The more I travel and continue to live in different cities, my perspective on family changes. If you have ever moved away from home, to another continent, another country, or even another city, you may have an idea of what I mean.
Many years ago, I had an epiphany at the airport while waiting to board a flight. I had moved across the country and had been travelling a lot that year. So much that I had spent more time in transit and at airports than with my actual family. Coming from a Canadian-Chinese background, we have a relatively big family who spends an abnormally large amount of time together. I’m not talking about the gatherings where you are forced to sit next to your awkward cousin who you haven’t seen since last Christmas. Believe it or not, we actually choose to hang out with each other on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I’m talking potlucks, BBQ’s (braais), family dinners, birthdays, dim sum, family vacations, golf trips, work out sessions, and the list goes on. Not to mention holidays and the random visits to drop off home-cooked meals or to pick-up that stolen Tupperware container!
As many of you will agree, family is an important aspect of our lives. These are the humans, whether you like it or not, who brought you into this world. However, I’m also a firm believer that family doesn’t begin or end at blood. My definition of family is simple. Family are those who hold a strong presence in your life, those who have been there through thick and thin, given unconditional love and support, and would do anything for you. This goes both ways! Those who I consider family, I would do absolutely anything for. These people are loud, crazy, sometimes obnoxious, and I love them for it. The love within a family is boundless and endless.
Up until that point, I honestly didn’t feel the need to be around my own family. I had moved away and everywhere I went, I seemed to become an adopted member of one family or another. However, spending almost two years with these crazy people was one of the best decisions I ever made. It taught me a lot about patience, happiness, forgiveness, creating boundaries, letting go, unconditional love, and most of all, appreciation.
Now I’m nearly 16,000 KM away from home, spending a beautiful Sunday with a close friend’s family in Cape Town. The kids are running around in the yard causing havoc, the adults are sitting around the table making sarcastic jokes, and the grandmother is lovingly admiring the family she created. This reminds me so much of my family gatherings! It’s not only amazing that I can feel at home with somewhat strangers, but also admire and appreciate the fact that they are not much different than my family on the other side of the world!
“Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.” -Mitch Albom