The Power of Family
“I’m not going to lie, there have been times in medical school where I have felt extremely challenged. Moments where I have felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. However, having the example of my dad who I have seen push through some really difficult times, gave me the strength to know that I could do the same.”
Ethe is a third-year medical school student at the Brody School of Medicine and is originally from Malawi, Africa. At just five years old she and her family moved here when her mom received a position in a company, a position her mom didn’t even think she was going to get. Family for Ethe is everything and a huge part of her culture.
“Family is everything. When I go back and visit, I am so surprised by how much family I still have over there. My cousin and uncles get together ALL the time. You know there is the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and that is pretty much what happens over there. Malawi is in the southeastern part of Africa, and it gets the nickname as the “warm part”. The people are super nice, super friendly, hospitable. The culture is very family-oriented. One time my aunt was going to a funeral, and when I asked her for who it was like her friend’s brother’s neighbor’s relative!” Ethe laughed, “but it’s incredible because they truly do support the people around them no matter what.”
The power of our families lies not in their perfectionism, but in their authenticity.
The powerful thing about families is that there is no right way to be a family. There is no handbook that deems one family’s dynamic better than another. Our families are so special because they are unique to who we are. Big or small, they are a huge part of our identity. As Ethe mentions, for her family, COVID has actually brought them much closer than before.
“I really, really, appreciated being around my family during this time and having the chance to spend one on one quality time with them. We had like my mom’s birthday, my dad’s birthday, and my sister’s birthday all during this time. And it’s one of the first years that we have all been together for those birthdays because usually, someone is at school or on a work trip. It’s been really nice just getting to spend time with them and talk to them and find out about them more as people. My sister does this thing every Friday evening where she asks questions – sometimes they are silly ones like who has the most sophisticated taste palate, and other times they can be deep like what do you think is your purpose on this earth. I definitely have enjoyed learning my family a little better.”
And because family plays a huge role in who we are, it is no surprise that it seeps over into other relationships we have – both platonically and romantically.
“I definitely think that I have tried to emulate what I have with my family in both my friendships and romantic relationships. Just the fact that no matter what is going on, no matter if it is day or night I can call on my mom, my sister, or my dad, and without hesitation, they will pick up and help me through whatever problem I have. So I try to do the same thing in my friendships. What is modeled for you is pretty much how you act most of the time.”
Don’t ever apologize for who you are – it makes you, you.
However, as Ethe notes sometimes what is modeled for us has not always been modeled for others. Sometimes what is modeled for us can seem foreign to someone else. For Ethe, she recalls that she used to be ashamed of some parts of who she was. As she got older, she noted that she stopped apologizing for it and owned it.
“My parents raised me in a super strict environment, but when I think about it I think their strictness stemmed a lot from the fear they felt being in a new country with two young children. For example, if I ever went to a sleepover it felt like my parents were doing a background check on the family if I could even go. And even if I did go they would sometimes pick me up at 10 pm. I know when I was younger I would always say “sorry my parents did this it’s because they are African” or things like that because I did not want to seem too different or too much of an outcast. But as I got older I started to think that “you know, this is where I come from.” Yes, it may be a little bit different. And yes my lunch may look a little funny some days. But I am not going to apologize for it. I will explain it without being apologetic about it.”
Something that Ethe mentioned in regards to authenticity is that it isn’t something that each of us steps into overnight. Becoming comfortable with who each of us are is a lifelong journey. As Ethe highlighted, the journey becomes easier when we all realize that no one is perfect – and we are all doing the best that we can.
None of us are perfect, and never will be.
“I used to look at my friends and it all just seemed so perfect. And I felt like my real authentic self was not at that level. I don’t have this. I don’t drive this car or wear that. So like, my authentic self wasn’t going to measure up. I guess I thought everybody else was being their authentic self and their authentic self was perfect. But when you really look at it, none of our authentic selves are perfect. So I think once I realized that, the fear of being who I was went away. I realized that I was doing my best, just like the person over there is doing their best.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself Ethe. So much of what we are afraid to be are actually the parts of us that are worth sharing. The parts that give light to who we are, why we do what we do, where we come from. I hope Ethe’s story reminds us all that no matter where our stories begin, there is nothing to be ashamed of – and we owe it to ourselves to be proud of who we are.
Keep Watering Your Garden ladies.