At a certain point, you have to be what you need for yourself.
Instead of searching for something to come to you, instead of waiting and waiting and waiting for the world to give you a gift, you have to take action or things just won’t happen. You have to be your own whatever, in a way, modifying goals with the reality of your life to make it work. It’s proactivity, it’s a will to survive, it is adaptation. That’s what I’ve learned from therapy, at least.
Your thirties are a time to realize this. Need some financial help to get a project going? Ask around for the help! Hoping someone will take you under their wing? Go out and fucking ask a wing to let you stand under them! Want someone to be your daddy? Figure out how to get one or be your own! This is the lesson of your thirties.
As sad as it sounds, this happens with family too. Yes, we all have families we are born into and, while most of us maintain a love for and from them, they often let us down, they misunderstand us. They forget that we need and want certain things. They live their lives and we live ours. A gap is created between where you came from and where you are.
So you create your own family, a group of people who you choose to be there for and who choose to be there for you. This isn’t a new phenomena but seems to be growing now, as ideological chasms form between people and we’re left looking to friends to fill in for family. This may sound sad but, instead of allowing a blank to lie empty, we are actively filling them in.
This has been on my mind all year as I’ve been relishing in how fortunate I am to have my own “chosen” family, the technical term for this phenomena. I recently wrote about this very backhandedly for that big Eater story. I did this year: one of the key elements of this piece was how queer chefs and restaurants and food, in general, uses the idea of chosen family as a means to solve a problem of support and love.
Across the LGBTQ spectrum, people build non-blood family units for support — “families of choice” in sociological terms. D’Lane Compton, associate professor of sociology at the University of New Orleans, notes this behavior isn’t unique to the LGBTQ community: “Mormon students do this at college. Ex-pats do this for Thanksgiving in other countries.” But queer people have had an especially urgent need for kinship, since historically, many have been rejected or distanced from their families. And often, food is a key means of bringing that chosen family together
Such is life for queer people but, more and more, seeming to be life for most Millennials.
I can’t find any stats for this, I don’t have any technical support, but I do have a lot of feelings. I do have a lot of friends who are talking and talking and talking about how they have made family to supplement their lives in ways their own families aren’t affording them. This is beyond best friendship, this is beyond platonic love: this is creating a network of people who are there for you and there for you and there for you, the people who you don’t just laugh with but also cry with and sob with and reveal the most vulnerable aspects of yourself too.
This is self-care. It’s important, in these times, to make space for chosen family in your life, to be family and to seek family. When you are missing something in life, sometimes the piece you’ve been looking for isn’t something that just comes to you: you have to make it. Such is life. Such is the chosen family.