That's My Kid

The 20s are all about choosing your family. One of the things that has really resonated with me about my college experience is this concept of chosen family. This expands the idea of those that are connected to you can be just as the traditional nuclear family. It also means that just because you are related to someone doesn't mean necessarily you want them in your life. Sometimes those who love us unconditionally are outside of our familial units. Chosen family gives you the choice about who you let into your life and that's powerful. There are people you become close to in a way only describable as family. Hey, that's my kid.

This is the true story of how I became a dad in college. Yeah I said dad. Just go with it. I guess this all started last year as a junior when my friend Connor called me his mentor and another of my one friends David, his guardian. It caught me off guard. I'm only two years older than them but I guess I had acted in a older brother or even fatherly kind of way. This summer in doing orientation I realized how different I was compared to the incoming first year students and realized how impactful guidance and compassion can be. Through my peer advisorship with the summer enrichment scholars program, the students referred to be as "Papa Joey." At first it made me feel old as hell, but I realized it was affectionate and a true privilege to have someone think of me in that way. Senior year started and there I was an inadvertent dad with a diverse family of kids.

All the underclass people that I choose to have in my life and that I appreciate and love being around just made me want to be a person who supports them. I'm the person in their lives to show them generosity and kindness like they would receive at home. Hosting home cooked dinners, making care packages, writing little encouraging notes with gummy bears, and weekly check-ups, all of it to make sure these people are okay. One of them asked me why I do it or why they seemed to be one of the people who are the beneficiaries of my obsession with serving others. My only response was because you showed me altruism first.

They've all let me feel "normal" or like a whole person more than just what the rest of this place (that is my college bubble) has reduced me to. That for me has been unbelievably moving. They let me just be. I know I always say that but spending weeks on end having people only see you as one identity or in one role, as if you're not a real person is taxing. When someone reminds you subtly that you're just an average human being because they see you holistically, it's so damn moving. In return I do my best to give them that same altruism. They're my chosen family. Those are my kids. I guess there's some ageism in there too, but I have always believe that each and every person we meet has something valuable to teach us about life, and they prove it daily. Shout to the kiddos, David, Connor, Kyle, Benjy, Cam, Henry, Max, Willy, Sam and of course all my SESP-ers particularly Warrick, Valeria, Gabby, Tessie, and Cam.

You know what's weird these people in life see more of me than most do but are somehow different from my other friends. Sometimes they ask about me the details of my perpetual struggle of a life and it's so impressive. It's like telling your parents the reality of your life. Like sitting down with them and being explicit about what your day was like and them actually listening and responding as your friend not your parent. This week was Greek Week which meant me running an event for the fraternity/sorority life community everyday. We had dodgeball, a talent show, cook-off, Jeopardy, and a lip-sync dance competition. To go from that environment of high stress with no thanks/appreciation save our advisors and other executives to small interactions that restored my faith in humanity as having a soul was unreal. Add extra meetings for the dining contract committee I'm apart of, a trip to city council for my journalism class, an oral report for my senior religion seminar, prayer discipleship, and dance practice for my chapter's Greek Sync performance - this week was absolute organized chaos. I do not miss going to bed at 3AM and getting up just four mere hours later. The hardship has been too real.

This week has definitely been one of the busiest so far this semester but I made it through with the help from some of my favorite people (and the return of all Fall TV - the Flash, Manhattan Love Story, Red Band Society, How to Get Away with Murder, Happyland ). You know when that you absolutely love someone when just seeing a notification from them makes you grin uncontrollably from ear to ear. Whether it be a snapchat, passing by to say hi, or a text. It's the little things that count and matter most. I'm telling you as a new dad (I've overused this metaphor but I don't care) that getting to choose your family is one of the most fulfilling things you ever get to do. Now more than the family I am privileged to be part of at home, I have one here where I am seen, valued, and loved. I have always been the "father-figure" of my friendships and friend groups. I'm the pragmatic, reserved one, always anxious about safety and making sure everyone else is okay and having a good time. Good to have people who appreciate it. Those are my kids and I will always be proud of them.

My blog post question for the day is ... how do you go about finding your chosen family? I think we just come across people that we really like having around and at a certain point we have to make it known that we no longer just like them but love them.


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