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Illustration by River Mansueti

An idea that I’ve had to grapple with was the saying that “family is forever.” I’ve made many friends over the years, and many of them have faded from my life. I’ve learned that although I considered close friends to be my family, it’s always possible that those friendships can end.

When I was a child, I felt very close to my parents. Over time, I found myself reaching towards other people, specifically communities of people–to support me emotionally.

Not to say that my parents were or are not wonderful people–but it was obvious to me they were at a lost of what to do regarding most of my problems, often blatantly ignoring them.

My parents made me what I am today, but friends and outside communities did a lot of the work as well. When I was not understood in my home, I was likely to be understood somewhere else.

I’ve come to claim a lot of my friends as family in recent years. As I grew into a teenager and started facing more difficult obstacles in my life, it was not my parents I went to, but my friends. I was more comfortable talking to my peers because they were less likely to dismiss me and more likely to understand. Through my close friends I’ve learned how to be kinder, more compassionate, and to love myself more.

I also found family within communities centered around poetry and acceptance. I can’t count how many times I’ve poured my heart through poetry or conversation with rooms of strangers, and being openly heard. Those strangers more often than not became my close friends, or at least acquaintances I could be myself around. Not everyone is so lucky to find such welcoming communities outside of their blood relatives, and I’m happy to say I was.

I’m not someone who agrees with the ideology that your blood related family should always be loved and supported. This narrow narrative doesn’t fit for many people whose families have been disrespectful, abusive, cruel, or misunderstanding. If there is a acceptance and bond to be pursued outside of your circle of relatives, why not pursue it?

I’ll always value the communities that have made me confident in who I am today–and continue to. To me, I will always consider them family.

Tell us–who do you consider to be your family, and why?