Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Remember what they sacrificed

I had a whole post written up in regards to all the "being a Dr is hard" articles I've seen floating around my facebook feed lately. I always read (or at least skim) these articles because I want to empathize with Doctors. I am certain that joining the medical field, and even being a veteran in it, is challenging, exhausting, and under-appreciated work.

Teachers are often recognized as a group of professionals who do more than they are compensated for, and naturally it makes sense that Doctors, even with their higher salaries, would feel the same way. So I read on. If I want people to think about how much sacrifice their child's teacher makes, then I should listen to the sacrifices of Doctors. 

But today, while reading such an article, I had a fresh thought on the topic. Perhaps my generation is just a bunch of college graduate whiners. 

Obviously no one goes into teaching with the hopes of making it rich. Surely Doctors don't enter the profession expecting a simple 40 hour work week. We all knew that professional life beyond graduation wasn't going to be perfect. Yet here we are, writing essay upon essay about how hard our life is, about how crushing our student loan debt feels. But are we overlooking the fact that our parents' generation felt the exact same way?

I remember a friend of mine once pointing out that young couples often make the mistake of comparing their current state of being with their parents current state of being. New parents may think they want, maybe even feel like they deserve, a nice new house like their own parents have, often overlooking that when their own parents were young and just starting out they did not have that dream home. 

My mom has recently shared with me an incident that happened when I was just six weeks old.*(see comments for accurate version of the story) I am a third child, so she had a 3.5 year-old and and 2-year old at home as well. One afternoon she started bleeding and needed to drive from our farm house into the nearby "city" hospital, seven miles away. The problem was she was stuck out on the farm without a vehicle. My father drove their only car (the one I imagine he had all through college) to and from work each day, and he was still "in town" at work. She walked down the street to our nearest neighbor, my Aunt and Uncle, to borrow my Aunt's car. She packed the three of us up in the borrowed car and drove into town for the medical treatment she needed.

After this incident her father gave her his old pick up truck. I remember that truck well. Which means they held onto an old beat up, hand me down vehicle for many years. At six weeks old my father began driving that green and white Ford to and from work. He must have driven it every day for the next eight years. Use it up, wear it out, or do without. 

Growing up we had an unfinished basement. It was our playroom. Cement floors and wooden posts were the happy maze of my childhood. I remember one toy being down in that playroom -- a kitchen set. That's it, one toy. Two rooms were "finished." One was the storage room (which was obviously unfinished but it's walled off appearance made it feel decorated) and the other was my parents bedroom. Upstairs we had one bathroom, two bedrooms, a front room and a kitchen/dining room. The washer and dryer lived in a closet in the kitchen. Bouncing on the dryer during heavy loads was a simple childhood joy. 

I'm certain that if I were to ask my parents they would tell me that all the furniture of my childhood was second hand. 

They sacrificed. They always worked three jobs between the two of them. At times one (or both) of them worked three jobs themselves. Both were college grads, and after child #4 my Dad completed his master's degree. 

Social media didn't exist during their young parenting years, so maybe that is the only reason there wasn't a long list of whiny articles about how hard life was. Perhaps the local newspapers refused to publish such editorials. Or maybe they just didn't complain about it. Maybe they knew that starting out was hard work, and that the end reward was worth it. 

For multiple decades new parents, new professionals, have doggy paddled under a sea of debt. They've up-cycled and thrift shopped. What my generation is experiencing is nothing new. We falsely compare ourselves to the generation ahead of us. We assume that because Uncle So and So is a wealthy Doctor we should be too, completely ignoring the fact that Uncle So and So has been working for nearly 30 years, and we are on week three. We think we deserve glamorous houses, completely forgetting that our own childhoods were spent writing A.B. + M.C. on unfinished basement walls. 

We feel like their is no hope, because the media is quick to remind us that our country is falling to shreds. 

We need to snap out of this trance. It is a lie. We, like all the generations before, are required to make sacrifices before we earn our rewards. Our children need to see those sacrifices. They need to be a part of it, so that one day when they are tempted to write about how picked on they are they will stop and realize that achievement requires hard work -- not just a few years of college, but entire decades of sacrifices -- sacrifices that make living a career they love worth it. 

I'm not going to lie and say teaching was easy, nor that living on a teacher's salary in DC was doable. I won't tell new Doctors to toughen up. Let's acknowledge the difficulty, but let's stop complaining and start hoping. One day we will have our parents comfort, and in the mean time we shouldn't rob ourselves of their happiness.  


Scott and Claudia said...

Just a point or two to correct. I was not bleeding. I had blood poisoning going up my arm and you were only about 2 weeks old. Dad was in Park City at a meeting. He had our one and only vehicle with him otherwise I would have called and had him come home. Mom
P.S. Let me guess who M.C. was???!!!

Anonymous said...

Loved your story Sis!
I think my generation did a very poor job in the fact that we didn't teach our children that we didn't have everything we wanted (and sometimes needed like two cars)when we started out. We gave and gave and gave and spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. When we "ran out of money" you kids would just say "you still have checks!" It seemed to you that the money tree just kept giving because we were so generous.
I do remember my parents telling me about the good old days when they were young -- no telephones, no electricity, no indoor plumbing -- and I remember thinking -- yuck, how blessed I am.
When we got married, sure there were things that we wanted, but it was no big deal like it seems to be nowadays. We figured the day would one day come when we could afford newer nicer things, and if it didn't so be it!
We were able to provide you kids with a college education and an automobile. That was something neither your mom nor I were "given." And you must know that we were able to provide you with those things because of inheritances we received. Had it not been for Aunt June and Uncle Jack and Grandma and Grandpa Hardy, you would not have received those blessings.
Your mom paid 100% of her college and bought her own car by working. While my mom did help a little -- it was just that -- a little. I received SS and worked during the summers and paid for 90% of my college. My father bought me a car when I went away to college -- but I didn't ever get to work "outside the farm" like my siblings did. They were paid by their employers. I was paid with a car for 10 years of labor on the farm.
I'm not whining, I promise. I am most grateful for the way things have worked out in my life. I am proud of all you kids and the way you are managing your lives without whining! It doesn't accomplish anything!! And it doesn't hurt to work 3-4 jobs at a time -- when you're young. I couldn't do it today...
Love, Pa

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