Family is more than just the blood that runs through your veins and its more than being related to those with the family name. Its hard to think about how certain people within your family aren’t actually family, whereas, some outside of the blood ties and relations are some of your closest family members.

I don’t consider myself to have grandparents. I never really have. My mum’s parents and dad’s father dead and the sole living grandparent I had left was simply not a grandparent at all. I used to get jealous when other girls would say they were going to their Gran’s. It always sounded so wonderful, away from the strict parents, being spoilt rotten like the way kids were supposed to be treated. But I got none of that. I was fat, an embarrassment to the family and stupid. First and foremost, however, I was a girl and entitled to derogatory treatment from birth.

Friends talked about their Granny taught them to bake. Mine slapped me for not stirring some Tzatiki quietly enough. Friends spoke about how their granny let them eat treats, mine poked me and grabbed my fat. She ridiculed me and would imitate chubby cheeks and a chubbier waste. Friends would speak about how they didn’t have to lift a finger at their Grandparents, all I remember was scrubbing the floors and washing the windows without being allowed any sort of break.

Friends spoke about how much they loved their Granny. I questioned how much mine actually loved me.

I wish I had that experience. I wish I had known my English Granny and Granddad because they would have treat me right. They would have told me I was beautiful and perfect and hung my pictures on their walls. They would have made visits enjoyable and taught me so many things. They would have made me feel more than accepted. I wouldn’t have ever had to question if they loved me.

But unfortunately, like many, I didn’t have that. I also had a stressed out (pretty much single) mum doing everything she could for me. An absent father who supplied the money but didn’t truly supply any love, only stigmas, and hate, and shame, and lies. Oh god there were so many lies. There still are and I don’t know whats true anymore. I don’t know who knows what or what secret is a secret between who. I just don’t know.

Me, Mum, John and the dog. Thats one reason I love animals. They don’t judge. They love unconditionally. They don’t question. They don’t care about your weight, disability, finances, or intelligence. They love you for you. And I love that.

I always thought that was all the family I needed and used to withdraw from people so much. It wasn’t until my 5th year of Uni I began to open up and it was the bravest but best decision I have ever made. My Muslim family. I’ve written about them before and I’m about to write again. They’ve truly helped me through so much and I genuinely care for them like family. I love the way they don’t once act as if there is a guest in the house. I love the way I just help with little things occasionally, like setting or clearing the table.

I love the way they seem happy to see me. I love the fact its not a lie.

I went through this weekend and two comments were made and I realised that not only do I see them like family but they see me as family and thinking about it from this two-way perspective made me unbelievably happy. I was asked to be part of a family selfie and although it seems like such a small gesture, it truly meant the world to me.

Family is where you walk through the door and you don’t panic about how you look or what’s going on in your life. Family is where you’re not judged for what food you do or don’t put on your plate. Family is when you feel so comfortable your best friend can leave the house and you’re not at all put in an awkward position. Family is when you go for a bike ride and come back to find the house empty so you just jump around on their trampoline without a care in the world. Family is where you don’t have to ask for anything because you know its going to be provided or you can get it yourself without asking permission.

Its not just them but its my friends too. I see S and E as sisters sometimes and not just my best friends. I’ve had to get used to not seeing them as much as I’d like due to third year and different lectures but when I see them and my face lights up and my heart gets all fuzzy I know I’ve missed them. Its that feeling when you’re randomly walking down the street and unexpectedly all three of you bump into one another and you scream like little kids. Its that feeling when you have no time but you see them and you make the time and in those 30 minutes you are just smiling uncontrollably.

Its that feeling of normality being restored. Happiness being restored. Nothing can bring me down when I’m with them. They make me stronger than you can imagine and I’ve learnt to truly cherish every minute I get with them now.

They’re all my family. And they all make me stronger.


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