Who is Family?
The people who don’t have to be told your story.
The ones who understand “I love you” doesn’t always have to be said.
The simple “thank you” and “you’re welcome” that never has to be supplemented.
Simply put, they show up.
The idea of family to me has always carried so much weight. I’m not one to cry often but when I watch a good movie about children finding their origin story, YouTube clips of soldiers reuniting with their family, or even the sight of children playing with their parents on a playground… my eyes become a little teary.
I wasn’t blessed to have been born into a family that would last past my first year of living. I don’t know much about my birth family and the parents that were meant to be mine but every time I look into a mirror, get my blood drawn, or see those happy moments on the screen, I think about them.
They continue to live in the back of my mind and affect everyday, even now… 30 years later. In my darkest moments, I wonder what was so wrong with me that I had to be let go when I was yet a baby? Was I not beautiful enough, strong enough, smart enough?
When I hear of parents splitting up and getting divorced and the kids having to receive counseling for feeling as if they’re the reason, I get it. When I learn about the stories of soldiers suffering from trauma because they’re the only one in their unit left alive, I get it. When I see the pain in someone’s eyes because they are blaming themselves for something out of their control, I get it.
I get it because that’s how I feel about them.
For years, I’ve blamed myself for the loss of that family and place myself fully in the center of that guilt for not being good enough as a child to be a part of my birth family. …and that’s not fair.
I have learned a lot over the past few years in Seattle and what I have learned above all else is that I have worth. Worth that goes beyond what happened when I was a kid and that I don’t have to cling to the “orphan mentality” anymore. There’s no reason to blame myself for my parent’s decision and so why do I continue to punish myself like I’m guilty?
I have a family.
They let me sit with them while I have tissues stuffed up my nose without shame. They are anyone who would pick up a phone call from me at 2am and sit there in silence. They are always there without judgment, just love.
Some of them are most my beloved members, with most of them in Pennsylvania but others scattered all around the world. I couldn’t be more grateful for all of them and the constant inspiration, encouragement, and support I receive.
But there’s another branch to this family tree that are the friends I’ve come into contact with over the past few years. Without a doubt, I know that I have the best collection of friends in the world and know that should anything ever really bad happen to me, my family would not be alone at a memorial service.
This season of quarantine has exposed a lot of things to me in the loneliness and isolation of living in this apartment, alone. Not all of these things have been easy to learn but one of the most important lessons has been that it’s not my fault that I was put up for adoption.
It wasn’t my fault.
This was my parent’s choice and their decision was not based on anything I did or could have helped. I simply have to stop blaming myself for not being good enough for them. I have to let go of trying to make them proud in order to receive their acceptance.
End of the day, that’s something we all crave: we long to “be enough” — by making our parents proud, being attractive enough for our significant others, and being the dad that our kids claim can beat the other kid’s dad up. So often, we push ourselves to become the best in what we do because of one of these motives and it only ever truly works out for us when we realize that our worth is not found in what we do or how good we are at doing it.
Our worth is in our humanness.
Family is so much more than blood. Family can be identified in any person’s life as the ones who you turn to when you need help, just want someone to be with, or are the ones who decide to be with you anyways. It matters less how long we have known them, whether we’re from the same place, let alone if we share the same blood.
They’re our ride or dies and are willing to put everything on the line for you, just because it’s you.
People have questioned why I do certain things, care so much, or invest so heavy into other people while leaving scarcely anything for myself… it’s because y’all are my family. Having lived so many places in so short a time, I have come to truly value the people I have known. Because your family are the ones who see you truly for who you are and y’all have been telling me for years that I have worth as a person, not as a leader, teammate, or coworker. While you may not have known it at the time, y’all were my family.
I haven’t done the best job at telling people that in the past, so my question is for you now… does your family know they’re yours today?
Let’s help the world feel a little more connected today in a time where isolation and family can feel so far away.