Unexpected Reactions: How my Medical School Graduation is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to my Brother

For many, graduation is a time to celebrate the results of hard work and accomplishment.  Especially graduation from medical school.  It is no secret that becoming a doctor requires many sleepless nights and hours of hard work.  Medicine is a field where reform means limiting the work week to 80 hours for trainees, and the work required for medical school does help prepare young doctors for these types of schedules.

As a woman going into general surgery, I've gotten my fair share of admonitions in addition to the congratulations.  People whom I barely know have warned me that my partner will leave me and I will end up childless and alone.  (I have yet to hear of any male future surgeons being warned that all of their children will be fathered by the milk man.) However, for the most part, I have received mostly support and some very unexpected You Go Girl type comments from female physicians.

The reaction to my impending doctor-hood that has caught me most off guard is my brother's.  To give you some background, my brother failed out of college, has lived with my father for the past three years, and is going to cosmetology school to become an esthetician.  An esthetician is like a cosmetologist to the max.  He will be licensed to give Botox injections.  Anyways, he has shown no desire to return to college to get a bachelor's degree, which also means he has shown no desire/intention/plan to go to graduate school.  My brother works part time at Starbucks (around 25 hours per week) and attends night school two nights a week for all his beauty license stuff.  He feels that because I have worked single shifts longer than his entire week of paid work, no one feels that he is working too hard.  This is so offensive to him that he has cut off all communication with me, including blocking me on Facebook.  The ex-communication occurred after he made sure to let me know that I am a horrible person and will be a horrible doctor because I think a 40 hour work week is reasonable.  I do suppose a 40 hour work week is a little much to ask of someone who doesn't pay for rent or auto insurance.  This whole situation is pretty silly, and the casual observer would probably believe my brother is jealous.  The concept that my brother is jealous about me accomplishing something that he has never attempted is ridiculous to me.

Although my brother is not communicating with me directly, he will be attending my graduation.  However, he decided to call my mother to have her ask me to find him a place to stay for free as he cannot afford a hotel room in New York City.  This is the next level of how silly the situation is.  My mother is pretty worried about my brother.  She thinks that my graduation is too emotionally stressful for him, and that I should be more understanding and supportive.  She also is telling my relatives that if they are planning to give me a graduation present, they should be giving a present to my brother as well.  I guess it takes a lot to live on your sister's couch for free for a month because you're too embarrassed to tell your parents that you flunked out of school.  It's as impressive of an accomplishment as successfully completing medical school and matching into a categorical spot in general surgery.

This whole situation makes me more amazed at what I've accomplished.  This relationship dynamic in my family isn't new.  It's just the most pronounced expression of it in recent years.  If I experience success, my mother treats it as a potential trauma for my brother.  My responsibility should be to protect my brother instead of celebrating.  I have no idea what it feels like to be upset by the success of others, especially if they have succeeded in something that I have never attempted.  There are many more things that I have not tried than things that I have tried.  I would probably have a debilitating depression if this type of thing upset me.  I don't know what it's like to have someone defend me and advocate for me.  I have no idea how my brother and I came out of the same living circumstances.  I am actually glad that my mother focused all of these strange ideas on my brother and left me to fend for myself.  Although the official shut off of communication only occurred recently, I obviously did not know my brother well at all since I was so blind-sided by his self-centered reaction to what should be a celebration.

At the beginning of medical school, one of our professors told us that becoming a doctor would change our relationships with people around us.  I didn't realize that this could include such intense lashing out. Medical advice is not the only thing my family wants from me now that I will be a physician.  They also want me to be an impartial observer of my own life, allowing them to make all of the decisions without any moral or emotional input.   I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is bullshit.


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