Today, I would like to write to you about family. Specifically, all the people I consider my family. It’s not a particularly novel subject, I admit, but it’s one that I’ve thought about quite a bit over the years.
It’s been long understood that you have little control over the circumstances you’re born into. A few religious faiths even dictate that your life’s path is ultimately decided, in its entirety, well before you’re born. This is a comforting thought for some people. You’re essentially who you are meant to be, without question, and the people that surround you are exactly who they are supposed to be. There’s little room for thought, and any inner turmoil that comes your way is “destined;” all part of a greater plan you know nothing about. That being said, I’ve always felt a little bit…off. The people who surrounded me while I was growing up, my relatives, were from various backgrounds and walks of life, but were all united by some common language, culture, geographical location. I could wear the same clothes they wore, speak the same language, act as they acted, but it never quite stuck. I physically, mentally, culturally, and emotionally stuck out, like a conglomeration of recessive genes. The kind of kid who looks like the neighbor from down the street in family photos, the party crasher who isn’t supposed to be there. I was, like I’ve said before, a fabulous imitation of everyone else. I desperately craved an acceptance that I’ve never quite gotten. Whether this is solely a perception of my own making, or one that concretely exists, I may never know. As difficult as it is, I know these people are my family. I’ll be the first to admit that there are some days where I feel grossly alien, where I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, but I’m somehow all the better for it. A friend of mine once told me that I was meant to be with this family- that I would shake them up, challenge them, and do great things. Sometimes I don’t feel like that person, but it’s a nice reminder every once-in-a-while. I think accepting this will be a lifelong journey, but I’d like to think that I’m up for the challenge.
My “homemade” family (mostly pictured above), the curious patchwork of people that they are, never really asked me to be anything other than myself. They healed me when I thought I was utterly broken, and without knowing it. I feel a ridiculously unshakable bond with these people. Where my first family shaped me, they filled in the blanks, like a coloring book. They added a sense of “normalcy” and belonging in my life that, for years I didn’t think could exist, and gave me permission to be who I wanted to be without judgement. They are the grandmothers, mothers, and sisters I think I was supposed to have. We may not be related in the traditional sense, but I also like to think that our paths crossed for a reason.
So, if I could tell my ten year-old self one thing, it would be this:
There’s the family you’re born into, and the family you make for yourself. They’re both equally important; don’t let anyone tell you any different.
Oh, and also that boys are stupid. The stupidity tends not to get better as they get older, so go easy on them.
And brace yourself.