**Note from the author: The topic of family was chosen with the holiday season in mind. This pulled on a lot of emotional heart strings for me, and even so I must admit I left a lot out. For the people that know me, they know underneath my stubborn, hard headed exterior, there is a sentimental heart. This story is dedicated to each person in my life that has shown me that love really does exist and not just in the romantic sense. Thank you for letting me still believe that in each chapter of life good people can be found.
By- Traci Taylor
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series
Life gives us two sets of family members: the biological and the chosen. Everyone has their own dysfunctional family story and tales from their childhood that are horrifying. I’ve heard them all, and I’ve lived a few of them myself. One thing that really irks me is when people use their broken family life story as an excuse for the choices they make as adults.
At some point responsibility needs to be taken and blame needs to be placed upon the individual, not the family. After all family isn’t limited to just blood relation- the people that offer love and support in your life are sometimes all the family you need regardless of biological connection.
I was raised in a suburban tourist beach town with two older sisters, and a Catholic father (who was actually supposed to be a priest but ended up being a chef- I’ll let that sink in for a second). My dad is undeniably my best friend and I thank my lucky stars every day for the relationship we maintain. Sometimes even though life gives us two parents, one really can end up being enough.
For years I tried to convince my dad that not everyone is meant to be a parent, and that is truly okay. He never really liked when I would remind him of that, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Whether it was he felt ashamed that I never developed a relationship with my mother or because he was so close to his that he felt I was missing out on something.
A parent (or mentor) should posses the qualities of strength, guidance, and support at all times. My dad raised me right, and I know this for plenty of reasons: I still hold doors for people, I say please and thank you no matter what, I say excuse me (especially in the grocery store), and I show respect for my elders. I’m sure I could go on and on, but I think that makes it clear enough. Call me old fashion, but a lot of those qualities are lost in the world today and I am just grateful I still possess them. If there is at least one parent or mentor in your life that has loved you unconditionally, you are as lucky as I am.
At a young age I was exposed to a lot, but ultimately it aided me in being mature beyond my years. When I was ten years old my mother left the family, and I still have so much respect for my dad for not only raising three girls alone but correctly, and with solid values. If it wasn’t for him, there’s a good chance I would not have ended up being the independent woman I am today who still continues to follow her dreams.
Every experience I have had in my family life has opened my eyes to realizing the term family is more about the development of a bond than about being related. In college I took a course on family violence that touched on a lot of different areas of abuse within the household. This ended up being a more emotional hard hitting class for me than I anticipated.
What really got to me was choosing to speak for the first time out loud about my own family story. It took a toll on me to talk about the emotional, verbal abuse my dad had gone through, and my sisters including me were exposed to. In a way it also took a weight off my shoulders to finally speak out loud about something I had held in for so long other than to people who knew me well. Strange enough I think all of the things we experienced as a family only made us stronger in the end.
The other kind of family are the ones you choose as friends, but somewhere along the line an unconditional love forms. When I went away to college for the first couple of years I dreaded it. I would drive three and a half hours home to New Jersey every other weekend. It wasn’t until my very last semester at Millersville that I found my group of lifelong friends.
My good friend Meg had introduced me to a few guys she knew. Before I knew it I was like their fifth roommate and I ended up sleeping on their couch every night that semester. Somewhere within a short six month span, plenty of late drunken nights, we all became family. Through the good, and the bad they have been there. It is friends like them that remind me it is about being there no matter the circumstance simply because you genuinely care.
After college was done and my dad sold the house in Jersey, I had to move. I knew it was time to begin the next chapter of my life, but I was hesitant of all the change. Moving anywhere new meant being away from familiarity and people I loved. Living in Philadelphia was very lonely at first, and being at a short distance from people I knew was a tough adjustment.
When I landed my second restaurant job in the city things began to look up. Finally I had found a place with people who were actually friendly and not pretentious. Although the job itself had more downs than ups, the people I worked with were my reason for going to work with a smile on my face. Seeing people every day, and spending hours together makes it difficult not to become so close.
There are a handful of individuals that I worked with there that have undeniably been there for me in my darkest of times. Family can be defined by who is there holding you above water when there is an anchor tied to you trying to keep you down below sea level.
During the holiday season remember if you feel lonely; that the family you are born into only defines you if you choose to let it. As years go by it is easier to see the bigger picture and that the past may be set in stone, but the future has yet to be lived. Take a moment to think about the people that matter the most to you, and who have been there without judgment.
Whether you come from a broken home, or from a picture perfect family think about how you have let that define you in your lifetime. Either way, it should be for the better. Family is given and chosen to raise us, advise us, and lend a hand. They may not always be by blood relation, but if an unconditional love exists that’s really all that matters.