From Michael Chabon's must-read, My Son, The Prince of Fashion:
You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you and if you are lucky they even, on occasion, manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough.
As I grew up I saw my friends and family as very distinct groups of folks. How could I not? I lived with my family. I discovered my interests, my loves, my passions, the things that really started to define who I was in some way. And I looked to my family to help usher that along, to tell me that no matter what I loved it was okay. That I wasn't a freak. That I wasn't alone.
Sometimes that happened. Other times it did not.
When I was a kid, I didn't really open up to my friends. I didn't know how that worked, and I didn't know how to be vulnerable with others. I didn't know how to love deeply – to the point where I could put something out there, something raw and naked and true, and feel that I was safe and everything was okay. I held things inside for fear of judgment and abandonment (“who would want to be a friend to me because of...”) I worked through so very much alone that being solo and being on my own became a default.
Family of Choice
Sometime early in our marriage my wife introduced me to the term family of choice. I've come to love this term. We always have our given families (circumstances depending), but the people that we choose to involve and have in our lives are our choices. We can choose to deepen those relationships or not. We can choose to see those people and hang out and talk for hours and laugh and bullshit or not. We can choose to say polite hellos and greetings and take off in our opposite directions or not. That choice is there, in other words. And we can pull those people so close to us that it's like they're family because they are family. That same dependency, that same give-and-take, that same love.
There are a few places in my life where I have found my people and created a bigger family, much as Abe did at Paris Fashion Week. Thus far a lot of them have been work-related places and conferences. I know they're my people because they see me as a whole person first and foremost: the things I thought were fantastic, amazing, nerdy, embarrassing, cringe-worthy about myself – those are all there, and it's okay. I can be as close to my authentic self as possible even as I'm figuring out who my authentic self is. And when I find these places, I have no desire to leave. I want to stay in that comfort, safety, warmth, and support for as long as I can!
In return, of course, I invest myself. I give that support right back whenever I can. I become my friends' biggest cheerleader. I see them for who they are, and who they might be, without judgment. The nuance I feel at this stage in my life is time: I'm now seeing a lot of these deeper friendships as long term ones. Even when there are big life changes, keeping in touch and being in that same loop with people is thankfully easier than ever.
So yes. When you find your people, dig in. Be present. Hold them close. Talk. Be vulnerable. Be true. Put yourself out there. The rewards are worth it. Families – including families of choice – aren't bound by geography nor time nor background. They're bound by love.