academic experience would leave you at the bottom third of our PA program. How do you feel about that?"
My heart sped up a bit and I wondered whether the remainder of the interview committee could tell. I adjusted my tie, cleared my throat, and wished to be anywhere else in the world. I thought that I had prepared. I read books. I practiced questions while driving to my job at the chemistry lab, but nothing could have prepared me for this. Me, inadequate? Despite all the hours of preparation, research, the flight across the country? All for this, one single, unbelievable question?
To this day, over eight years later, I still do not know what my exact response was. I know that it proved my interviewer's point: I was inadequate. Despite experience as an EMT where patients had asked me whether they would live or die, I had very minimal response for this question, which broke the already thin ice from under me. I began to drown. I mumbled. My voice wavered. My interview was over. My shot at an acceptance was over.
Later on, on the loneliest flight back across the country, I realized the reasoning for the question. My interviewer was trying to rattle me. Trying, so effortlessly, it seemed, to try to get me to think under pressure, to react in a positive way to stress. To let them know, I would be resilient. That I could handle these tough conversations. I couldn't.
It was also in that moment, that I made the decision, in a fight or flight response, that I would fight. I would not lay down in defeat, I would study, practice, perfect and master the art of the interview and one day, help those who sit in the same seat. To ease the nervousness, the anguish of a poorly answered question. That day has come.