Creating a (Chosen) Family

Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid.

Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid.

Originally published on August 15, 2013.  I thought this post is especially relevant for people who are no longer in contact with their families of origin this holiday season.

Someone recently found this blog by googling, “how to find others who don’t have family to celebrate with.” It broke my heart to think about the lonely person behind that search phrase, so today I thought I’d give him or her some ideas.

The wonderful thing about chosen relatives is that, well, you get to decide who you want to claim as one of your own. Being related to someone through blood, marriage, or adoption in no way guarantees anything about what kind of relationship you’ll have with them. Some families are exceptionally close, others rarely get together. Some are warm and supportive, others are highly dysfunctional.

Everyone needs a few chosen family members, even those of us who have many supportive relatives. There’s no such thing as a family that is too large or a social network that is too strong, and it’s wonderful to expand those circles when you meet the right people.

From what I’ve seen, chosen families develop slowly over time.

The people I’ve added to my family at various times in my life have shown up in all sorts of ways. Several started out as avatars on a message board I frequented years ago. Well, technically they were real people using avatars on a message board, but it wasn’t until I got to know them over a long period of time that I felt as if we were kin.

Others I met through my spouse or parents. Look around your current circle of friends and pay attention to who else they spend time with. You might find likeminded people just one social circle away.

I would also recommend putting this quest on the back burner and helping someone else. Volunteer for your favourite charity, or if you already volunteer see if there are any other organizations that need help setting up or running an event. Or show up for the festival/concert/fundraiser and see who you can strike up a conversation with there.

What labels are part of your identity? If there is an organization dedicated to your occupation/ethnicity/sexual orientation/(lack of) religion anywhere near you they might host something special over the holidays.

Readers, what have I missed? How did you first meet your closest friends, the ones that act like relatives?


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0 Responses to Creating a (Chosen) Family

  1. Oh Lydia this really resonates with me! In the home I share with my roommate and cat we have a plaque that reads “Sometimes friends are family too” because it’s very true. In 2004 I went to New Zealand on a ‘vacation’ that would end up being me living there for six years. I have no family in New Zealand nor did I know anybody there once my vacation travelling partner returned to Canada after two months. I had incidentally run into another traveller who, like myself, was from Edmonton while in an overnight stay in a small northern island town. When I found myself facing Christmas alone in a hostel that first year, I contacted that girl and she gladly came down to Wellington. Together we went to the home shared by four young American travellers I had met by chance in a coffee shop and we had an orphan’s Christmas together complete with tree, games, and a potluck feast. It was wonderful! After that my holidays consisted of either creating a feast for the travellers who made up my staff at the theatre I managed or they involved travelling to spend time with my then-boyfriend’s family. I never had a bad holiday in New Zealand despite starting off with literally nobody. It’s those people I dared to call on when I was alone and who gladly folded me into their hearts and homes that were not simply a wonderful family substitute but an actual living breathing found family for me.

    Even now, back at ‘home’ in Canada, my family is scattered between Vancouver and Amsterdam so last year some very close friends and I banded together for a home-grown orphan’s Christmas and it was fantastic. So I too encourage anybody alone on a holiday (or any weekend, really) to look around for somebody who might also be alone for random reasons that you can band together with. And if you have a family over the holidays, consider inviting a traveller or a friend who is unable to fly home to join you. The more the merrier, right?

  2. I met one of my closest friends through work. Another was my freshman year roommate at college. And then friends of friends entered my circle. Also, I love the picture with this post. Pug Love!

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