Column: What is family?


Photo credit: Alexa Marsh

There is not one look for a family. They come in different sizes and shapes. This is my family. They don’t all look the same, talk the same or even act the same. We have different struggles and different places of happiness, but, at the end of the day, they are the family I have searched for and have found.

By Marissa Gendy , Columnist

I realized something the day I turned 18: For living almost two decades on the planet we call home, I am uncertain about many things. I still struggle to do laundry. I still have my mom do my hair after I shower. I do not know how to curl or straighten my own hair. I do not know how to file taxes or fill out papers to renew my passport. I don’t understand why my parents restrict the hour I come home at or the clothes I wear. I don’t understand why I am so ticklish and my brother isn’t. Worst of all, I don’t know whether it is more important to listen to my heart or my brain; I am not entirely sure I trust one or the other.  

That isn’t even half of my list of unknowns, and it continues to grow as I grow. I wonder if my list will ever stop growing. My mom told me it doesn’t. I think, as I grow older, I become more sure of what I am certain about and more unsure about what I am hesitant of.

Through all the uncertainty, there is one thing I have been certain of since I was a little girl: I know how to choose the people I call family. I know from a single interaction or even from a reaction. I can tell by the way they carry themselves, how they treat my loved ones and, most importantly, how they care for me. I see the people willing to grow with me and learn by my side, as the people I consider family. I don’t trust many people, but for the ones I do, I consider them family. I would drop anything in an instant for them.

I grew up in a household where blood was family and everyone else was close but never the same. I do not believe this. I believe family is deeper than just blood. I believe that family is the people that care for you on a deeper level. From my best friend who knows everything about me to my ride-or-die and close friend who claps my hands every time I freak out, I would consider these people my true family.

I went through years of friend drama and losing people I thought were my forever to truly understand the meaning of family. Family are the people who love you beyond reason. They go through the motions of life, right by your side and in your darkest days, they show you the light. They light the fire in your belly that makes life worth living. They show you the beauty in your ugliness. They listen and learn about your habits. They teach you what it means to be whole, even when you feel broken. They show you that perfection stems from imperfection, and that love is something you don’t need to ask for. They are proud of you for the little things like tying your shoes, and also for the big things, like getting into college.

They are your people and you never have to ask them to stay. One day you may be separated by thousands of miles, but nothing will ever make you lose sight of how much they mean to you.

Family is blood and family isn’t blood. It is the people you are given and the people you choose. There is no right or wrong when it comes to family because there is no right or wrong to the way we live.

Poet Nicole M. O’Neil puts it beautifully: “A family is like a circle. The connection never ends and even if at times it breaks in time it always mends.”