Family Chooses You
Apologies for not writing a blog post on Tuesday! I ended up going home to get my car fixed because the window wouldn't roll back up (LOL that was fun) and checking up on the family.
Seeing my family for that little bit of time started to make me think about the concept of family and the word family. It's a word that people use and talk about a lot, but I feel like people don't think about what it exactly means.
So, to many, the first thing that comes to mind with the word family is your mom(s), dad(s), and your siblings. Some will think of cousins, distant relatives, and pets. You think about your childhood, growing up in your house, and spending quality time at holiday meals.
Honestly, the moment that I was old enough to understand what the word "family" meant, I realized that the traditional definition didn't apply to me.
I was raised knowing that I was adopted. My parents always explained it to me that I was born somewhere else and that I was now destined to be part of this family in Richmond, Virginia. These two people, Warren and Roberta, were my parents that loved me very much and wanted the best for me.
Growing up was tough sometimes. Both my brother and I went to therapy almost immediately in order to help guide us through the concept that we weren't born here and we were not related to by blood our family. That was a tough concept for baby Fletch to grasp, but slowly but surely, I understood.
Like every kid, every once in a while, I would argue with my parents about things. I remembered distinctly that whenever I made a comment like "you're not my real mom/dad," it would make my parents incredibly upset, and I understand why. These two people risked a lot, traveled to Russia, and picked me up from a tiny, poor orphanage in Yekaterinburg, Russia. They are my real parents. They raised me, loved me, and still wish the best for me.
Now, it was weird growing up because every time I would go to family events or have holidays, I would think about the fact that no one around me was actually related to me. No one in this country or anyone I'll ever know will technically be related to me. It's a very crazy concept and sometimes my head can't even wrap around it.
But with that, it sometimes makes it hard for me to relate to my extended family. I have cousins and relatives who will talk about my family history, who I'm related to, where we come from, and more. They would tell me all of this info, and I would think "Wow, that's cool for your family," but I didn't really feel a part of it. Only because I'm not related to them by blood.
I will always have this little feeling that I'm not actually a part of it. There really isn't anything that can change that. I feel like that sounds awful, but it's part of the truth that comes with being adopted. I will always feel a little bit alone.
PS: I wrote more about my adoption story HERE!
So, to recap: I'm adopted into this family at a young age and I'm growing up & trying to figure out who I am and where I fit in. I realize growing up that I'm different than everyone around me because I'm adopted. I'm different than everyone in my extended family because I'm not blood related to anyone. Then, I realize that I'm different than the majority of the people I'm going to school with and getting to know. That's because, as I was hitting puberty, I realized that I wasn't straight.
I didn't come out of the closet as gay until I was 14, but as I grew up, I really struggled trying to find other people that could explain exactly what was going on with my self discovery.
When I came out of the closet and started to get to know other people that identified as LGBTQ+, that's when I realized: the LGBTQ+ community is a family in itself.
Now, what I mean by that is when I meet people that identify within the LGBTQ+ community, I immediately have something in common with them – we both identify out of the "normal" identify of heterosexuality. We're not socially accepted by everyone.
This certainly doesn't mean I'm really close with every person I meet in the community, but it means that I know I can connect with them on some level. We both have felt that loneliness and confusion, and we can support each other through that experience.
PS: If you want to read more about my coming out story, you can check that out here.
So, who is my family then?
With both of these life experiences, the word family honestly has opened up for me. The word "family" means something completely different to me. It doesn't just mean people with the same last name as me. It doesn't just mean people invited to family events. It means people who I can share a life experience with and whom I love, in the good times and the bad. "Family" to me means close friends, mentors, and people who will accept me for the crazy self that I am. This does include my mom, my dad, and my brother, and so many other incredible people.
Some say you can't choose family, but I truly think your family chooses you.
I love everyone that has been supportive of my life experience. There have been ups and certainly lots of downs, but overall, I'm so grateful for everyone in my life. I'm definitely a very bizarre human being with huge aspirations and an oversized personality. It all comes from the fact that I was a little boy in Russia just waiting for my family to choose me.
Who do you consider family? Do you struggle relating to the tradition concept of family? Let me know if the comments below! Let's chat!
Thanks for reading :) I think I'm going to do some social media themed posted next week, so stay tuned.