Lately, I’ve been writing a semi-autobiography about the past 10 years with my best friend Mitch. Writing this book has got me thinking a lot about what true family is. Mitch, and even the rest of his family, truly feel like my own family. He and the rest of them have been my greatest support throughout my teenage-adult years. Hell, his father even took the time to teach me how to drive, whereas my adoptive parents didn’t want to. I’m not related to Mitch by blood, but I would still say that he is undoubtedly the closest thing I have to a true brother.
Throughout the years, I’ve felt horrible for the stress I’ve put on my best friend. It seems for years I got so caught up with either trying to fix other people, or just plain giving up on the world because I repeatedly learn that people are despicable, that I forgot what truly amazing people I have in my life, like Mitch.
Like these two as well:
These two are my former foster parents, whom, ever since I lived with them back in the 1990’s, I wished with all my heart had been my real parents, or at least the people who ultimately adopted me. Not only do they have such great wisdom, but they are also some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known. Over the years, they took care of over 300 foster children, including myself, and I think did an incredible job teaching me, and them, the value and importance of unconditional love. Sometimes, I think my disappointment in the world comes from them (in a good way), because I see what most people are like and I compare most people to these two, and I think to myself, Why can’t people be more like them?
So, I have my biological ‘family’ and I have my adoptive ‘family’ and both have been, and likely always will be, huge disappointments. But, I still to this day have my former foster parents, and I have my best friend Mitch and his family. Two ‘families’ that are disappointments, countered by two families that aren’t.
I firmly believe that family is not who you’re related to, and it isn’t who the government says on paper is your family. Family are those who, no matter where you are in life, will always be there for you should you need them. Of course, it should always be your biological relatives, since no matter what you’re always going to be related to them by blood, but a lot of times, our relatives are people we have the least in common with.
Anthony and Katie, my older biological siblings (whom I grew up with), ended up doing nothing with their lives except accidentally create another baby once in a while with people they’re not even in a relationship with. As if coming from parents who were complete failures wasn’t enough of a lesson for them. But even worse than that … much worse … is the fact that they don’t believe in forgiveness and they are willing, at any and every moment, to degrade, berate, threaten and/or disown their own family members at any given time. A large part of me believes that if my sister’s adoptive mom wasn’t willing to let my sister dump most of the financial responsibility of raising her 3 kids on her adoptive mom, my sister would disown her. My siblings can’t forgive mistakes from the distant past that I, or most of the rest of our bio-family, have made, and in general, they only care about people who always agree with them and do things they want. For years, I tried to be on good terms with them, but for years, the very moment that I dared to be honest with them about literally anything (whether it’s my sister’s smoking, or the fact she keeps dating douche bags), they explode with rage and hold on to that rage forever.
Point is, my blood-related siblings are some of the most toxic people I’ve ever known. My sister has literally, on several occasions, berated me for stating, “I still love our mother, even though she made some huge mistakes.” My forgiving nature has started fights with them, when forgiveness should literally never cause more strife. And then, I look at people like my former foster parents, or my best friend Mitch, who always encourage me to be more forgiving and more patient with people.
Eventually I hit a point where I asked myself, “Why the hell do I keep trying to be on good terms with Anthony and Katie?” They’re lost causes. They have no desire to associate with people who challenge them in any way, and they are just full of bitterness. I keep thinking to myself, “How would I have turned out if Mitch’s family, or my former foster family, had raised me and I was related to them by blood instead?”
So, I encourage anyone who might read this:
Know who your family is. Family is not blood, it is those who always have been and always will be there for you. Who you’re genetically related to is irrelevant.
The picture I used as the cover for this article is of Mitch and I in July 2007, when we were with our church down in Mexico building a house for a family. That point in time was approximately the beginning of my friendship with him. We didn’t even know this picture was being taken, but you’d never guess since it’s set up almost perfectly. I remember I was going through a hard time in my life when this picture was taken (mostly with some friends I had at the time), and Mitch was supportive back then as well, and has been without fail ever since. Over 10 years now. As you will read in my upcoming book, our friendship hasn’t been easy at times (we sometimes annoy and piss off each other just like brothers normally do), but that loyalty and support has never broken.
The book should be out July 2017.