Four Things My Sisters Taught Me
Written by Kathleen Gredler
I’m the youngest of three girls, with even more women in my extended family. On my father’s side alone, I grew up with 13 cousins—12 girls and one boy. In my family, the women have always been in control. Because of this, I’ve always felt more comfortable around women, having countless female role models in my family. I've always felt encouraged to collaborate and work alongside the women in my life; to listen to them, to learn from them, to share with them, to grow with them. This perspective has trickled into my personal and professional life in the most obvious and unexpected ways. I’m continuously in awe of the women I meet in passing, work alongside, and spend my day-to-day life with.
My mother had a career as a cardiac ICU nurse and treated numerous patients infected with AIDS during the initial phases of the epidemic, when caring for these patients was, sadly, by volunteer-basis only. My eldest sister got her PhD in developmental biology, and currently works as a developmental researcher at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City. My middle sister is currently pursuing her PhD in consciousness psychology, focusing on immanence and grief studies through examples of the LGBTQ experience and phenomenology. So—yeah, I’ve been looking up to some pretty badass ladies since childhood.
Being the youngest, I was never alone in any experience. My stubbornness made me demand I was going through things for the first time. But the reality is, they were always a few steps ahead of me, learning lessons and then passing them on. Here are some of the most valuable ones.
1. Sometimes, all it takes is making an effort.
When my older sisters were in high school, they would fight constantly. They had very different interests and often felt like the other wasn’t participating in their life in an equal way. It was as simple as the two of them not feeling like their interests and hobbies were prioritized by the other. They taught me how vital it is to make an effort for one another; to show up in whatever way you can, even if it’s only listening to a story, showing up to a game or reading what the other person was working on at that moment. Especially in a time where it’s easier to not do something than to do it, simply being there can mean everything.
2. Sometimes, humility is your best bet.
Naturally, having four strong, independent women in the mix meant we would disagree a lot on how things should be done. We all have our own way of doing every task, from the fastest route home to how much milk you really need in your cereal. I learned at a young age that simply listening to my sisters' opinions on something—even if I had no intention of ultimately doing it that way—would inevitably lead to us creating a better solution, together. This lesson also came in handy when I was wrong—which turned out to be often. Having my sisters—these beautiful, smart, capable, older women—validate that it was perfectly OK for me not to have an answer for everything was a lesson I clung to. They taught me to feel empowered by saying "I don’t know," a perspective that has gotten me far, academically, personally and professionally. It’s a tool we always have—being able to admit when we’re wrong or when we simply need a hand.
3. Sometimes you have to speak their language.
Effective communication is all about understanding who you’re speaking to. Especially with our siblings, we know what they value and how they want to be treated. My middle sister taught me to approach communication as a way of better understanding others, rather than winning or having the best argument. As the youngest (with the worst ability to communicate in the bunch), this was often something I forgot. When you know you’re miscommunicating with someone, it takes infinitely more patience to be patient and work to truly understand what they’re saying, not simply respond to get your point across. But my sister taught me it’s worth it.
4. Sometimes, you have to suck it up.
I’m a pretty stereotypical youngest child. Of the three of us, I’m the most sensitive, constantly reading too far into everything said and done around me, and very easily hurt. My sisters were unrelenting in ensuring I grew a tough skin. They did this for my benefit, of course, but the worst words I could hear as a kid were “suck it up.” That phrase has never sat well with me. The idea behind it, I’m all for. But the idea that I had to make my feelings smaller for the good of everyone? That was a hard pill to swallow. But that’s the trick—learning what warrants your time and energy and what you’d be better off just letting go.
I sometimes sit back in amazement at how many inspiring, ambitious, kind and capable women I’ve had the honor of getting to know in my life. But, of course, no one compares to my sisters in my eyes. They will always be my greatest role models, teachers and friends. Whether you have a sister by blood or by bond, you, too know there is something about sisterhood strong enough to change each of our realities—one life lesson at a time.
Kathleen is currently managing Liberty Bar and Restaurant in Tallahassee, FL, while pursuing her Master's in Music Therapy. She specializes in working with medically fragile children and hopes to be a Music Therapist in a children's hospital. In her free time, she practices yoga and cultivates a knowledge of as many cocktails as possible.