What Is Family

William - Whitewater, Wisconsin
Entered on February 8, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

What is defined to be one’s family? According to the Webster dictionary, “a group of persons of common ancestry” or “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.” This does not sound like the heart-filled definition that many people associate with the word family. So, I ask again, what is family?

My definition of family was, those who you are related to and know quite well are your family, but then something caused me to challenge this definition.

This event happened just the other night; I was online talking with my friends when I noticed that my cousin just happened to be online. So, I decided to try to talk to her, why not, she is “family” after all.

We started off with the simple, “how are you?” and “how was your day?” Then we started talking about what each of us was doing with our life. Eventually we started to share thoughts about life and other more in-depth subjects. After roughly an hour and a half of talking to her I realized that I really had no idea who this person that I considered family was until just a few minutes ago. Since I never really talked to her before. When I noted this to her she surprised me with a response that she was just realizing the same thing. So, this person, this family member that I should have known, made me realize that I really didn’t know my family at all. This got me thinking to what I thought family was.

As I’ve lived my life meeting other people and meeting their own families, I neglected my own. I neglected to ever get acquainted with the people who I believed to be my own dear family. The same “family” that applies to the quote, “Friends will come and go, but family is always there.”

My best friend and I were pretty much inseparable before I had to leave for college. I could name his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. His grandpa even joked around by saying my name with my friend’s last name due to how much time I was over at his house and participating in his family events. I was practically a family member minus the fact that I was not related to any other them.

I never really even gave it a second thought until the other night that I knew my friend’s cousins and family, for the most part, better than my own. It never passed through my mind that I knew what his cousin liked to do, where she wanted to go to college, and other random facts. Mean while I didn’t even know that my own cousin was attending college for a major that I did not know.

Is family only limited to those who are related to? I now think it doesn’t, that the word family has meanings that you chose.

I’ve used the word all over the place without really thinking about the definition that I defined it to be. One common use that I’ve had was calling the swim team I was on in high school, my swim family. Of course I didn’t literally mean that they were my family, but we were very close to each other. Overall, we were probably a lot closer to one another than many actual families were with themselves. There were even times that I knew more about them than I knew about my own sister, my actual “family.”

I return to my original question, what is family? In my case, I needed to do one of two things, ether change my definition of family or change my genetic make up, and one of those options is out of the question.

I now have duel definitions for family, one, a group of people that you are related to, and two, a group of people that you are very close with, but not necessarily related to.