This I Believe

Jackie - Unionville, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 21, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

Family is more than the people you live with; it goes beyond your parents and little sisters and even the grandparents that you never see because they retired to Florida. Just because you are born into a family, doesn’t mean you are destined to remain there. I believe that, in a sense, family is chosen, not predetermined.

Around the time I turned 13, I experienced more than the typical teenage tiffs with my parents. Specifically, my father and I absolutely did not get along. Though I only had to see him every other week due to a joint custody agreement, that was every other week too many. So off I went to boarding school. At the time, I was trying to escape my family because we weren’t “normal”; I didn’t realize that I would find a whole new one.

The Madeira School in McLean, VA became my new home for the next four years. On move in day, I shooed my father out the door and sobbed as my mom, who I am still exceptionally close with, drove off. Maybe I had made a mistake – would I be able to survive without my family, despite their problems? My roommate and I eyed each other skeptically, wondering how we would live with each other for the rest of the year. Our doubt was unfounded; we not only lived together that year, but for the rest of our high school careers.

During those formative teenage years, I grew up not with my biological family, but with the people I chose to surround myself with. My neighbors gave me a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, or just a buddy to make hot chocolate with on a snow day. They were more than just ordinary friends; they understood and accepted me, and did so voluntarily. Our love for one another was mutual. While my mom was still a very big part of my life, she didn’t experience my everyday victories; my new family did.

Having come from a broken home, I loved having a stable group of people to support me and stand by me constantly. My parents’ divorce had left me feeling unwanted, and now I was wanted again. To this day, I consider my best friends from high school my family. They know more about me than even my parents.

Though my mom has since remarried and provided me with the nuclear family I longed for as a child, my definition of family has been seriously redefined. I no longer look for a father and a mother, sisters and brothers; rather, I look for people who love me and want to be with me. I find all that and more in my friends. There is no doubt that my biological family is wonderful beyond belief. However, something can be said for the family you choose; they may not be related to you, but sometimes they care about you in a way no one else can. This, I believe.