“It must be nice.”
Without a doubt, this is my least favorite colloquialism in the English language. Though not explicitly stated in the phrase, I have always felt that it implied luck and/or privilege rather than plain old hard work. I have a problem with that because very few things in this precious world are easily obtained, whether it is a fit physique, a beautiful home, or financial security. If in any case these things have been acquired easily, it is the exception rather than the rule. Most often, though, success requires that discipline and determination be sowed in order to reap a reward of any kind.
Physicians and physicians’ families are certainly not immune to this phrase or this attitude towards our lives. This is partly due to the fact that our life advantages are public knowledge; a quick Internet search will provide an accurate salary average for any physician specialty. People know what our income will be even before we are close to making it. However, there is a larger disparity amongst, for example, business salaries and perks, which makes it a little more of a guessing game than for physicians. People see what they want to see, and for physicians’ families, it is often big houses, nice cars, and fancy vacations. Nobody focuses on the years of training, the monstrous amounts of debt or the long hours that are continuously maintained even when you are “done” with training.
Though we are the recipients of this phrase at times, do not let us fool ourselves into thinking we are alone. All people, in every salary range and every walk of life, deal with this at some point. I know this in part because my dad’s career was the complete opposite of my husband’s in nearly every way. My dad was a pastor, and though he too was “on call” at all times, his regular schedule offered much flexibility. I cannot remember my dad ever missing a single dance recital, school play, or well, even dinner very often, and yet we never had health insurance a day in our lives. Every purchase we made was carefully calculated, but a perk of his job was that we could rely on his constant presence. I remember my dad getting a lot of, “It must be nice,” comments, and I will never forget how I loathed that phrase even as a teenager, thinking how those people had no idea of the financial sacrifices we often made.
Now, my life has done a topsy-turvy. My husband is an orthopedic surgery resident, and he misses a lot. He often comes home to a cold dinner, he kisses the foreheads of children that are already asleep, and he misses family events that everyone else gets to attend. But we do have amazing health care benefits and the promise of a great salary eventually. We, like my dad, also hear how “it must be nice.” Sometimes I feel like screaming, “It sure is! You should give it a shot!” But that wouldn’t be very ladylike, so of course I would never …
Please do not misunderstand — I wholeheartedly acknowledge and feel grateful for the perks of my husband’s job, and I know that in many ways our lives will benefit from his profession. I truly do not mind so much that people think we have a lot (or that we will have a lot, as my husband is still in training). What I do mind, though, is when I feel that there is a disconnect between the perks of any job and the sacrifice associated with that particular perk.
My husband and my dad both chose their careers, not for the perks but rather, in spite of the shortcomings, for the greater goal, which was and continues to be — to help people. But thanks to both of these men that I love, I continue to learn that it doesn’t matter what we do, it matters that we are all people, and this mentality of “it must be nice” is reflective of our human nature. And while I find this mentality irritating and share this openly as a commonality that we have all endured, it would be wise for us to not be unchanged by the knowledge.
First, there is an old, Southern expression my mom used to say to me all the time. When I felt put down in any way by anyone, she would say, “Honey, you’ve got to let that roll off like water off a duck’s back.” It makes me smile to remember her words. She was right, though. It is not becoming of a person to dwell on criticism of any kind, even seemingly cordial critique.
Secondly, though we cannot control others, let us make up our own minds here and now to think differently ourselves. We must abandon all thought, towards friends and strangers alike, of how “it must be nice.” What one person has and often does not consider extraordinary, another person dreams of obtaining. Every one of us is in possession of some attribute, skill, or even a material “thing” that another person would greatly desire. Most of all, though, let us always remember to be grateful for what we do have and forget — or prepare ourselves for some seriously hard work — for that which we do not.
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