I grew up in a household where "Goodnight, I love you!" was always said with hugs before bed.
We were greeted with, "Rise and shine! It's time to start the day!" most mornings, and on Sundays, we had family breakfast (one of the things I have missed most since starting college).
We ate dinner together every night and watched tv before bed. On the weekends, we went shopping or to theme parks or to dinner. Living in Orlando, there was always something fun to do. Some days, though, we just spent the day sitting on the couch in the family room watching movies and eating snacks; those were some of my favorite days.
I am very blessed to come from a family filled with love and compassion. My parents struggled to leave me on my first Move-In day at UF, and every time I come home, they get emotional at my leaving.
As I grew older, the idea of beginning my life on my own became a more and more prevalent thought in my mind. I have always wanted to find a love like my parents have, the kind where no issue matters more than how they feel about each other, where even life's simplest moments can be experienced in grand and exciting ways-- the kind of love that truly never gets old. Although that isn't something I've found just yet, I know that the fairytale kind of love is attainable because I grew up under it.
My parents built the foundation of my life with the importance of love, kindness, generosity, and humor. They've taught me that making mistakes only means learning lessons and growing as a person. They've shown me how important it is to be loyal—in friendships, in romantic relationships, even in professional relationships. They've taught me that the person I am is important to hold on to, and although many people won't necessarily love or appreciate me for the way that I am, my ability to be my authentic self is irreplaceable. They've shown me just how special it is that there is no one else exactly like me.
As I developed my own identity and opinions, I was never told that I had to believe the same ideas as my parents. In fact, I was given the platform to develop my own thoughts that often don't align with those of my parents. Even though we disagree sometimes, it's always a respectful conversation.
My parents have always been my biggest supporters, even in my weakest moments. They have provided unconditional love throughout my entire life. I learned some of the most valuable lessons while watching them when they might not have even noticed.
I never felt as though I wasn't loved. I never told my parents that I hated them because that thought never crossed my mind. Every moment shared with my family is one I cherish.
The loving household in which I was raised helped me become the woman I am today—someone who is strong, kind, loving, caring and optimistic—and I couldn't be more thankful for the life I've been given over the last nineteen years.