Family is not just family

Posted: December 7, 2013 in Blogs

I feel really privileged that I have the family I do. When I think back to what a horrendous teenager I was, I feel incredibly guilty about some of the things my mum had to put up with. You would only have to talk with me a short while to realise that I have a very strong bond with my mum; in the past, people I am in the process of getting to know would often comment on how much I talk about her. She really couldn’t have done a better job (if I do say so myself!) and I am so grateful for everything she made possible for me. Today, I still feel her constant self-sacrifice, care, patience and most of all, her help.

Only just recently did my mum pass on some wisdom to help me with my writing. It was to discard the first paragraph once you have finished your masterpiece! It was an interesting and valuable insight – characteristics that have prevailed so much in her advice and guidance during my lifetime. So, let’s ignore the first paragraph above. I don’t actually want to lament about how amazing individual members of my immediate family are and just because they’re not mentioned here doesn’t mean I don’t think the world of them. Sometimes a family is a feeling and the people that invoke that feeling don’t have to be blood relations. Similarly they could be, but you might not even know them, but when you meet them, you know they are. At the heart of all this family stuff, there is a sense of belonging, acceptance and a sense of ease.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to meet (properly) and get to know my second cousin. My only prior contact being at few and far between family gatherings, at which I was far more interested in hanging off my older, cooler (sorry Tom!) cousins. It was not my priority to engage with smaller people at such affairs. Now a bit older, our difference in age is of little relevance. Having recently found myself homeless, it was at my Aunt’s 80th birthday party that my second cousin, offered me a lifeline of a spare room in his flat. Now I can admit right now I’m not a good house sharer! In the past I’ve had far more bad experiences of sharing houses with people than good ones. If you’re a past landlord / flatmate reading this and you feel affronted, you can be assured if you live in Manchester or Ely this doesn’t apply to you. I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome this time round – we get on, have banter, have similar standards, lifestyles and outlooks.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to know your family, to know they are family. It was only a few years ago that I met, for the first time, my American cousin. I’m sure she had picked me up as a baby when she visited the UK but of course I don’t remember that. I was travelling at the time and I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of my 6 months abroad, visiting different countries and experiencing amazing things every day. For me, there are plenty of examples of some family, right under my nose that I’ve only just found. It is really fulfilling to feel like you are understood or that you share things with other people, a feeling that you share some heritage.

I have also been fortunate to experience an extended family circle, very different to my own, in which, nearly fifteen years on, I am still affectionately referred to as foster kid. The room that I enjoyed for two years also shares my name. I feel childish using the term ‘best friend’ but this is someone who genuinely is deserving of such hierarchy! It was true when I was fifteen, it was true when geography set us apart, it was true during the one and only fight we’ve ever had and it’s still true now. It is that best friend’s family I consider my family. Not only did they house me during my A levels, they taxied me to and from school, fed me, included me in every aspect of their lives, but they also took me on holiday. Whenever I visit, the same generosity and kindness is extended to me now that I am 31, employed and independent. It is somewhere where I feel relaxed, accepted and happy. I am truly grateful for the huge part they all played in my life and I certainly owe them for my well-developed vocabulary of swear words. 

I personally see family more about a unit, a group of people sharing their lives somehow or even two people with a connection and less about sharing 50% of your DNA. A family could be your job, your sports team, your battalion. It could be about one day you spent with someone, or the only time you met someone. My family is everyone who loves me, supports me and contributes to my existence in an unconditional, unrelenting way. Whether it is my mum, brother or anyone that has ever been for a run with me (those are some really special people!), foster families and fifth-degree relatives (apparently a second cousin only has 3.12% genetic overlap), you know when family is family and family is not just family. In the words of Rudimental, ‘You know I said it’s true I can feel the love can you feel it too?’.







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