To most people, their family is sacred, their everything.
All that they do and all that they dream of is usually centered around their family. Whether it’s being able to provide financial support or just spending quality time together, family, for a lot of people, is priority numero uno.
But as I said, that’s most people.
Then there are people like me who belong to the small population that isn’t close with their family at all. I’m not talking about typical family dysfunction or differences. I’m talking not being close.
Dysfunction is the norm when it comes to relationships because, hey, that’s life, but even some of the craziest families I’ve known spend a lot of time together, stay privy on each other’s lives and rely on each other when times get tough, and that is what my family does not have.
Instead, it’s more of a group of distant people that don’t support each other, but rather tear each other down. It’s a group of people that don’t have heartfelt conversations, hug or verbally express their love for one another.
And it’s not just one side of my family. It’s both sides.
My mother and father both came from families like this and joined forces to form the ultimate congregation of individuals who don’t share feelings or dreams and who save anything “family-oriented” for the holidays, and sometimes we don’t even do that.
As a 30-year-old woman, I have become numb to my family’s dynamics, but it took a lot of me trying to forge meaningful bonds and getting hurt hundreds of times to realize this is just how it is.
If you want to know what I mean, keep reading. I’ve compiled a list of the 4 most memorable rejections I’ve gotten from my family, and how they’ve affected me.
The time my older brother told me to stop singing
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved to sing, although most people wouldn’t know it because I hardly ever sing in front of people. That’s because a long time ago my confidence was shattered by my older brother who, at the time, I considered my best friend and who I looked up to.
One day when I was 12, I was singing to Aaliyah’s “I Care 4 U”. That’s when I heard my older brother yell at me from his room telling me to shut up because I sounded terrible. Well, that was enough to keep my mouth sealed for the rest of my life.
Which is sad, because the friends I have sung in front of told me I should really do it more and not be afraid, but in the back of my mind I always get the feeling that I’m not good enough and that no one would want to hear me sing.
This has turned into a crippling stage fright that has been difficult to conquer. I’m trying to overcome this, but when the belief is that deep-seated and coming from someone so close, it’s hard to do.
The time when my dad and brother laughed at my career dreams
The year was 2006. I was 16 years old and a junior in high school, which meant I was starting to get serious about what to do after graduation. I kind of thought about college, but only because my dad was really pushing it, but what I really wanted to do was direct music videos.
Ever since I was 5, I was obsessed with music videos. Not only have I always been an enthusiastic music lover, but I’m also a sucker for visual art and storytelling.
I couldn’t get enough of the fantastical, stylish imagery, and stories that came with music videos. I was pretty set on it and as I inched closer and closer to graduation, I became attached to the idea.
That burning desire gave me the confidence to finally share my dream with dad and twin brother one day as we were at home. My dad started talking about college again and I excitedly told him what I wanted to do. Instead of the fatherly support I wanted, I got a reply along the lines of “That’s nice and all, but you can’t make money off that.” To which I replied, “Money isn’t everything.”
It is exactly at that point that the laughter started. I’m don’t mean a chuckle, I’m talking hysterical, knee-slapping laughter, which was accompanied by my dad telling me I need to “do something in computers”.
It hurt that even my twin brother, who I’m actually close with, thought so little of my dreams and my ability to achieve them. What I needed was words of encouragement, but instead, I was immediately shot down for “dreaming too big” and not being “realistic”, a common sentiment in my family.
This encounter, along with similar ones, made me jaded and I gave in to the belief that I wasn’t capable of achieving the things I wanted. This followed me through the rest of my teens and a large chunk of my 20s.
For a while, I wouldn’t even share my art or career ambitions with anyone because I was afraid of not getting taken seriously.
That time my mom kept dating a guy who hit on me
After that encounter with my dad, our relationship deteriorated, so I decided to move from Colorado to Utah to live with my mom.
I was still 16, and halfway through my junior year at the time. Things went well for a few months, but then my mom went into full-blown mid-life crisis mode. She was a couple of years off of her second divorce, and I’m guessing she was in a party mood.
At first, it didn’t bother me, but then it started to seep into our home life. Almost every weekend there was some new random dude in our apartment, and one of them, in particular, was especially gross. How so? I’ll gladly tell you.
One day while my mom was at work, I was at home and the phone rang. I answered, and it was her “friend”. I told him she was at work, but it turned out he wasn’t calling for her, he was calling for me. He invited me down to his room at the Motel 6 and asked if I wanted to have some beers with him. I gave a quick “No” and hung up the phone to call my mom.
Horrified, I told her the whole thing. I thought she would be outraged, but she just brushed it off and said he had a weird sense of humor. She never said anything about it to him, and even had him over a couple more times before moving on.
The fact that she laughed it off without even a word to him hurt me because I thought parents were supposed to protect their kids.
That time when I graduated college and my dad didn’t care
Let’s fast forward to October 2017. I was 27 years old, and I just earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design. I was excited that I finally completed something, but I was even more pumped to share the momentous occasion with my dad, the only parent I now communicate with.
I had avoided completing school for so long, and for a while, I essentially gave up on the idea of earning a college degree. But once I hit 24 I started to seriously think about my future and decided to listen to the many promptings my dad had given me even though he wasn’t over the moon when I enrolled.
Probably because I decided to go online, which I had to do because I work full-time. My dad didn’t really understand the idea of online college and thought I should go somewhere local, but I thought once I graduated he would see the value and at least be proud of me.
But, of course, that didn’t happen.
When I first spoke the words “I finally graduated” he didn’t even acknowledge me. Well, my dad does have a hearing problem so I repeated it again, louder and clearer, and this time all he said was a flat “That’s nice” with his eyes still glued to the TV, and that was the last time I ever mentioned it.
This one cut pretty deep because he had pushed me to go to college so long, I thought he would be happy I took his advice. As much as it hurt though, this interaction was more helpful than I could imagine.
It helped me realize that my family is never going to be the loving, accepting, supportive group of people I want them to be so I should stop trying so hard to get their validation.
Up to that point, I had spent so much of my life seeking approval and support from my family only to be let down time and time again. Now, it’s time to do things for me, and ever since that moment, I have been working to make that my priority.
But there’s something else too.
These life experiences have helped me become not only a more resilient person but a more loving person. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life feeling shitty about myself because of moments like the ones listed above and looking back, it feels like so much wasted time.
That’s why I made a conscious decision a long time ago to spread more positivity, love, and support to friends, family, and sometimes, complete strangers. I give compliments. I hug people. I check in on friends, and I tell people I love them, even my ice-cold family.
Having a family that isn’t close hurts, but if you’re like me, you can change that pain into something positive and choose to live your life differently.