It’s the family you choose

Melissa - Atascadero, California
Entered on April 23, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family

Having struck out three times with my offerings of arranged family– biology, adoption, and marriage – I now believe the adage that it’s the family you choose, not the ones given to you.

My biological family rejected me on the grounds that I wasn’t the daughter they had in mind. My adoptive family took me in only to then discard me when they disapproved of my decision to marry. The family I married into remains civil and polite to me yet their mannerism does little to disguise their disappointment in their son’s wife.

You may wonder what kind of person I am to suffer such rejection.

In my childhood, I was the good girl who obeyed her parents. I went to college and earned a science degree. I then joined a prestigious university to work in medical research. I had an active social life. I travelled. I kept myself in top physical shape.

Still, that didn’t comply with my biological parent’s envision. Their ideal daughter was a diligent mother and housewife with the occasional hobby provided it didn’t take time away from raising children.

What I believe is their rejection stemmed from a fear of the unknowns. Having both lived the intended lives their parents planned for them, the world I freely embraced was both foreign and terrifying for them.

The family who adopted me in my early adulthood seemed to be my salvation. They encouraged me to educate myself and live my life as I saw best for myself. However, their belief turned out to be a sham once I announced my impending marriage.

What I believe was their dismissal of me was their response to my refusal to validate their past regrets.

My in-laws are generous people who love and support their children. However, life didn’t deal either the best set of cards and both suffer from insecurities and a general disappointment in life. To be presented with a daughter-in-law who appears to be full of self-confidence and enthusiasm for life does not make for an embracing relationship.

What I believe is they mean no harm. They simply cannot relate to my way of thinking.

I’ve had friends and strangers tell me that I’m brave for taking risks.

While I politely thank them for their compliments what I don’t tell them is what the voice of depression tells me in my darkest moments.

If I did, I would advise them the risk of family rejection isn’t worth it. I’d tell them family approval and acceptance far exceeds any feeling of satisfaction of following a dream.

But I don’t tell people this because I know not to give the demons of depression the power of voice. And more importantly, because I do have a family – the family I’ve chosen – to serve as my anchor, my lighthouse, and my foundation. Without them, the shame, guilt, and rage of rejection would consume and destroy me.