Friendsgiving And A Greater Lesson On Choosing Family!
I love the concept of Friendsgiving. It brings the conversation of chosen family to the forefront. I attended my first one, last year, although I had no desire to go. My son and I had just landed the night before coming from the US and back to Chongqing, China where we were based and I was extremely tired. My husband was excited because it was being hosted by other Black American expats and since we had yet to meet other people, I went. That night I met some of the most authentically kind people I’ve ever come across.
These people extended an invite without any prerequisites outside of bringing a dish. Everyone was simply excited to just have a great time together. And these people till this day still check up on my family (husband and son) and I.
As I see the growing trend on social media it offers a nostalgia that the actual holiday kind of took away. Friendsgiving is choosing to be around the right people, in the right space to truly enjoy each other and fellowship. There’s no forceful “we have to go” because either people are going to talk shit if we don’t or talk shit if we do and we need to catch it. You don’t have to be almost engaged or finally going to medical school to come for Friendsgiving. The people there are accepting of who you are and where you are, in whatever stage you’re in. Family.
Remembering that we do have a choice in family and connecting that choice with a safe space is an invaluable gift that’ll stay with us far past the holiday season.
It took awhile for me to realize that I knew this all along, albeit people tried to convince me otherwise. The family versus relatives conversations, I’ve had many battles with my father about because as the eldest of 8, born in 1953, his idea of “family” synergy was built differently than mine. I’m a middle child Millennial, so it’s not that I don’t care, but I had come to a point where no fucks could be given in many relative-centered interactions for the sake of my sanity and growth.
To my dad, family is automatically the people related to you and long-term friends that you have from the cradle to the grave. It’s all very ethereal in thought but in practicality comes with a lot of toxicity and trauma that masks itself in “but that’s family.” Or. “they are who they are and they’re not going to change.”
NAH, I’m good!
To me, relatives are related by blood and that really doesn’t mean shit outside of shared genes. We all have plenty of relatives that we don’t even know of, so simply being connected by DNA serves absolutely no purpose. Well, unless you’re in need of a kidney and hopefully you don’t have to depend on that. It took me a long time to create a separation between that and the notion of what a real family is and what I wanted my family to be.
Unbeknownst to him, my dad has legitimately taught me what family looks like. He has given his last to many without expectation, has shown up for people in the trenches, has championed other’s growth and dreams, and has been a support system in many transitional stages of various lives outside of mine. The list goes on. It was his example that I patterned how I interacted with and treated people.
Of course, none of us are perfect and although it goes without saying that, it’s just one of those things that remind us that’s no excuse to continue to be a piece of shit and toxic your whole life. Plus, the art of choosing family is not about perfection. Being complacent in, “that’s just the way such and such is” leaves no room for growth, healing, and ultimately sends me in “well, then I don’t need to be around such and such then.”
As I grew into adulthood and a better comfortability from within, I tossed aside this thought of perfection and replaced it with transparency and openness. Own your shit and be willing to say, “hey, maybe I could use some work on a few things.” But, that also meant that if you’re of my chosen family then you have to meet me with that as well. And not with a side of finger pointing, malice, or disdain, but with accountability and maturity.
I learned my love languages and established this for the growth in my marriage and ultimately decided they were imperative with my chosen family. The five love languages according to NY Times Best Seller, Gary Chapman, are: (with my abbreviated definition)
- Words of Affirmation- expressing loving words and compliments openly and outwardly.
- Acts of Service- actions speaking louder than words.
- Receiving Gifts- giving meaningful things that translate to love and appreciation.
- Quality Time- a little Netflix and chill or thoughtful conversation around dinner without interruption.
- Physical Touch- hand holding, hugging, a kiss.
I’m 1 & 2 and those go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly, for me. In making attempts to be more open with my relatives by exclaiming, “hey this is what I need from you,” the more I’d be gaslit into believing I was making things about myself. Has that ever happened to you? You tell people how to treat you, communicate with you, and properly love and support you to have the best relationship with you but they make that a moment to diminish it and never actually hear you.
As a result, that’s how I now choose my family. I don’t put an expectation on people that I cannot reciprocate. Let me repeat that in caps. I DO NOT PUT AN EXPECTATION ON PEOPLE THAT I CANNOT RECIPROCATE. If I ask it of you that means I can give it. HOWEVER, sometimes if I’m asking of you without being reciprocal, it’s because I’m depleted or deficient and need that bit of a boost from you.
I implore whomever chooses to read this piece to do the same. Choose your family.
- Choose people who choose you.
- Choose people who are open to their own growth as well as yours.
- Choose to remove deprecating patterns that guilt trip you into believing that DNA trumps trauma and toxicity.
- Choose love that’s partnered with acceptance.
- Choose to no longer chase after people who should have the willingness to run towards you with open arms.