I had dinner with a few friends recently, who I haven't seen in a while. I have to put that in context: we used to see each other every week, and this time we haven't seen each other in a month or so. I guess I simply missed them. They are my family in the city.
I've always found the notion of family interesting, in the sense that it seems to imply so many things: love, first of all; responsibility; affection. A mother, and a father. Perhaps a son or a daughter. And we hold it like a shield against any other idea; that is, we assume that a family is incapable of not being loving, or responsible, or caring, or that it necessarily requires a mother and a father, along with some of the more superficial trappings we associate with the idea. So we are always surprised or angry when a family isn't like that. You are supposed to be like this, you say, because a family simply is like this. As if families are always created in the same cloth, and in the same pattern. As if families cannot be as different or multi-dimensional as the human beings that comprise them.
But what about makeshift families? The type that you create when the ones you were born into are far away, or are too busy, or simply do not care. The standards aren't the same of course; we cannot assume anything, they aren't real family in the first place. But what is a real family anyway?
For those of us who are naturally inclined to be something else, and pressured by the current social context to be nothing less than similar, we are chained, and we rebel because we have no choice. Some rebel quietly, secretly, afraid of the consequences of their rebellion. Some do it openly and proudly, one big giant finger to the rest of the world. And then there are those who simply live, and hope that they may be left alone in peace at least.
We are different (not in the fundamental things I hope, at least in our capacity to love), because of the choices we make. We assume families have to be something our minds conjured, and what is real have a tendency to fall short of what we imagine. I believe it is the same with everything else. We assume an ideal, always, so, in the same way, we are always surprised or disappointed when the object that symbolizes the ideal proves itself to be something else.
Growing up different from everyone else, I've always thought that I needed to fit myself into the mold everyone expected of me. I was taller than most; therefore I had to play basketball. I was male; therefore, I had to be sexually attracted to girls. I was baptized a Catholic; therefore, I had to believe in a rigid set of rules or else I'll go to hell. The chains chafed, and my initial confusion at the barrage of expectations metamorphosed into resentment, some depression, a sense of having to always prove something to the world, and anger. What the expectations did was to complicate me as a person who might have led a simpler life if the expectations weren't there in the first place.
(I'm only guessing of course; who knows what problems I'd actually encounter if I never had to face those expectations from the start.)
So, going back to the concept of family, I don't know why we put so much pressure on ourselves, and on each other, to fit into this mold that we created in our heads. Which isn't to say that a family shouldn't be loving, or caring, or responsible; but I'm saying that maybe if we open our minds a little bit, we can at least imagine that maybe all a family needs to be considered a real one is to be loving, and caring, and responsible. Nothing else. Why do we put so much importance on the superficial trappings anyway?
Photo taken here.