Photo by Ash Fuentes

By Ash Fuentes

Not to sound like Vin Diesel in every Fast and Furious movie in the franchise, but family is important or whatever he says. 

The top lessons taught by the franchise are don’t turn your back on family, you don’t have friends you have family, something about loyalty, more about family, bad guys bad, yada yada. For the most part, I agree. Or I at least believe that if your friends are really that good to you, they pretty much are your family.

When it comes to actual family, though… It’s kind of true? Not every family is ideal of course. Some families have truly shitty people as members! Blood doesn’t mean much at all, but shared memories create a chokehold grip of a bond. No matter how terrible the memories or the people are, there’s nothing more difficult than trying to avoid things that you had associated with them. Songs, restaurants, foods, etc. can all snap you back in time to moments where you were with a certain person last. Inside jokes that you just can’t seem to shake.

That’s alright, though. Sometimes memories can get warped after traveling through time. My recent revelation was that maybe the way I remembered people at family gatherings wasn’t entirely accurate.

For a while, I resented any type of family get-togethers, big or small, and having to see my extended family on vacation. I longed to be in the comfort of my home, surrounded by my friends as we all forced ourselves into the space between the armrests of a sofa much too small for the number of bodies there were. My primary group by choice. It was always comforting to talk to them about dumb teenager bullshit. My mindset used to be in a constant cool state of No-One-Understands-Me-Better-Than-These-Adolescent-Fools. I figured my Titas and Titos weren’t going to talk to me about petty school drama or randomly burst into laughter after saying a single word as a reference to something we watched together. I wouldn’t be nearly as funny if my audience were full of level-headed adults, rather than my brain-rotted band of besties.

One of my closest friends always tells me that if you don’t know where to steer the conversation, try to talk about FORD. That stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams, not the car brand. I know things are okay when I don’t have to worry so much about hitting the talking points and instead all the topics come up naturally. Not just with people around my age, but with the adults too.

The older I get–which I’ve noticed I’ve been saying quite often as of late–I realize that there are some family members who I’ve really missed over the years. That’s a double entendre. Missed like I haven’t seen them in so long and I missed out on some time we could have spent together. I have a newfound appreciation for all the connections my parents have made throughout their lives. The laughter I’ve shared with my mom’s siblings that made us all more comfortable with each other or the rich conversations with my cousin that made me wish we lived closer.

There was even a day not too long ago where my family had a (sort of?) reunion dinner with our family friends. Which really means the moms are all good friends so the kids were told to start calling them “auntie.” So, again, friends are family? Anyway, the last time we saw them was when I was so little that I couldn’t hold a fulfilling conversation about school and didn’t have much of a life going on. When we all got together a few weekends ago, it was so much easier to talk to the other “kids,” even though they were all older than me. 

When I was younger, I looked up to basically all of them because I thought they were super cool and I wanted to seem like one of those kids who was cool for my age. I’m sure a lot of people can relate and had the same wishes growing up. Nobody likes talking to people way younger than them. I know I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I always wanted to be that one young person with a pass. Those feelings went away.

I suppose the difference is that I’m in college now and have more life experience or at the very least enough experience that stopped me from trying too hard. I think that’s called maturity or something. I didn’t feel the desperation for approval and reassurance that I was “cool” enough to be there. That could also be because I realized they are just as normal as I am.

For some reason, I’m just so amazed at what simply talking to people and giving them a chance to get to know you can do. Who would’ve thought, huh? That night was just so much pure fun. I felt like I never truly got to know any of the families until then. I’ll forever note the twinges of regret remembering how I would make excuses to miss out on some family things in the past, even if it wasn’t that many times.

I used to want to be someone who stood out, hoping everyone would pay attention to how much different I was than the rest. Unfortunately, I was incredibly ill with Main Character Fever. It was the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope but applicable to literally anything with a pulse. I wanted to reject people so badly and show that there was a clear imbalance between our levels. It doesn’t even matter. I think I really just like people overall now. I hope my ticket back into the world is one way.

I’ve mellowed out, I guess. Everyone is really regular, but they can be good. Friends are great. Family is, too. Small, wholesome interactions with a randomly spawned stranger can make a person’s day the same way a night of hanging out with people you’ve known for years could. I find myself talking to customers at work or workers at the local businesses more. People are just… interesting. They’re neat. Warm, inviting, friendly. Nice.


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