I have been lucky to have a massive, amazing, and loving family. When I say "family", I don't just mean relatives. Some of the people nearest and dearest to my heart have no blood or marital relation to me whatsoever.

They are the people who have been there for all the major milestones of my life. They are the first people I would call in a time of need or in the wake of good news. They are the people whom I seek counsel from. They are the people I fear losing.

They had no obligation to be in my life or love me like they do, and they still chose to. They chose me and have continued to choose me for my entire 20 years on this earth.

I could never thank them for all they have done for me, but here is a start.

First, thank you for loving me.

Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for loving me so much that I had no idea you weren't actually related to me when I was younger. Thank you for hugging me tightly and smiling to brighten my day. Thank you for checking in on me when I moved across the state for school. Thank you for always asking me how I am doing and really caring about the answer. Thank you for always making sure I knew I mattered.

Thank you for telling me you are proud of me. You will never know how much that means to me.

Thank you for celebrating my accomplishments and encouraging me in the face of failure. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for your guidance as I grew into the woman I am today. Thank you for inspiring me to strive for bigger things. Thank you for helping me learn how to drive in your car. Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for telling me everything would be okay. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for being the person my older sister and I told my mom we would want to live with if anything happened to her and my dad when we were kids. Thank you for being someone I would trust with my life.

Thank you for all the fun.

Thank you for coming camping with me. Thank you for all the hikes, the walks of the beach, the arcade games, rollercoaster rides and trips to the candy store. Thank you for taking me to chuck-e-cheese and laughing when I hid toy cockroaches in your refrigerator. Thank you for taking me out to dinner just to catch up. Thank you for making it possible for me to see some of the most amazing on-stage performances of my life. Thank you for laughing at my jokes. Thank you for promising to take five-year-old me to the "smiley face club" when I am old enough. Thank you for letting me ride shot-gun and pick the radio station (even when we were in middle school and listened to Katy Perry).

These people have all played a major role in the person I am today, and I will forever look to them for mentorship. They are my role models. These are the people by my side at all my past and future major life events.

I love them like they are family because they are family.

I hope that all of you have someone in your lives you love as much as I love them.