The people we choose

It’s the holidays, which means everyone is talking about family.

I had a pretty excellent Thanksgiving before we swept into our newest round of (inter)national awful. We celebrate with extended family and family friends every year. Everyone cooks. Football’s on, but we also play boardgames and take walks. There’s a lot of wine, but nobody drinks themselves into a numb stupor. There are rarely scenes.

Not long after Turkey Day, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my oldest friends and a few newer favorites. It probably shouldn’t surprise me anymore when I look around the table and just see brilliant, funny women whom I genuinely enjoy, but it’s always this pleasant shock.

I’m one of those lucky people who has an immediate family I like spending time with, but they are also a foundation for an incredible extended family, most of whom are “adopted” children. (It helps that my Mom is the mother of all mothers.) These are the people that you settle right in with, even if a lot of time has passed since you last saw them. They’re people you fight over the dinner bill with–because it’s your turn to pay, goddammit, and one of them snatched it from you. They’re the people who make you feel better about people.

To me, family is an ever expanding thing, just not by the traditional means. And real family, in my view, is made of the people you choose (and sometimes the ones they choose, too). The ones you want around. The ones who want you around. By some stroke of luck, you might be related to them by blood or law or marriage. But the best families require some assembly. Which is a good thing, to my mind, because why leave it entirely to chance and coincidence?

Not everyone has a family they can be with for whatever reason. But we always get to choose our friends–our other families. As such, I can’t think of anything sadder than investing in bad friends. You deserve people to love and to you, however they love you. It might be schmaltzy to say so, but really, what’s the point otherwise?

I hope all of you have those people around you for the holidays. And if you don’t, please don’t be sad. It’s never too late to reach out.

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