What does family mean for you, and how has it shaped you?

Thousand Reflections by Sandbox

Issue #35

About Thousand Reflections: Sandbox is full of people from all walks of life and background. Here, we try to tap into this collective wisdom by offering a prompt bi-weekly and sourcing short responses from the members.

This week’s prompt

It all starts with the family, for better or for worse. We all have families, but we don’t all think of them in the same ways, and they have varying degrees of influence on what we become — sometimes aligned, sometimes not. Indeed, we don’t all define the word family in the same way.

For this first prompt we ask, what does ‘family’ mean for you, and by that token, how have your family customs/values shaped who you are now?

Shihab Uddin

Family for me means the ones who will be beside me no matter what happens, the most loved ones. The outer world loves me when I am strong and effective and dislikes me when I am weak and ineffective. Actually, some good friends also count as a family according to this description. Family are the people that stay beside me even in the toughest of times, the worst of the worst times, even whenever something is very wrong with me.

I grew up in a conservative Muslim family, which is maybe why I am such a shy person now. But because of it, we had a strong process of differentiating right and wrong. I think my family taught me this well.

My parents had strong confidence in me from childhood, although I disappointed them many times, such as not being able to bring the results they wanted, not working as hard as I should or lying about working when I wasn’t. But at the end of the day, when I went back to them and confessed I failed, they always gave me shelter and hope and showed me how to move forward.

Another big influence came from the fact that I was never forced to do anything. I was given many choices, and especially in terms of selecting career options and choosing what to do and how to do it, my family has always given me autonomy. They were supportive also in my studies. Sometimes if I woke up late or wasn’t able to study, I would get very angry at myself. But my father just told me, don’t waste time now weeping for it, study right now in the time you have.

I’m very grateful for this unconditional support, even up until now. When I quit my job two years ago to pursue a different career option, my mom was always there beside me supporting and continues to do so, even when I’m in the toughest situations. Vice versa, it’s also my full-time responsibility to take care of my family no matter what happens and I try to do my very best in this scenario.

Gillian Rhodes

I am privileged. Deeply, disgustingly privileged, because I was loved from the beginning. And not only loved, I was supported.

My parents didn’t have an agenda for me and my sisters. They just wanted us to become ourselves. If I wanted to start dancing, that was fine. When I wanted to quit, that was fine too. With gentle discussions and advice when I got too far off track, but for the most part, they just let me find me. Sometimes, that involved letting me do things they knew might scrape me up — but that I’d learn from. I wonder how they could know — and how I might know, when I have children — where that line is, between preventing your kids from getting hurt, and allowing them to learn by experience.

It was my father who told me that it was bullshit to do a second major just because it was safer than only studying dance. But he wasn’t just walking the walk — I watched him, from the time I was sixteen, leave his law practice and follow his heart. I watched his struggles, his triumphs, and I learned. He invited all of us to come with him in finding our own journeys, and me, my mother, and my two sisters have all tried to follow.

My family isn’t perfect. We fight. We get on each other’s nerves. My sisters and my parents have their own issues that I know only barely, and don’t participate in. But we’re family, bound by all our passions and determination. The word means something that can’t be expressed, and I have trouble to articulate it.

The greatest custom my family shares is storytelling. We tell each other stories, we tell our own stories, we write stories that don’t exist. It is the greatest gift I have received, and it bleeds into everything I do.

This is the first part on our June series on Family. If you enjoy this series, be sure to click the green heart to recommend and follow the publication so you never miss an issue!

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