My appreciation for Jodi Picoult has grown in the last couple years. She takes difficult topics and invites readers to contemplate them in ways they might not have otherwise. This story takes a common issue that we tend to not notice. Looking at racism through the eyes of a black nurse on trial, a white nationalist putting that nurse on trial while grieving his son’s death, and the nurse’s lawyer who witnesses prejudice she didn’t realize existed I noticed we all hold more prejudice than we like to think. As the characters interact with each other, they gain deeper understandings of all; I also gained an awareness of my own blind spots and felt encouraged to deepen my empathy. Each person faces very real obstacles, and each person has room to grow. This applies to readers as well. Though tough to read at points, I’m glad Picoult examined such a full spectrum of experiences and urged readers to consider where their perspectives fall and where they may grow in empathy.
The girls in Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays. Though we think we leave drama and teenage angst behind when we graduate high school, the world continues to hand us lemons. We still struggle with maintaining a firm foundation of our values, discovering our identity, pursuing our purpose, developing relationships and more. The teenage angst lives on; therefore, we can still learn from young adults as they come of age. Let’s take a look at some ladies as they’ve forged their way into adulthood.
Anna Fitzgerald exists because her parents specifically created her embryo as a donor match for her older sister Kate in Jodi Picoult’s bestselling novel My Sister’s Keeper. The story follows Anna’s attempts to make donor decisions herself by filing a lawsuit against her parents. Her whole life has involved huge procedures all chosen for her; those also make it difficult for her to live life normally, almost as though she had leukemia too. Like most 13-year-olds, she feels unsure as she navigates making choices for herself, especially when tension arises due to her parents not agreeing.
In some ways, we all can relate to Anna in our desire for approval. We all seek approval from our parents, our peers, our friends even as adults. Yet we forget that we need not live by their standards. Even Queen Elizabeth I points this out to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown when she asserts that her job requires her to make decisions based on God’s approval rather than the general public. In most cases, this would follow the wiser direction anyway considering the unapproving parties tend to not have expertise in the field they project their opinion. Mrs. Fitzgerald unquestionably cares about her daughters, but she doesn’t have the expertise to understand what will happen to Kate or Anna if they follow through with a kidney donation. In fact, the doctor said Kate had passed the point in renal failure where it would benefit her. Anna seeks counsel and help from experts, despite not having her mother’s approval.
While we want to live at peace with those around us, it serves us all to stand on our proper foundations to make our decisions rather than sway to gain temporary approval. It also does us well to seek counsel from multiple sources. Chrystal Evans Hurst wisely encourages readers to gather multiple types of people for your support team in She’s Still There, including a mentor figure ahead of you on the same career path and a friend who cheers you on by your side. Having a firm foundation and a support team makes it easier to keep moving forward and stay focused on your purpose.
Desiring approval comes naturally. So does the angst felt when we don’t get it. However, we can continue forward with strength and purpose and do better than if we allowed ourselves to waver. We have support around us to give us the guidance and encouragement we need to make progress. Making decisions doesn’t necessarily get easier, but we can rest assured knowing we base them on truth.