15 Life Lessons From Cristina Yang

A lot of fans believe that ABC’s hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy started declining after the show runners unexpectedly killed off Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) other half Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). But was he truly her other half? Die hard fans know better: Meredith’s true other half was Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), her one true person. Truth be told, it felt like the end when Cristina left for greener pastures (in Zurich) no less after she realized she wouldn’t be able to rise any higher in Seattle. Good for her – crappy for fans. If Meredith is the heart of the drama, then Cristina is the brain. Her presence and lessons she taught still linger around the hospital, but none of the characters are the same without Cristina being around to keep them on their toes. Here are 15 life lessons that Dr. Yang taught us that we won’t forget anytime soon.

15 A Good Friendship Always Comes Before Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationship? Pffft, who the hell needs one. Not if you have that one person who is more like a soulmate than a friend. And that’s who Meredith was to Cristina. Through all their love interests… well, through ONE love interest when it came to Meredith… they always ended up right back together. Some would even argue that Cristina and Meredith were the real love story of Grey’s. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Fans know the line well: “You’re my person”. Cristina and Meredith proved that friendship, TRUE friendship, comes before anything – including men, ambition, intimacy, and even family. When Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), the apparent mentor/love of Cristina’s life, left her at the altar (at the end of season three), who was there? Not only did she collapse in her best friend’s arms after she realized the love of her life had abandoned her, they even bailed reality after the fact and went on Cristina and Burke’s honeymoon together. That’s true friendship.

14 When All Else Fails, Dance It Out

Everyone remembers the iconic final scene between Cristina and Meredith during the episode “Fear (of the Unknown)” during the 10th season: Cristina is supposed to be on her way to the airport in order to start her new life in Switzerland, but keeps finding reasons to return to the hospital. When she returns one last time, she tracks down Meredith and drags her to the on-call room while Meredith frets over Cristina missing her flight.

This has been a tradition of the duo's since the start of the series. Whenever one was feeling down or out, or just needed a simple pick me up, both would stop what they were doing in order to have a “mini dance party”. This was an instant pick-up for both, and sometimes they would involve those around them. You honestly miss those dance party's and often force your friends to take part in your very own dance parties, we wouldn't object to one!

13 Brains Before Beauty

We all know that Cristina is beautiful. Hell, Cristina knows that she’s beautiful, but that’s never what defined her on Grey’s. There were plenty of lookers that would scamper in and out of the hospital, most notably Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), who used her own beauty in order to pay off her student debt (she was a fashion and underwear model), but Cristina had managed to separate herself from them. There were times when she stressed out over her looks, but it was always short lived (remember the time she was hopping around in the locker room as she tried on dresses to go out to her first date with Dr. Burke?). Cristina always looked her hottest when in the scrubs that showcased her cardio brilliance. She always looked puzzled when someone would compliment her looks rather than her brain since it was so generic in her eyes. Looks are an accident and it should be genius that is constantly worshiped.

12 Professional Life Will Always Win Out When It Comes To Intimacy

Who the heck needs intimacy when there are lives to be saved? It’s clear that while Cristina doesn’t need a man in order to be happy in her life, she tends to enjoy one if he’s available. It was revealed that in her school days, Cristina would more often than not be drawn to the mentor figures who inspired her, such as her professors - most notably her Stanford professor Colin Marlow (Roger Rees), a known cardiothoracic god. Turns out, he ended up falling in love with Cristina after a three-year relationship and tracked her down at Seattle Grace, only to discover that she was engaged to Burke. He chastised her for “changing” for a man, something she never had done before, so she took a step back and started reflecting on her life and career. As we all know, the Cristina/Burke relationship fizzled out when he bailed on her at their own wedding due to the fact that he sensed her apprehension.

11 A Well Placed Insult Soothes The Soul

For the 10 seasons Cristina stalked the halls of the hospital, she sometimes turned people off with her in-your-face attitude and blunt stronghold. She simply didn’t care if she hurt feelings, as long as she is telling the truth. Here are some of the best placed lines that Dr. Yang would shoot at her friends, her mentors, and even at her patients:

“Bambi, don’t say another word until after the hunter shoots your mother.” – Cristina to George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), whom she nicknamed Bambi.

“If I was you, I would just walk around naked all the time. I wouldn’t have a job, I wouldn’t have any skills, I wouldn’t even know how to read.” – to Izzie when the hospital discovered she used to model for a living.

“Oh, please. You got a hot doctor who likes to make you open up, and say ‘ahhh.’ It’s the American dream, stop whining about it.”- after she told Meredith to “shut up”.

“Look, evil spawn, you can nurse your pride – the key word being nurse – or you can pass your test and be a doctor.” – Cristina to Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) as she helped him study for the clinical part of his exam.

10 Never Throw A Pity Party

Via Fanpop

Cristina understood that you never, EVER, throw a pity party, and if you do, make sure no one sees you. There were some rare times when we actually witnessed Cristina feel sorry for herself, but it was usually at the expense of losing something (or someone) extremely important to her. In the Season 2 episode “Make Me Lose Control”, we learn just what it would take for Cristina to finally crack and possibly feel sorry for herself. After Cristina faints during an operation, she suffers a miscarriage and has to be admitted to the hospital. By the time Burke finds out (it was his baby), Cristina has already been put through a horrible ordeal (which was made worse by the arrival of her own mother) and is suffering an emotional breakdown. This is technically not a pity party, but this has to be the closest that Cristina has ever come to feeling sorry for herself (she didn’t even really feel horrible for herself when Burke left her – damn).

9 Strive To Be Better Than Everyone (Well, Almost Everyone)

There was a reason why Cristina usually came in first at everything in both her career and her personal life: she would always strive to be the best, which would sometimes come at the cost of striving to be the better person in general. While there were times that this had backfired and caused a riff in some of her friendships, the worst would be when she would be at odds with her person, Mer. One such time happened later on in the drama when Cristina believed that being a mother like Meredith got in the way of being a good doctor. Meredith had pointed out that Cristina believed she was better than her (well, a better doctor in this case) because she wasn’t distracted by a family life, to which Cristina responded by agreeing. It took a while for the two to eventually make up (at April Kepner’s [Sarah Drew] almost-wedding, nevertheless) and talk each other up again.

8 Alcohol (May) Fix Everything?

When your career is extremely stressful, you’ll look for any sort of outlet in order to ease some of the stress. In the case of the Seattle Grace interns, this outlet happened to be alcohol. Hell, all the resident doctors even had a designated booze hangout: The Emerald City Bar, which they lovingly dubbed “Joe’s” after the owner himself (Steven W. Bailey), located directly across the street from the hospital. While Cristina would sometimes use liquor to wash away the day’s burdens, she would sometimes take it a hair too far. During the episode “Slow Night, So Long” (Season 7), Cristina, who had recently quit her job at the hospital, decides to become a bartender after her then-boyfriend Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) tells her that she needs to get a job. She takes a shift at Joe’s and ends up drinking more than the customers, which leads to Joe firing her. She, of course, ends up with her head in the toilet the following morning, regretting life, no doubt.

7 Know When To Fight, And When To Surrender


Cristina has always been the fighter of the group. When their plane crashed in the woods (Season 8 season finale “Flight”), it was Cristina who pulled Meredith out of her funk in order to track down Derek, Lexie (Chyler Leigh), and Mark (Eric Dane). She even had to scream at Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) to shut up after some extremely excessive screaming. In this case, Cristina took charge and fought for the ones who weren’t able to. She did the same when a grieving widower (Michael O’Neill) terrorized the hospital and began a shooting spree. After Derek was shot, she took the reigns and worked to save his life, even when she had a gun pointed at her head. However, there were points when she finally surrendered to her basic emotions. After the tragic plane crash, she relocated to Minnesota, where she worked under Dr. Craig Thomas (William Daniels). When Dr. Thomas suffered a massive heart attack and died during surgery, Cristina finally succumbed to her emotions and went home to Seattle in order to face his death, and the deaths of Lexi and Mark, head on.

6 From Time To Time, Open Up When Needed

It was rare to see Cristina open up to anyone besides Meredith. When it came to her love life, Cristina rarely opened herself up emotionally enough to let anyone in. This was her downfall when it came to Dr. Burke. But when she finally did open herself up to her boyfriend Owen following the entire Burke debacle, she faced some physical consequences (Owen suffered from PTSD and would sometimes physically assault Cristina when triggered in his sleep). Because she could never really open up to her lovers, she would choose which friends she chose to emotionally connect with carefully. One of the most notable connections was Cristina’s emotional bond with Dr. Thomas, which is why his death hit her so hard in the short time she knew him. He was able to disarm her because he saw so much of himself in her, and she in him.

5 Stay True To Your Traditions

Via The Huffington Post

It is around the second season when we find out that Cristina practices Judaism and is, in fact, Jewish, after she explains to Burke before their first Christmas together that she celebrates Hanukkah. During the Season 3 premiere “Time Has Come Today”, the gang is attempting to help Izzie cope with the sudden death of her fiancée Denny Duquette (Jeffery Dean Morgan), so Cristina says they have to “sit shiva”. Shiva is a week-long mourning period where, as Cristina puts it, people cook or bring in a lot of food in order for comfort. Cristina’s loyalty to her alum meter Stanford, where she earned her M.D., is staggering as well. When she is seen outside of scrubs, she is usually wearing Stanford clothing and she tends to harp on anyone who claims their school is better, even Meredith, who attended Dartmouth. you have to admit, you totally love that Cristina has these traditions, especially since she seems like the last person who would have any!

4 Never Be Afraid To Put Yourself Out There

Via The Hollywood Reporter

Cristina was never really one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I don’t think the word “shy” was commonly used in her vocabulary. Cristina has been known to put herself out there at every aspect of her career, even when she knows she may get hurt. Note, I said career and not relationships. Like when she refused to be put in the corner by Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith), the cardiothoracic surgeon who took over for Burke after he quit the hospital. Hahn was clearly annoyed by Cristina’s ambitious nature and “kiss a$$” like persona (which, when it came to Hahn, she clearly was) and would often go out of her way to burst Yang's perfect little bubble. Hahn was one of the only doctors who refused to take Cristina under her wing, even though she was probably the most talented doctor in the entire program. It would come back to bite the senior surgeon though when Chief of Surgery, Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) took notice of Hahn’s treatment of Cristina and made sure she was held accountable.

3 Be Fluent In "Tough Love"

Cristina quite often used the “tough love” on those who she believed were weaker than her, which included Dr. O’Malley and Dr. Lexie Grey, when they first arrived. She often saw George as a weak link after he almost killed his first patient and was dubbed "007" (he has a licence to kill). She continued to demonstrate tough love on him believing it would help him become a better surgeon. Lexie was a different story. The younger half-sister of Meredith seemed more like an annoying puppy who would slink around Cristina, who happened to be her resident. Cristina would often get annoyed with Lexie’s meek ways and would find ways to insult her. She actually did not start respecting her until the young intern finally stood up for herself. She even went out of her way to help Lexie after the intern suffered her first major death.

2 Never Be Afraid To Go After What You Want

Via Fanpop

Whenever Cristina had her sights set on a goal, chances are she would succeed in getting it. Whether it was a compelling case she desired, or even a love interest, Cristina was the first to dive in head first. This would sometimes throw wrenches in her friendships, however. During the episode “Two Against One” Meredith introduces a 3D printer to the hospital while she and Cristina are in the middle of one of their famous fights. Even though she doesn’t seem interested at first, Cristina realizes that she can use the printer to not only save a patient’s life, but gain some fame in the process. She takes the printer out from under Meredith’s nose and messes up her friend’s own project. Because of her work with the printer, Cristina is nominated for the prestigious Harper Avery Award, which makes Meredith jealous. The two eventually reconcile and celebrate in Cristina's major accomplishment in her career.

1 Be Bold And Leap, Especially If It Scares You

Via TV Fanatic

Cristina’s final journey (or at least the one that fans get to witness) is her largest one to date. After losing the Harper Avery because of where she works (she works with Dr. Jackson Avery [Jesse Williams], who is the grandson of Harper Avery – the namesake of the Harper Avery Award), she gets tricked into heading to Zurich to give a presentation on her work by Preston Burke, the love of her life who ditched her at the alter.

Burke asks Cristina to take over his hospital so she can continue her dream of being able to print a beating heart on the 3D printer. Although it scares her, she understands that she can’t climb any higher in Seattle and decides to make the leap to finally become “everything” Burke dreamed she would become (his words). While it was devastating to part with her person, she knew it was something that needed to be done. Even Meredith understood and went out of her way to make sure Cristina finally got on that plane to her brand new world.

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