Finding Love in a Found Family
Blood Isn't Always Thicker Than Water
Family was always a difficult topic for me growing up. I grew up in the south, and there was always this staunch traditionalist mindset about family; you love them, you support them no matter what, and you stick together, and nothing is more important than your blood relatives. I always loved the idea of it, to have people who love you endlessly and stay at your side through thick and thin.
But that wasn't really my reality.
On one side of my family, my paternal side, it was increasingly obvious I was the black sheep. I was a product of my Dad's second marriage and that side did not initially approve of my mother. It didn't help that I was born eight weeks before my Dad's father passed away, either, and I think I served as a reminder to his mother of that tragedy. She'd also been busy raising my two half-sisters and two cousins from that side, whereas she was not who I was ever left with for a babysitter. I found different interests than they did, found different foundations for my beliefs in the world, and it never gelled well with them. It left me to a lot of silence and hanging around in the other room while they all clicked and connected with each other, or went out on trips and outings together, but never with me. Because of it, there's really only a small select group of people on that side I still even remotely talk to.
Where I got left out constantly on that side, I was, on the flip side, the focal point of my mother's family. My Grandparents were a large part of my life, taking care of me while my parents worked, and I was treated as this little light in their life. The downside, however, was there were a lot of expectations placed on me at any early age. The one who fixes everything, the one who is supposed to do better than the rest of my family and make something of myself, the one who has to be burdened with all of the dark secrets and handle the bad situations, or stay quiet and let them fester. And, after losing my Grandpa when I was fifteen, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under us, and any sense of stability and structure died with him.
I was disenchanted for a long time about the notion of family. Blood was never as thick as it was preached to me, for if it was, then things would be a lot smoother and happier. I swore up and down my future children would not have to face that same level of heartache that I have. Those relatives of mine that were not healthy for me have been cut off from my life, and some more are walking that fine line of if they'll stay or if it'll be best to do the same with them. My life would be just fine keeping to what was healthy for me, and brought me joy.
It took until these recent years to realize what exactly family meant to me. And very few people in my family are my blood.
I have found it in the closest of friends I've made.
It's funny, the different subgroups I have of found family. Like I'm my own tree with several branches all extended out from me, with different connections. I have two best friends from college that we still talk and have our inside jokes, and had the best outings together up at college. I have other friends from there I know I could call up whenever and it would be like no time at all has passed.
I have a best friend I've known since the seventh grade that I call my sister, because she's been more my sister than anyone, and we would ride or die for each other in a heartbeat. Life can get crazy and hectic, planning outings can be a challenge at times, but we both know we're always right there to talk and vent and get the support we need in the darkest of moments.
I have another best friend who we met online when we were both 13, in a roleplay community on Tumblr. She and I have gone through dozens and dozens of stories and characters together, late night phone calls, and always calling each other at midnight on our birthdays to sing to each other. Even being states away from each other our whole time knowing each other, it never weakened our bond.
Then I have a group of three that are my "immediate" family, in a sense. The people who have gotten me through every single day. Two best friends and my boyfriend. And all of us grew up in the same school, facing the same struggles.
One member of this little chaos group is so incredibly smart with numbers and skillful in games -- even though he makes me want to wring his neck somedays over it. He also loves to be the one to try and egg us on with humor and jokes, and gets joy out of making us roll our eyes. We hang out on Sundays, eating meals together, binge some shows, and play video games -- well, mostly I play. He likes to crack jokes when I fail a level or die for the eighth time. But, he's like my brother, and I wouldn't trade him for the world.
The second of this ragtag group, we've been friends since junior year, and from day one, we instantly clicked. I wouldn't know where I'd be without them. Even after they moved states, we have texted practically every single day, called each other, watched shows together long distance, and been through every bad heartbreak, bad day, and every little good thing together. They're goofy and the most savage one of this entire group, and so talented in their art and writing, bringing to life any character or setting they choose however they choose. I'm in awe of them every single day.
And then, of course, comes my boyfriend. Having known each other since we were thirteen, if you had told me then he was the love of my life, I would have laughed in your face. We annoyed each other so much in high school, and, yeah, we argue still about which of us is the funny one (it's me, clearly, by the way), but I've also gotten to see the kind, loyal, amazing man he's grown into. He's dedicated and passionate, and the most loving soul, and he and his family have always welcomed me in with open arms, and I love every single one of them. We've been through some of the roughest parts of our life hand in hand, and have faced our own challenges now being long distance. But I wouldn't trade a second of it for the world.
I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. Not even for the universe itself.
I look at the memories I have with each person I consider my family now. Each relationship, each memory, is so unique and precious to me. It brought back a sense of stability and love where my blood family could tend to family me in those departments. There is unconditional support between myself and every single one of them. The thought of being able to call others family again does not leave a bad taste in my mouth, or make me feel like I have to keep everything perfect and happy, or that I'd lose them.
There's something healing in the power of a "found family" -- those you choose to call your family. I know many people my own age of every community who have struggled with a bad home life, families that were never close, or anyone that has ever struggled. They understand the feeling of loneliness that comes with the instability and the toxicity that can come from it. And it always worries me, the thought of them feeling that alone, and some never even realizing the power in family they have in those who love them the most, blood or not.
I think that's a lesson I want to carry on with everyone I meet, and love. That blood never matters, and that who your family is will always be up to you. That it may be a bad situation you've come from, or even just a distant family life with no real sense of closeness, and nothing will ever diminish the struggle you face -- but you will find the people who will love and cherish every part of you, and want to see you grow and thrive.
Because that's what your real family does.
And I will always be thankful for mine.