In the college environment you are bound to make mistakes, say something you wish you hadn’t or handle a situation in a way that doesn’t fit your character. But at the end of the day, if you have family waiting for you it makes all the difference.
Family allows you to be foolish. It’s not always that easy to let yourself go with people other than your family. Family helps you prove wrong that old saying: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. A good family gives you the room to experiment but is always there with a safety net in case you try the really daring trapeze artists’ tricks. In front of family you can test out all your new theories without fear of ridicule. Even if they laugh at you for some random comment that in all honesty would have been better kept to yourself, family will find a way to include you in the laughter too.
They do so much for you which makes it easier to let them get away with a lot in return. It’s the nature of the deal. Who else would you tolerate giving prospective boyfriends the “board game test”? Plus, plenty of face time with the dogs. That’s right. Only your family knows exactly the kind of tests that you need someone to pass in order for them to become dating material.
Sometimes it’s scary how much your family knows about you. There’s always something to having private thoughts and feelings. But more often than not, I have found that even your thoughts are not family-proof. My mom and I share a freaky wavelength of understanding, and we didn’t even have to switch places like Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan did in the Disney remake to figure it out. I guess there really is something to these lifelong relationships where each person involved is utterly invested in your well-being and at any given moment they can see you with more clarity than you can see yourself.
Family is a lesson in selflessness, even in something as trivial as learning to share your favorite sweater – the one that you get complements on but that looks better on your sister. It can be difficult, but hopefully all the little things get you ready for the big sacrifices later in life. I remember driving with my dad through his old neighborhood a few years ago. He told me how he helped my granddad escape from the convalescent home that his siblings turned him over to. My dad stayed with my granddad for two months before he found a wonderful caregiver to take over. I was much younger when this happened and I never knew what he gave up in order to let his dad slip into Alzheimer’s in the comforts of his own home. I have never been as proud of my dad, as in awe of his commitment to family, as when I sat listening to my dad choke up as he relayed the story to me.
Family also has the power to make you feel the most pain. When a family member is going through difficult times the rest of the family feels that, at times at an even greater magnitude. You feel helpless.
You want to be able to understand their depression so that you can have something useful to say to them. Otherwise, you try your hardest to be helpful, but you know that nothing you are saying can even filter into their reasoning. But family means that you do it anyway – you talk ‘til you’re blue in the face and you sound like some kind of preachy, after-school special. You write a column you hope they read. Then you just keep on going – as a family.
Speaking of family, my little bro’ is traveling to Costa Rica this summer to help reforest over pasturized land. His group is also helping a local family by selling their organic coffee. Just in time for Earth Day – contact me if you are interested in buying this sustainably grown coffee.
Bailey Porter, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.