We have all heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well 22 years ago, I was born into a Catholic, Mexican family and I guess you can say they’re kind of their own village. My family is huge.
Inside this village, I found a place I belonged. I found a place I was loved. I found a place where I was safe. I think this is how a lot of families are, they provide a place where we can find that unconditional acceptance we seem to crave.
However, five years ago, my life changed. After coming to college, I was finally free to be the person I always knew I was. I felt like I didn’t belong to my family anymore, I felt like my world had collapsed.
I’m gay. To my knowledge, I am the only one in my family. I didn’t know how my family would react so I decided to stay quietly in the closet and not discuss my life. My conversations were reduced to “Yeah, school is good. Work is good. How ’bout them Dodgers?” In some ways, I guess you could say I felt like the “village idiot.” I didn’t know what to do.
I couldn’t talk about what was really going on in my life. I couldn’t talk about my relationships, my heartaches, the volunteer work I was doing and the things that were really important to me.
So I withdrew from my family. I would sit quietly in the corner and watch the fun and festivities unfold before me but I felt as though I couldn’t take part. I wasn’t allowed.
So I stayed in my own private blissful hell. It was a blessing and a curse to be back home. I loved to be there, I hated the way I felt. This wasn’t the family I remembered. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.
Last weekend, everything changed.
I attended my cousin’s wedding this past weekend. In a beautifully done ceremony, I was reminded over and over that my love was both unnatural and wrong. One family member even reiterated this to me after the ceremony. I couldn’t feel any more out of place. In that one moment, I turned from the village idiot to the castaway. Then something happened.
My family, the very entity I felt separated from, taught me a lesson I will never forget.
Here’s that lesson: Imagine your family being a large, tightly bloomed rose. Now reach out with your hand and, in one motion, pull off the petals. What do you have?
Well you may have just hurt this incredibly beautiful gift, but that doesn’t mean you killed it. After some time and a lot of love, that flower will grow back next spring. In the mean time, the bush, the foundation that supports that little flower, is still there to provide the essentials that flower needs to live.
Family works in this same way. You may do something to hurt your family, but if they’re really a family, they will always be there to love you and support you. Thank you Uncle Tony for teaching me that. It took me 22 years to learn that one. I guess there are some things even college can’t teach you.
So here I am, 1,000 miles away and missing my family more than ever. For those with families, remember what they mean to you and enjoy every minute you have with them. Those times are precious.
I never realized how close and how important my family really was until this weekend. They are amazing people and I am lucky to have them. If there is one lesson I hope to keep from my trip, it is this: It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a family to raise a Rodriguez.