I believe that family should always come first.
I have not always felt this way. Growing up I was not family oriented. Family life in my household consisted of many arguments with my sister while my mom and dad were on the verge of a divorce. In my extended family, I never made an effort to speak or see my family unless I was forced to. Not because I did not like them, I just felt there were more important things I could be going like hanging out with friends. I did not even know the birthdays of anyone outside of my household. Family just was not a priority to me.
The connection with my extended family got even worse after my parent’s divorce. My dad and his sister stopped speaking to each other which kept us from being invited to any family gatherings on his side of the family. We were basically kicked out of the family. It was at this point that I decided that my family, immediate or extended, was not worth my time.
After a couple of years not much had changed in my extended family. I was now in high school and my relationship with my sister was worse than ever. But now I had someone who actually took an interest in how my sister and I treated each other, my stepmom. I usually did not care about what my stepmom had to say but she was very determined to make sure that my sister and I got along. She would always say “one day your sister could be the only family you have left.” I never took that statement too seriously because I did not really think there would be a point in my life that I would be alone.
Then right before my high school graduation my stepmom’s younger brother died of cancer. It was at that point that I realized that the statement my stepmom said was not about being alone, it was about having a person that you can share your memories of childhood with, that person who is one of the only other connections to your parents, and can give you that feeling of being home. From that moment on I made sure that I improved my relationship with my sister, so when the day comes when one of us is not around I will have no regrets.
From then on my sister and I began to get back in to contact with our cousins and other extended family that we had not been around because of our dad and aunt. Now I never miss a family event and will even change my schedule around to be able to spend time with my family because after years of putting them off I have finally come to realize that family should always come first.