Should…such a benign word, but such a pressure-filled one too.
Basically the definition of “should” is the same as “ought to” as in; I ought to schedule that dentist appointment before the end of the month.
Since we were little, our parents were charged with lovingly directing us to all the things we should do. We should brush our teeth before bedtime. We should comb our hair, be polite and not talk to strangers.
When the time for us to start school arrives, our teachers teach us all sorts of new shoulds like you should raise your hand if you have a question or we should play nice with others. When we graduate from school and enter the world of 9-5 jobs, there are some brand new and more complex shoulds involved with this new chapter as well.
As an employed person, we learned that we should arrive to work on time and do our very best during our 8+ hour shift. We learned that we should speak kindly to our coworkers even thought the favor isn’t always returned.
All of these types of “ought tos” are basically necessary life skills that help us make friends, respect other adults, be accountable for our actions and be responsible. These shoulds are valuable, necessary and help us be better human beings.
But, what about the other kind of shoulds?
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A few weeks ago, I was slogging through some clerical work in my home office. Tedious stuff. Needed a break. I logged into Twitter, scrolled through my feed, and came across this tweet from the US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH.
The tweet—from the US. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD—that started it all!
My visceral reaction was best summed up by the red-faced angry emoji. You see, I travel the country talking to groups about what life with diabetes is like. On multiple occasions, during events on the road, someone in attendance inevitably asks a question that infers that I was diagnosed with diabetes because I’m overweight.
This, of course, is a misnomer: I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during my youth and I would’ve been diagnosed whether I’d been 90 pounds or 290 pounds. It was just a crappy genetic roll of the dice I was on the wrong end of.
Happens to many people. But—and I’m assuming here—most don’t have to navigate their plight while being told (from audience members, sure, but also friends, the media, and, of course, the Twittersphere) that, in essence, they were responsible for creating the disease.
Why the red-faced emoji reaction? Imagine if the public had the misconception that you get cancer because you don’t exercise enough. Imagine you’re diagnosed with cancer. Imagine, a week later, having lunch with a friend who says: “It just sucks that you didn’t exercise more. This could have been avoided.” You’re not looking for pity, but dang— you’re not wanting to defend yourself from an incorrect supposition either. What would you do in that situation? I’ll tell you what you’d do: You’d say nothing. You’d swallow it. Because it’s not worth risking your relationship by responding how that feeling in your gut wants you to respond.
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Ben Rue is a country singer/songwriter who grew up in a rural town outside of Portland. His life took a dramatic turn when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 14. He admits that he struggled to feel normal and fit in. It wasn’t until he went to a diabetes camp and met other young people like himself, that he realized he was not alone with this.
Click here to read my exclusive interview with this down-to-earth, funny and passionate diabetes advocate about what he’s doing to raise awareness about life with type 1 diabetes, and if there’s a possible future pop-rock-country collaboration with him, Nick Jonas, Bret Michaels and Eric Paslay (all T1D).