My people

They may annoy me sometimes. They may demand I work harder than I had originally planned and they may constantly be pushing me in every aspect of my life to do better. They may make me hand-wash more coffee mugs than anyone has ever done in their life, but I love my family. This article is not just a sappy column filled with my undying, everlasting affection for my family and the wonders of parental units. This article relates to you as well, because you probably have a family too. Even people who grow up without parents tend to have at least one or two close friends or mentors at some point in their lives who are like family. After all, who said families have to be blood relations? 

My family is quirky. My twin sister loves to run over people’s toes with her walker, my dog loves to just flat out sit on people, my mom collects tiny containers of butter in her purse and my dad often makes jokes about his “missing” pinky finger—it is not actually missing, just floating in a jar of formaldehyde in Arizona, but that’s a story for another time. We four, plus the various guinea pigs, kitties, hermit crabs and other assorted pets we have had throughout our lives, have moved all over the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. My sister and I were born in North Carolina in an army hospital well after my mom left the Navy, but while my dad was still in the special forces. Being army brats, we moved quite regularly and quickly throughout our childhood, even with my sister’s various health issues. My sister was born with cerebral palsy, a lung that did not work and a hole in her heart. She can only walk with the support of her decked-out walker, which is complete with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stickers, of course. 

But all of this moving and all of those trips to and from the hospital only brought my family closer together. Thankfully, the rest of my extended family also came along with us because they loved to drive out to whatever new house we were living in, in whatever new part of the country my dad had decided was furthest from Wisconsin’s cold winters. My childhood memories are not filled with the memories of one house that I can say I grew up in, but instead filled with days playing with my 20-plus cousins no matter where I was living. Moving as much as my family did may not be the dream for every family, but for mine it was exactly what we needed to grow closer—it is hard not to get literally closer when you are jammed together in an Audi Passat for a 3,000-mile trip. 

I love my family. We may not see eye-to-eye on some things, especially now that I have gone off to college and gotten some new ideas in my head. But I know that despite the frustration and miscommunication we may go through, no one else in this entire universe would ever love me as unconditionally and be there for me whenever and wherever like my family does. That is why I value their expectations of me and my relationship with them so highly. Without them, I lose a vital part of my identity. Even when I am away at college I still know I carry the identity of being a daughter and a sister, someone who is loved and missed dearly by other people.  

One of my favorite memories of my family, which I think sums up their love for me quite precisely, is during a brief stint I had playing soccer. My mom, my dad and my sister were all right up on the sidelines of the soccer field. During one of the few times I actually got possession of the ball, I remember hearing two things: my mom screaming, “SACRIFICE YOUR BODY MICHELE!” and my dad yelling, “RUN, RUN UNTIL YOUR PANCREAS EXPLODES!” Of course, my sister was also yelling along with them in support. The other parents were flabbergasted at seeing two grown adults getting so animated about a middle school soccer game, and they were probably also wondering if they should be concerned for my parents’ sanity. But to me, I saw my parents being totally devoted to whatever I was passionate about and wanting me to succeed and do my best in that moment—while being incredibly biased and thinking I was the best player on the field, which I of course was not. 

My parents may be kind of crazy, but I know they have my back more than anyone else, and I know they are the ones I can trust with my life and my hopes for the future. Heck, they are even helping me in my dream to study abroad in Argentina, even though it means I will not see them for almost two months. The relationships you hold with your family are important. Even if you disagree sometimes, it is so crucial to be able to look past that disagreement and come to a compromise. No one else will have your back like your family will. No one else will come pick you up early in the morning when you are crying over the phone about how the other girls at the sleepover party teased you like family will. 

No one is perfect and even our own families have flaws. But a family is important to everyone not just as their first support system, but also as the people you know will always love you no matter what. The people you can count on to always be there at every soccer game, every recital even if the parking is horrible and every dance show—even if there are millions of stairs and it is not handicap accessible—cheering you on because you are their person and they want to see you shine doing what you love.