I’m currently reading my friend Lara Lacombe‘s fourth book — Killer Exposure. It’s so dang good, probably my favorite she’s written thus far. I love it, but it is destroying my sleep schedule because I “one more chapter” it all the way to way-too-late every single night. Thank goodness I’m almost done.
Lara writes exclusively romantic suspense, so it may surprise you to know that while chatting with my sister-in-law this weekend, a line from the book sprang to mind.
You see, Sister Doctor has now graduated from medical school and is officially an MD, which I guess means we can upgrade her to Dr. Sister. Yayyyy!! In honor of this big occasion, we threw a big Stankowski-style party… you know… like we do.
Dr. Sister tends to be on the humble side, which is the nice way of saying she absolutely cannot take a compliment without qualifying it, deflecting credit, downplaying it, or when all that fails, just getting super awkward.
Humility is an excellent thing and all, but when you excel as mightily as Dr. Sister has, too much can be a problem. Like yesterday, for example… she just didn’t seem to be able to thank us enough. Everything was “too much” and she seemed almost stressed out by all the attention and congratulations and such. Poor thing.
That’s when the line from Lara Lacombe’s Killer Exposure came to mind… when the (hunky) hero gets all intense and says to the (all-too-relatable) heroine: YOU ARE NOT AN OBLIGATION. (Oh man, Owen and Hannah…)
And after thinking that over last night, that’s exactly what I think yesterday’s (beautiful, curly-haired) heroine (me) should have said to (the overly humble) Dr. Sister: YOU ARE NOT AN OBLIGATION. We did not have to have a party. We wanted to have a party. We wanted to celebrate what you have accomplished, to recognize your achievements, to give your friends and family a chance to tell you how crazy proud we are and how unbelievably happy we are that you’ll be staying nearby. Not a hafta. A wanna.
We’re all a little like all-too-relatable Hannah and Dr. Sister on her big day, though, aren’t we? It’s hard not to let the insecurity that plagues us all play on the second track when other people are doing or saying nice things, isn’t it? Almost like our accomplishments, our big moments, are in some way a burden to other people. Why is that? Because think about it — think about those moments when you are super happy for or proud of a friend or a family member. It’s not an inconvenience to you — the happiness, the pride — it’s genuine. So why do we assume the worst of others? (Dr. Sister, I am not saying this to try to make you apologize for being overly humble, do you hear me? I’m merely using you as an illustrative example. Stop over-analyzing.)
I love the golden rule, the idea of treating other people as you want to be treated. But I think it’s wrong to some extent. I think a better rule is to treat everyone, ourselves included, as we would treat our best friend. That’s what works for me, anyway. Even my therapist says to me, and I am not kidding right now, “What would you say to Melissa if she were in your shoes?” The answer is always, of course, “I love you and you’re perfect and beautiful no matter what you do!!”
For example, when I got my PhD, after all was said and done, I felt pretty crappy. Looking back on it now four years later, I can see that really, the day was quite lovely. I looked like a million bucks in my fancy dress and sky high shoes, I rocked my public defense, I survived the private defense, I earned my doctorate, my labmates threw me an amazing party, and my friends and family were all there to support me despite having to listen to me drone on about mouse vaginas for an hour (literally). All I could focus on, though, was how much I sucked because one person told me I sucked. And I cried and cried and cried…. Again, literally.
What would I have said to Melissa? I would have said: Are you freaking kidding me?! You were perfect and beautiful and have so much to be proud of!!
So much nicer.
So, Dr. Sister, and all you other doubters, myself included, accept the compliment, let yourself be celebrated, appreciate the kind words and the hugs and the gifts and the parties in your honor, and always assume that it comes from a want, a desire to show you love… you, my darling, whoever you are, are not an obligation!!
So let’s just take this one more moment to celebrate Dr. Sister, MD, in all her glory! It’s been a long journey, and Dr. Sister has absolutely taken the long way — not because she had to, ever, but because she is so determined to 1) do things right and 2) get every possible valuable experience she can out of her training. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. And the University of Wisconsin is brilliant for choosing to keep her on for her general surgery residency. So much hard work to celebrate!! Seven more years to surgeon-dom!!