Growing up I dreamt of having a large family. I believed I would fall in love and get married when I was fairly young, have six kids and have this amazing family life where we did everything together and everyone would look at us and say, “Man, what an amazing and loving family”. That was my dream for a long time, it is what I wanted more than anything in this life; it dominated my thoughts and, to a large extent, my actions. I dated more people than any one man should, trying to find the perfect person to realize my dream with. In my mind, singleness was never a long-term option for me. Then I turned 20 and I wasn’t married…then 25 came and left and I was still single…then the dreaded 30 and I hadn’t been in a long-term relationship in close to a decade. I saw my dream of a family slipping away. Bitterness is a kind way to describe my singleness in my 20’s. It felt like I was going to die if I was 30 and single (yup, fully aware of how dramatic that thought is).
I woke up on my 30th birthday and realized that I actually woke up; I had not died. I was still single but I wasn’t dead! I not only woke up but I was content; life was actually good. My 20’s was this long journey filled with grief, pain and sorting through all of the insane things that life brought my way. I was constantly in wait of the next tragedy and this crippling anxiety of the future because life had not exactly turned out the way I had thought. But on the morning of my 30th birthday, I woke up more at peace than I had been in a long time. I didn’t care about all of the things I didn’t have and was extremely thankful for all of the things and people I did have. The absence of getting the thing I wanted in my life had not killed me.
I realized that all of the things that I thought having a big family would fix in my life or bring into my life were already being solved by the community around me. My desire for a family was more about me feeling part of something bigger than myself and less about actually wanting the responsibility of having a family and loving them well. I am amazed at the extent of my selfishness sometimes.
Singleness has redefined family for me. Most of my life I defined family as me having a wife and kids, that was it. If I did not have that then I didn't really have a family. I realize now that my family is really the people who my life is lived with. It is the people who I share a house with that see me at my worst constantly and still love me regardless of mood. It is the college student who feels like no-one cares and needs someone to listen with out judgement. The friend who actually got what I wanted for so long and instead of being bitter against him, loving his family like I would have loved my own kids. Its my nephew who I don’t see as often as I should but still loves me and brings me peanut M&Ms in the middle of my work day to remind me he doesn’t hold my absence against me.
As I write this, I am actually staring at a picture of my beautiful 2 year old niece who I love more than anything in this world. She laughs harder and smiles bigger than anyone I have ever met. My family is large, colorful and its mine.
All of these people and so many more are my family. They are what my heart was actually telling me that I needed when it desired a big family. They love me, they care deeply about me, and they sacrifice for me constantly. We live life together, as one, even though we are all in different stages of life. When life is good, we celebrate and are thankful for each other. When life is painful, we cling to each other tightly and are thankful for each other. At every stage of life that we have lived together, I am thankful that this is the family I was given.
We’ve all been given a family to be part of, it might not look like what you thought your family would look like. Don’t be bitter, don’t feel like you are missing out; you’re not. Look at all of the people around you that love you, they need you to love them too. They need you to be a brother or sister. They need you to be there when life is good and even more when it doesn’t make sense. They want you to be part of their family. They want you to realize that what you want you already have, in a different way. Stop seeing singleness as a reason to not engage this world and see it as having the freedom to have a larger family than you could have ever imagined.
Maybe one day I will have a wife and kids of my own but it's ok if I don’t because I do have a big, beautiful family.
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