According to Merriam-Webster, the primary definition of a family is "the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children", meaning to be a family, you must be related to others by blood. I used to run by this ideal up until high school took over my life with full force, but, as my friend told me one night in middle of our conversation, you can't get through life without friends.
You can't walk a pathway full of obstacles on your own and expect to come out of the other side unscathed, especially mentally. You can't see yourself face-to-face with your worst enemies and conquer your worst fears just by boosting your own confidence (unless you have an amazing capability of keeping your self-esteem afloat just by yourself).
In essence, life is meant for you to be born into a group of people and take on the world as if there's no one else you're meant to live with. To live is to survive with spirit, and friends are the bridge to the emotional freedom that blood-related family can't always bring.
And there's no reason to realize only if you have a large group of friends or if your family isn't as supportive as friends. It's something you come to realize with experience, and you won't know it's true until you find yourself sitting at a lunch table laughing so hard with these completely random people until you can't breathe.
It amazes me when I'm thinking late at night about how I came to meet my best friends that there was a completely randomized set of events that happened to end with two different people sharing common interests. Who would've thought that in a sea of seven billion people (that keeps changing every second), I'd be able to find myself identifying my extended family as a girl who loves reading, one who loves fashion, another who loves pull all-nighters to watch Netflix, and so many other people around me, too.
It's a diverse group of people that I identify as my family outside of home, and I know that college being just around the corner is going to change my life. But that just means my family keeps growing. You don't have to be related to someone to call them family. My friends and I openly consider ourselves to be sisters, and it's going to stay that way as long as we stay together.
One thing I can agree with in the true definition of "family", though, is that no external force can break apart a bond. And if there's something that happens to break us away from one another, we weren't meant to be family in the first place. It's a constant cycle throughout life of figuring out where you belong, but you'll eventually come to understand who you were meant to be stuck with.
There's a sense of thankfulness that comes after the realization that you've found people you can completely be yourself with. They'll forgive, they'll share, they'll love, and they'll do anything to make sure that you know that you're one of the pack.
Just a few days ago at a party, we were all glued to the TV screen while playing "Bandersnatch", and everyone seemed so invested. It was comical to see their reactions to scenes that I had already seen months before, and because the movie was an interactive game, when they made the wrong decision or when I accidentally spoiled the next scene, they would yell (out of playful spirit). It was exactly like a family, and though I wasn't the closest of friends with a few people there, it was nice to see that everyone was bonding over the movie.
It's the smallest of moments when you make the largest of discoveries, and over the past three years, I've found out that there's not much difference between family and true friendship. Friends will unconditionally love and support you just as your blood relatives might, but the only big difference that I can immediately think of is that the people in your life will show you love in different ways based on how they know how to show it.
And that's what makes you love them all the more.