Ever since my dad let me watch Forrest Gump as a kid, I always wondered why he compared life to a box of chocolates. In my innocent mind, I thought it was because life could be pretty sweet. My parents used to take me to the park every Sunday after church, and then we would go to our favorite restaurant for dinner afterward.
But as I got older, I realized that it was because unraveling every facet of your life could surprise you in more ways than one. After all, when I turned 12 years old, Dad left our home. I kept asking Mom why, and she revealed that she caught him with another woman. That was the last time I saw him, considering he never bothered to reach out or file for joint custody.
While I had no reason to resent my mother, my parents’ divorce caused me to like our home less and less. It was often quiet there because Mom had to work a lot to support me. She also started dating again after a year, which meant that she typically left me with a babysitter.
Luckily, I got to mingle with the right crowd, even the wrong one found me. Some of my middle school classmates approached me one day and asked if they could sit with me in the cafeteria. I agreed, and we clicked, and we did everything as a group of best friends ever since. The more years we spent together, the more I saw them as my family instead of mere friends.
The question I often get, though, is: “When do friends become your family?”
They Know You More Than Your Relatives
I used to love eating shrimp when I was young. Sometimes, my mother would have to beg me to try a chicken or beef because that’s all I wanted to eat. But when I was in high school, I developed an allergy to shellfish, which caused the school doctor to give me an antihistamine shot. That caused my friends to inspect every food in the cafeteria and ensure that none of them had a trace of shrimp.
I knew I told Mom about it when I came home, but she somehow forgot about it because she made dinner the next day with shrimp stock. Of course, I did not see any part of the shellfish, so I ate it. After a couple of bites, though, my throat started closing up, and my skin became itchy. Although I got better, the incident happened several times with my mother, and so I realized that my friends knew me more than my family.
They Are Not Afraid To Call You Out When You Are Wrong
I was no different from other high school girls who dreamed of getting noticed by the most popular school guy. And the dream came true—Jack, the hottest jock in town, paid attention to me. Like the typical guys who knew how famous they were, he continued having flings when we were together. I would get mad all the time, but I would also take him back whenever he said sorry.
When I caught Jack flirting with another girl at the parking lot, and he tried to woo me again, my friends intervened and told me to get my act together. One of them said, “That guy has no respect for you, and you are also starting to lose your self-respect by letting him walk all over you.” Their words undoubtedly stung at first, but I eventually understood them and was grateful for calling me out and saving me from further heartaches.
They Still Have Your Back No Matter What You Do
I ran away from home at 16 years old when Mom said that she was getting married again. The news hurt me because I did not get to see my mother a lot when she was single; now that there’s a permanent guy in the picture, she might not have time to say hi to me.
Since I had nowhere to go, I went to my best friend’s house. Our other friends came when they heard about it and told me that I should have voiced my worries instead of running away. Despite that, they never forced me to go back home until I was ready. They even talked to Mom on my behalf and acted as our mediators, and it’s something that I would forever be grateful for.
My mother’s second marriage eventually happened, and she’s living in the UK for a couple of years now with her new husband. She wanted me to come with them, but I chose to stay in the US. I said it was because of my job, but the truth was that I did not want to leave my friends behind. I no longer resented Mom for wanting to be happy because I got my friends — my real family — with me.