There’s More Than One Definition Of Family

What I mean when I say I have always struggled to be seen is that I have always yearned for a family that knew the darkest, most unforgiving corners of me and did not look away. In all of us, there is the same intrinsic, baseline desire to feel wanted, protected, held without question.

We struggle to understand this need, and so we dismantle it. We tear it apart piece by piece until the complexity overwhelms us. We label it, dismiss it, attempt to fight the notion that above all else, we love to be loved.

But, in truth, this is what makes us human. Our primal desire to be loved and accepted. What is love if not the core reason we push through our days, and a large percentage of that stems from our longing for family and community.

Family, for most people, is the back bone. The defining factors. Whether they have stayed or did not know how to. Whether they are the hands that hold or the arms that had no choice but to let go. Whether they have always been the lungs that give breath and answered phone calls or a quiet, sought out echo.

How do you define family? Is it a limited view? Is it blood and blood alone?

What of the family you have created? The family that you have chosen and the family that has, without question, chosen you? The people who have been called to you, the people who have joined your family by chance or with great determination?

Your world has been pieced together by opposing forces and circumstances, by experiences, by hope and love, and so has your family. Family should be and is a much greater spectrum than solely the people we share DNA with.

We have to reevaluate our own internalized concepts and pause long enough to consider what it means to have people in our world that change not only how we think about our lives, but also the way that we live them.

These are the people. These are OUR people. The ones who have held us up, who have voiced their own beliefs and struggles so that we did not feel quite so alone. The people who understand our laughter and our silence. Those who have met us at the door when we couldn’t stand another minute, who have checked in, who have known without knowing.

Those who have shown up, over and over again, without coercion, without anything to gain. The supporters, the guides, the translators and the native tongue.

By definition, family is made up of the descendants of a common ancestor.

I think that our common ancestors can be joy, and the way friendships teach us to revel in it. It can be resolve. It can be steel bones and a thirst for adventure. I think family is hand spun, woven from an ancient, unseen tapestry of light. A thousand different voices looping a sweet lullaby through loss, through trauma, through separation and reunion.

My wild, untethered heart has loved, claimed, and chosen family before I even had the opportunity to navigate the depths of my relationships. And how blessed am I to name anyone at all as my foundation?

How blessed are you to find family that does not require you to be anything other than who you are?

How blessed are you to be born into family, to have bonds that are unbreakable?

How blessed are you to have friends that have become unyielding sisters and brothers?

How blessed are you to call anyone family, and to have them call you home? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Alison Malee

Alison Malee is an accomplished poet, author, and actress. Read her book Shifting Bone here.