I am so lucky to be able to say I have a huge family. Now, when I say “family” I’m not just talking about the people who are related to me by blood even though so many of them are included. I’m talking to all the people who helped raise me and who pushed me to be the opinionated, driven, and ambitious woman I am today. I’m talking about the friends who I met in boarding school that helped me find myself, carried me through some of the toughest moments I’ve had, and who still stand by me today. I’m talking about my college friends and my sorority sisters who help make even the impossible seem possible and believe in me more than I will ever believe in myself. When I say “family”, I mean the people who have been there to help shape my world into something I have been so proud to live in: The people who really know me.
The difference between “family” and relatives is relatives are people who you share blood with, who you expect to be there for you because “blood is thicker than water”, and people you expect to want to be part of your life but at the end of the day made the decision not to for some reason, and it’s in those difficult life experiences, like when you lose your father, where you learn the difference. For the relatives that decided that my life was something you didn’t want to be a part of, I don’t hate you.
Trust me when I say I’m not mad. I know that you never meant to hurt anyone or make anyone feel isolated. People make decisions because they believe that is what’s best for themselves and the people around them. I’ve learned through time that when a person says, “I’m not what’s best for you,” you have to believe them. I know you had a lot of things going on in your world that I will never understand and I respect that but please respect me when I say that you aren’t my family. Know that because of your decision to not be involved in my life, you made the lives of those around me harder than it needed to be. Know that it meant that they had to raise a child who had a lot of unanswered questions like “Why don’t I see daddy’s parent?” “Why don’t they come to my games?” “What was daddy like at my age?” Understand that knowing what they had to deal with gives me an amount of respect and love for them that I will honestly never share with you.
Now that I am older and I have grown into the young adult I am because of all the things my family has done for me, please understand that you can’t just insert yourself into my family like it never happened. Understand that you can’t “relate to me” because you have no idea who I am. You’ll never know the experiences that have shaped me, the memories I hold on to, or the things I value above all else because you weren’t there for any of it. You don’t know the things I have been through because you chose not to know. I need you to accept that the relationship we could have had isn’t going to happen, so you can’t just pick up where we left off because you never left me with anything. I will say that I am open to having a relationship, but it will never be the relationship you see me share with my family because you aren’t my family, and I’m not sure if you ever will be.
There are a few things I will ask of you, though, until you choose to become a part of my world. When you see my family post about my accomplishments on social media, don’t try to tell me how proud of me you are. In order for you to be proud of me you need to know the work it took to achieve my accomplishment. Don’t tell me how beautiful I am on social media, because, if that is all you can say about me, it’s an insult. Don’t stop my actual family to check up on me, because, if you really want to know how I’m doing, you can just ask me. Don’t try to tell me your opinions on my actual family, because I will always be on their side; I know them like the back of my hand. Finally, until you actually want to be a part of my life and put the work in to be a part of my family, please don’t pretend to be my family, because that is a privilege you don’t have yet.