You can build a family

Family does not just have to be those you were raised around.

Elizabeth Lowe, Guest Columnist

Growing up has its ups and downs – one down being that reality is thrown at your face. Relatives I used to adore, now critique my appearance, my accomplishments and other life decisions. You can tell who the favorites are, who not to talk about and all these familial conflicts are ever so graciously “shared” with you. More so, the pressures the family is going through is shoved into your own individual life. There seems to be little consideration of how much you can take on. Some relatives seem to think that their relation to you guarantees a constant connection and right to knowing everything about you. 

What sucks the most are the phrases, “family first” or “They’ll always be your family.” No matter how toxic or unsupportive a family is, you feel like you’re stuck with them forever. If someone disapproves of your sexuality, you still have to understand that they’re old and can’t change their views. If another relative offends you, forgive them because they love you. And if one disagrees with a decision you’ve made, and is negative towards you because of it, just remain kind.

Throw those ideas in the trash. No one deserves to be treated like that, especially you dear reader. 

My favorite approach to this matter is, you get to make your own family. Who makes you feel at home? Who supports you, but is willing to intervene if they think it’s best for you? Who allows you to feel completely and truly like yourself? Those are the people you keep around. After all, we did not choose who to be born from or what situation to be born into. 

Of course, choosing to “build” a new family is difficult. You may want to cut out relatives, which has a domino effect with other relatives and can dramatically change the tone of gatherings. Aside from that, trust is huge. It takes time, experiences, and conversation to truly feel like someone cares about you deeply. And if you’ve lived with a family that didn’t take your own opinions into account, that trust can be harder to have of others. 

I write this column from my own experiences with my own family. Some of them still question my secxuality, my decisions in regards to education, and my choice of friends. No matter how many times you may explain to a relative why you did this and that, it may not work. It’s a hard lump to swallow. My childhood friends and their parents expressed so much love and care towards me, I felt lost in my own situation. Love can be expressed in different ways, but there are some ways that display a twisted sort of “ tough love”. That conversation would warrant a trigger warning. 

Friends, professors, coworkers, or even pets can be great beings to be around separately from family, and they may become a second, or entirely new, family. Please keep in mind that even if you feel completely lost in the world, there is someone out there that cares. You may not know each other, but one day you will meet, and you will feel a warmth spread throughout you, You will be treated the way you deserve.