Friends and boyfriends will always come and go, but family is forever. My family has always been close, but I never truly valued their unconditional love until I moved four hours away from home.
Being the youngest sibling has more benefits than I realized.
I was raised in a family with three siblings and while I love each one dearly, there is a huge age gap between us. There are 15 years between my brother and me, and 9 and 10 years between my two sisters and I.
Needless to say, I spent most of my life feeling overshadowed as they approached milestones within their lives while I approached puberty. As my brother graduated with a master's degree, I was deciding on what colleges to apply to. As my sister prepared for her wedding, I had yet to graduate high school let alone think about marriage.
We have each always been at different stages in our lives and I felt as though this prevented a close-knit relationship at several points in my life.
What I failed to realize was the beauty in the age gap. Now that I am four hours from home, trying to figure out how to do laundry and to eat vegetables per my mother's request, my siblings have become my biggest support system.
There have been grudges held and names called, but that will never deny the fact that my sisters are my best friends. We have witnessed each other love and laugh and cry, creating an unbreakable bond that, as an emerging adult, I truly realize the value in.
While growing up we would go on sibling dates, an escape from the parental unit as we liked to call it, and in those moments is where, despite our differences, we laughed and talked and left a sister sized impact on each other that has, personally, shaped who I am today.
My brother and I share a 15 year age gap, and while my angsty teenage self-saw that as a reason to stray away from him, it really meant he had 15 more years of wisdom to offer me. As a family, we would always joke about how he is the 'Golden Child' because of both his accomplishments and his kind nature.
In reality, though, he truly is someone whom I admire and strive to become. Even within his adult life he makes a conscious effort to check in with me and offer a helping hand.
Though I thought being the youngest prevented me from ever being close with my siblings, it actually created memories and relationships that I wouldn't exchange for the world.
My mom knows a lot more about life, love, and drama than I ever thought.
My mom and I never had the closest relationship as I was growing up and that was due to how similar our personalities turned out to be. We're passionate, and opinionated, and stubborn and many times our clashing morals and opinions would create arguments and tension that lasted all too long.
Since moving to college my mom has become my ride-or-die best friend. I'm sure she doesn't always love to hear about the drama, the parties, the boys, but she offers words of advice that heal the heart and soothe the soul. Admittedly, I was homesick for the first month or so of college and hearing her voice over the phone offered me a little slice of home I knew I wouldn't have for another few weeks.
One thing I truly admire about my mom is the way in which she gives me advice. She never talks down to me or lectures me, but instead, she speaks from experience and uses situations from her own life that she believes will impact my decisions here at school.
She is the strongest woman I know and has been through love and loss in her life that I could not fathom experiencing. Though our differences seemingly got in the way of our relationship as I grew up, I cannot imagine being able to grow and thrive in college without her. Four hours away may not seem like an overabundance of distance, but when all I want is a home cooked meal and a meaningful hug, she feels a world away.
Even my extended family will drop everything to make sure I'm okay.
I received a text the other day on the way to the library and it was from my aunt. I speak a lot of love and loss, and in all sincerity, I have never met a woman who can overcome adversity with such a positive mindset like her. Without going into over extenuating detail, her life recently has been filled with the chaos I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
In her chaos, though, she takes the time to send her love from states away.
Every morning she sends words of encouragement that have brought positivity to the start of every day. No one asks her to do so, no one insists that she checks in, but in her selfless, beautiful nature she has the ability to make my day and make me miss home a little more.
Not just in college has she looked after my well-being, but since I was a child with no worries in the world. She is the life of the party and the light at the end of the tunnel. If anyone is so lucky to meet my aunt, she graces those around with her presence. I am so incredibly fortunate to have her in my life, today and every day.
The truest love you will ever experience in life is the unwavering love of family. I wish I realized this a little sooner in life, but nonetheless, the realization came just in time. College may be the hardest adjustment I have experienced thus far, but the support of my family back home gets me through the hardships each and every day.