What exactly is a family? Is it people who you barely talk to yet are related by some blood connection or is it people who have your best interest at heart and love you regardless?

I feel like a majority of my life, I was surrounded by people who I was just related to by blood and who never really had my best interests in mind. They "loved" me but only like it was some sort of obligation for being a niece, cousin, or grandchild. Sure, I got nice gifts for my birthday and Christmas, but it felt like they were just throwing money at me to show affection. There was even a period of my life where I felt like I was in competition with my cousin to be seen or be the "favorite." It was a toxic environment, and I didn't even realize it until I got into high school. I just thought that's how a family was supposed to be.

Eventually, my parents and I grew distant until we were dropped by that extent of the family. We no longer wanted to be pawns in their little games. I'm from a small town with a huge Italian population. A family is everything! However, with the strange dynamic shift in my family, I always felt like I was missing out. I didn't understand why I didn't have a large family to have weekly dinners or cousins to hang out with.

Yes, we are "friends" on Facebook, but that is all artificial. They will like posts I made or comment "proud of you," but they do not call or ask to meet up. They only show public displays of affection and support, but they refuse to be there when you need them the most. When I turned 18, I asked for an explanation for the pain caused but was told I needed to get over it and move on. I'm sorry, but who gave you the right to tell me how I handle my trauma?

Yes, we are "friends" on Facebook, but that is all artificial. They will like posts I made or comment "proud of you," but they do not call or ask to meet up. When I turned 18, I asked for an explanation for the pain caused but was told I needed to get over it and move on. I'm sorry, but who gave you the right to tell me how I handle my trauma? Even though the pain of losing family members hurt, it ultimately was the best thing that happened.

I grew closer with my parents in ways I never thought I would. I have a very honest relationship with both of them. I know I am constantly supported by them regardless of my life decisions, and I am truly blessed for that.

It also made me aware that there is no singular definition of family. I considered my best friends to be a part of my family. They too are people I can turn towards for basically anything and everything. I will get calls and texts just checking in and asking how I am doing. I've even got small "thinking of you" gifts. All of this I never experienced with the people who are actually supposed to be my so-called "family." Anyone who is willing to be there for me as I am for them is family to me.

So to the ones who are always there for me whether near or far, thank you for showing me the true meaning of family.

Being related to someone by blood does not excuse the toxicity someone has. You are not forced to love someone who causes you emotional, physical, and/or mental pain just because you guys are related. We did not sign some contract that prohibits this foul treatment from those we may share the same DNA with.

If there is anyone searching for their own definition of family, don't worry, I'm here for you.