In case you haven’t seen any of the Fast and Furious movies, family is everything. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich, poor, have eight siblings and forty first cousins or are an only child with less than a dozen extended family. The influence that your family has on you is the single biggest factor in shaping your life. Love ‘em or leave ‘em, you can’t live without ‘em. Here’s why:
Family happens first
Your family are the first people you know, and they are the first people who know you. They are the primary factor on the kind of person you will be. The way that you talk to people, your mannerisms, your sense of humor – all of it is shaped by your family. That doesn’t mean that you are like them. You might be very different and even hate them because of those differences. But that doesn’t make their impact any less forceful. If anything, it strengthens it.
They can ruin you and prepare you for anything
Your family can prepare you with a responsible and financial upbringing that will give you a solid foundation for the rest of your life. Or not. How much difference does it make if you’re born with a trust fund? A rebellious brother? A patient mother? Addicted to heroin? The circumstances we are born into have an effect that is difficult to measure but impossible to overestimate. As Colin Powell once said, “We either build our children or we build more jails.”
They know you
Even after you’ve grown up, moved out, and made a name and a life for yourself somewhere else, you’re still the kid when you come home. It’s easy at family reunions to slip into old habits, stories, and jokes with your parents and siblings. You probably have expressions and games that you share together that you wouldn’t dream of doing with other people, perhaps out of embarrassment. Even if it is, it doesn’t matter because when you were young and everything in life was brand new and free of context you had each other and your shared experiences.
Family comes first
There’s a level of trust that comes with family that is hard to duplicate. You grew up together and took care of each other. You made each other boundlessly happy in a time of innocence. You have the dirt on them and they on you because you’ve taken care of each other’s crap – sometimes literally. So whether life takes a rocky detour or you find a way to cruise down easy street you can always come together and take care of each other. If something terrible happens in your life, you don’t call a lawyer, insurance agent, or government office first. You call your family because you want them to know you’re okay and they are the people you rely on most.
Families are forever
No one has ever said, “When I die, I’m going to see my dentist again.” Everyone expects to be with their loved ones – parents, spouse, siblings – after they die. Our possessions don’t come with us, but our relationships do. When all is said and done you’ll have each other. Every religion (worth believing in) is based around nurturing healthy, loving relationships with your fellow human beings, and no relationship is more important that your family relationships because:
Your family defines you
We’ve hit this one again and again because family is where it all starts. No one is likely to care about you more than your family. No one is likely to understand you more than your family. You shape them, and they shape you. While our successes and failures in life stand on their own merits, they are contextualized by where we come from and how we started. Of course, you may have read this and thought, “I’m nothing like them,” “I don’t understand them,” or even, “I don’t love them.” That may be true, but they still define you. Plenty of people in the past and present are considered successes because of their humble origins or failures because of their noble beginnings. You can shape your destiny, but you can’t rewrite history.