Your parents may have passed away. You may have grown apart from your siblings. You may have lost touch with your cousins. You may have purposely severed certain connections because they became too toxic for you, because you finally realized the truth — that blood doesn’t determine whether or not someone deserves a place inside of your universe.
Despite what you grew up believing, your family members aren’t always the people who were inside of the hospital room on the day of your birth. Your family members aren’t always the people that your genetics bind you to biologically.
Your family members are the people who were there for you when you reached your lowest point, who never let you suffer through your pain alone, because they would throw their plans aside for you.
Your family members are the people who you think about calling or texting or tagging when something life-changing happens, because you know that they will be happy for you and you want them to experience it alongside you.
Your family members are the people who know you as well as you know yourself, who understand what you mean even when it sounds like you’re speaking gibberish, who have heard all of your secrets and have also kept them.
Your family members are the people who you feel the most comfortable around, who you feel the most yourself around, who you want to spend every single holiday surrounded by.
Your family members are the people who want what is best for you even if that means you might move far away from them, the people who encourage you to pursue your dreams even if that means you’ll have less time for them, the people who genuinly believe that you have what it takes to create a successful life for yourself because you are a force to be reckoned with.
Your family isn’t something you are born into. You create your own family by collecting people who understand the way that your mind works, who have similar morals and beliefs, who you can sit with in silence and feel completely comfortable but can also throw back drinks with and laugh about your favorite memories.
Your family is a scattering of people, some that knew you when you were still in the womb, some that you met in high school, and some that you met only a few months earlier. Some of your family members are related to you. But others are old classmates, neighbors, lovers, in-laws, friends.
If you come from a toxic environment, you don’t have to call the people who physically and emotionally abused you, who encouraged your destructive behaviors, who ruined your entire childhood with drugs and drink and jail time your family, even though you are technically related to them.
Call the people who matter to you family. Call the people who you can actually count on your family. Call the people who make an effort to keep in touch with you family. Call the people who you cannot imagine living without family.
Because they are the only family that matters.