The age old question that every person tries to answer with the time they have on this planet: what is the most important thing in life? As a millennial on the cusp of adulthood, one daunting task is determining where my priorities lie. Time is divvied out to classes, papers, exams, work, extracurriculars, friends, family, and somewhere in between eating and sleeping. After high school graduation, life tends to present itself with things called choices. This is the stage of life in which we are exploring our independence. It’s natural and instinctual to begin distancing ourselves from parents, siblings, and extended family. This is healthy and frankly, necessary to become a functioning adult. However, I still hold my family in higher regard than anyone else for a number of reasons.
1. Shared History
Few people have quite the same experiences as you. No one else had Christmas Eve every year at Grandma’s house, went to your dance recitals and baseball games as a kid, or knows about the time Aunt Edna got drunk at your cousin’s wedding and fell asleep in the bathroom.
Meeting someone’s family gives you context for their upbringing. My boyfriend commented after meeting my parents that he finally understood why I was so physically affectionate because he saw how affectionate my dad is to my mom. Interacting with my family helped him understand me more.
Whether it’s an older brother teaching you how to ride a bike, a grandparent teaching you the secret recipe of their famous cheesecake, or an older cousin giving you a job recommendation, family is a great source of learning and bettering yourself.
If you walked into a coffee shop and asked the barista to teach you how to make a caramel macchiato, the chances they will let you come behind the counter are slim. If that barista was your relative, you may find that they are more easily swayed. With family comes loyalty and opportunity.
You may have one or two friends from elementary school that you still keep up with. You may have 4 or 5 from high school and even some friends from college you get together with post-graduation. But the majority of friends are for a season. You had a class with them, you remain friends on social media or you had a falling out and now you don’t speak. Sometimes friendships are for a season, but family is forever. Even if you don’t have a great relationship, they will always be around.
4. Unconditional Love
Parents know that you can’t be a good parent and have conditional love. Your child is going to scream at you, break things, get in trouble, say “I hate you” because that’s often what children do when they are growing up. Even if they are not your parents, you have someone in your life that you’ve hurt but they care about you too deeply to quit on you.
If we as a generation want to do better than our predecessors, to me it begins with family. To be a good spouse and a good parent, unconditional love is vital. That means not giving up on someone even if they don’t make you happy. I learned unconditional love from my parents.
5. Relationships Are Work
No matter how many huge fights you have with your parents, siblings, cousins, you have to reconcile because you’re going to keep seeing them, even if just for weddings and funerals.
Friendships often break off because there’s no motivation to keep working at them. If you don’t see the person and it’s more work to keep the relationship running than to let it fade, that’s usually what happens unless both parties are willing to put in the work. Forgiveness, compromise, honesty, and open communication are key to functioning relationships. Once you determine what you will tolerate and what you will not, you do what it takes to keep the relationship alive.
I have been fortunate enough to have a family who loves me and parents who stayed together but some people are not so fortunate. Our generation is made up of a lot of fractured families. A lot of people cut off their kids, parents, or siblings and never speak to them again. In the majority of cases, I believe this to be a mistake. Some people have a history of abuse in their family or as an adult found that their parent, guardian, or grandparent tried to take advantage of them. In situations of abuse, drug use, alcohol abuse, distancing yourself from family members who engage in these activities is usually the wiser choice.
I have seen so many people cut off relationships with family members for one reason or another and it ends up hurting more than the parties involved. Sometimes reconciliation comes too late because we’re never guaranteed tomorrow.
Even if you didn’t have to opportunity to have a good family, you can still be a good family by being a good friend, spouse, parent, aunt, uncle. We all have the room in our hearts to love someone deeply if we choose to put in the effort to make it work.
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