The Definition of Family

People ask me all the time how it is I can move so far away from my family.  Right now, both sets of my parents live (at least the majority of the time) less than two hours away from me.  So yes, I suppose the 17 hour drive between Fairfield, Iowa and Austin, Texas is going to be quite a change.  But I’ve done it before – I’ve even lived on another continent where communicating with my parents meant emails and phone calls with time-delays so bad I almost wanted to say “over” at the end of every sentence.

What does “family” even mean?  If it literally means the physical people I am connected to by blood or whatever form of legal marriage their respective states recognize, then yes…Texas is a long distance from everyone who meets that definition.  But while I tend to stick rigidly to legal definitions in many other areas of my life, my definition of “family” doesn’t fit nicely into a pre-existing box.

Family is that group of people I am connected to on a deeper level than the rest of the population.  They are the ones that I love “just because;” the ones that I can call on the phone and it feels like they are sitting in the same room with me; the ones who know me at times when I don’t even know myself.  Friends are the people I laugh the loudest, hug the tightest, and fight the hardest with.  They are the few people who can make me red with rage…because I care.

Family may or may not include the people who share my DNA, or my last name, or my home.  They can be people I met before I was even born, or they can be ones I met only yesterday.  Family are the few who truly open my heart, and the few with the power to break it.

So when people ask me how I can leave my family, and move farther than a day’s drive away, my answer is simple – if they are my family, then they are always with me.

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