When I say the word family, I'm hardly ever just talking about just my immediate family—meaning my parents, my brother, and now my sister-in-law. There is a whole network of extended family members that I love and care about just as much and consider just as close to me.
Having this kind of close relationship, not only with my immediate family but also my extended one has been the norm for me my entire life. Coming into college, however, I realized more than ever before that not everyone had such a close relationship with not just their extended family, but even with their immediate family. Having my eyes opened to the experiences and relationships that weren't part of what I grew up with has made me truly appreciate the close relationship I have with my family, both immediate and extended, and how it has influenced how I grew up, and how I view family when looking into the future.
I think that there are a lot of factors that could've made my immediate family not be very close at all, which makes me even more grateful that we are. My brother is eleven years older than me, which is pretty common, but for many siblings that makes their relationship feel weird and they often aren't very close. Despite the age difference though, I would say my brother and I are close and that I always feel lucky to have him in my life. He's been a huge influence on my life since as long as I can remember, even if we didn't have the typical sibling relationship. I'm lucky enough to have had him supporting and making fun of me (for as long as he has been), and now I'm lucky to have my sister-in-law in my life because of him.
My parents are also the other part of my immediate family, and they defy the stereotypical cold, distant Asian parent idea. I think no one is as supportive of my brother and me than our parents, and that's something not all children get to say they have, especially many Asian children. This doesn't mean they weren't strict or didn't put a heavy influence on grades and hard work, but I'm glad they did because it really pushed me to strive to do the best I can in all aspects of my life. Not only did they tell us how important this stuff was, however, but they really exemplified success in their lives as well. I wasn't always comfortable telling my parents if I messed up, but as I've gotten older, I know now that they will always try to help me grow and build instead of making me feel worse, and watching the life they have built up inspires me every day to one day hopefully do the same.
My entire childhood, I was surrounded by my extended family, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I recently told someone that for a lot of my family members, there's a friendship there that would remain even if the family relationship was gone. There's such a genuine amount of care and affection within my extended family that stays, no matter how long it has been since you last saw each other, and I've never been more grateful for that than I am in college. Growing up, you don't think about it—I didn't think about it too much anyway—but the support my family shows one another is unlike any other. I have family members who read all my articles, or who send me support just for life, in general, every day, and I truly feel grateful for all of them. I'm lucky enough to have a family where family reunions or events aren't awkward, but fun and actually something to look forward to going to, and I genuinely miss them when I haven't seen them in a long time.
A huge, close family is all I've ever known, and I know it may sound overwhelming or kind of crazy to some, but I wouldn't want it any other way. Beyond all the craziness, is a support system that has remained unmatched throughout my growing up, and still holds strong today.