Saturday, December 13, 2008

Family Gatherings

All of us who are so lucky to enjoy our makeshift extended families—those comprised of close friends and acquaintances who start off as strangers and burrow their way into our hearts—are cognizant of routine minutiae to which others are oblivious. There is an order to our makeshift households and we expect that in due fashion our roommates will adhere to a shower routine or that our best friends will ensure we never go without a pot of coffee. We answer each other’s drunken texts, check the mail and distribute its offerings and are sensitive to even the weakest murmurs of sexual tension. Unlike familial bonds which are derived of blood, our friendship families are formed on the basis of choice and personality; we recognize strengths we have which fit into the greater pattern and skills we use to our own advantage. Even if we deny it, we all play our roles in fashioned drama because it calms us. Perhaps the best thing about these manufactured families is their ability let us grow within them in ways which never cut too close to the bone; perhaps it’s because we create bonds rather than live through them organically. That way, our embarrassments are our own.

I have grown accustomed to my own particular routine: the smoke breaks with good friend Chris Curry (even though I don’t smoke); regular wine “tastings” that devolve into socialist rants and long diatribes about music; Scrabble games that edge toward the bawdy; seasons of Everwood devoured for pure pleasure; evenings pouring over digital files in advance of regular Campus Free Press publication; late night conversations about game, the lack of it and the regularity with which money disappears. The routines offer more than comfort though; after awhile everything feels stock—as though it’s expected—and suddenly it emerges: “This is my life.” A life. As in “I’ve built myself something separate from my brothers and sisters, parents, people I knew in high school.” It’s the evolution of a personal foundation that comes with defining values and opinions, even if sometimes those two seem jarring. Suddenly students who milked the government for student loans become worried taxpayers; folks who crusaded for liberal agenda find themselves voting conservative. Somehow the newfangled routine becomes a blueprint for a life. I find it endlessly fascinating. It’s also so crushing since, like all good things, the stability we build up ends eventually.

I think that’s called adulthood.

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