“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”
Family: an every day term used by so many so often, but with quite a range of definitions that doesn’t seem to be one-size-fits-all.
Growing up, I was fortunate to be a part of a bigger brood and I absolutely loved it. The oldest of three sisters, it may not have always been easy, but I wouldn’t have changed a moment of it for anything. Even with the hiccups or hard times along the way, I knew who I could count on in my back corner. Holidays and special occasions were the best, surrounded by so many of the ones I loved. There were always so many people to spend time with. Especially in my adult life now, I have the biggest appreciation for all of the family members I’ve been blessed with all around because of the childhood I came from and even more from what life has shown me since. My sisters are truly some of my best friends – I can say that wholeheartedly and actually mean it. The men and women who God hand-selected for me Himself – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. – have each played a role along the way in forming who I am today, and I’ll forever be grateful for all of them.
However, something else these recent years have revealed to me is that not everyone has the same family dynamic(s) or experiences I have had in that department. While it was probably pretty foolish to assume as much, it does make me a bit sad, as I’ve seen it happen firsthand to some of those I love so dearly. Knowing the happiness my loved ones bring me, I’d like to think every other person out there has that for themselves. But the unfortunate truth is, some don’t. The gamble of genetics alone isn’t enough sometimes; blood may make you related, but that alone does not one’s family make. Living thousands of miles from our immediate families and only being able to see them every so often has opened my eyes to quite a bit during our time here: FaceTime/video chat is a genuine life saver, the effort someone puts into you (and your relationship, friendship, etc.) is a direct reflection of their interest in you/it, and family does not end at blood relations.
Family is not solely defined by shared last names or the same blood coursing through your veins – at least not ours. It’s made up of the people we know we can count on whenever we need them; minor inconveniences, the tougher stuff, and everything in between. The people who help themselves to whatever at our house because to them, it’s also “home”. The people who cry with us in the sad times and bask in the joyous ones with us, too. The people who gather with us around the table at Thanksgiving or exchanging gifts on Christmas or even comes over to do nothing just to be together. The people who know our flaws and choose us anyways. The people who mirror our love and loyalty to them. If this lifestyle has taught me anything, it’s that so many things are temporary: places, faces, situations. But the good people in your life – the ones that are meant to be there – last forever.
Just one example of this was showcased through our “blended” family photo session. This last photoshoot is one that is especially near and dear to my heart. Tim and Jeremy have been best friends since their elementary school days, so at this point in their adult lives, they are 100% official unofficial brothers and find themselves bound by something, in my opinion, far stronger than genetics – by conscious choice. Through this brotherhood, I have been gifted my person, our beautiful niece, a support system unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, already a lifetime of memories, and so much more. Over the past 6 years together (since I’ve been in the picture – even longer for the rest of them), we’ve all grown in a lot of different ways – individually, as couples, in our prospective families, and as our new family altogether. Things haven’t always been perfect by any means; but our friendship has always remained the same, if not emerged stronger at the end of whatever’s been thrown our way.
Rachel and I have talked for years about how we’re going to be pregnant together one day, how our future kids will end up being best friends or getting married, what our forever homes will be like, how our families will spend holidays and special occasions together, and so much more. And the beauty of it is that these plans actually feel real. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of empty promises or hypothetical ideas, but instead, a valid, genuine, tangible goal. That, to me, says everything it needs to about what we have found here. And what better way to capture this moment in our lives and begin a new tradition completely of our own than by taking our family photos to commemorate? (HUGE shout out to Ashley with Press Pause Photography for bringing this idea of ours to life and working so effortlessly with our wild bunch!❤️) We fully intend on keeping this going as long as we physically are able to, and I cannot wait to watch how this beautiful bond grows and where our journeys take us in the years to come.
We have been truly blessed with so many wonderful people in our life – here, there, and everywhere. We may have blood that is not family, but we have more family that isn’t blood than I ever imagined possible. We may not know where exactly this life will take us going forward, but one thing I am absolutely certain of is that Tim and I and our little ones (fur and human) will always have an abundance of love wherever we go because of all of these bonus family members we’ve claimed along the way. Our tribe is ever growing and changing and I’m so unbelievably thankful for every single person in it.