Monday, June 11, 2012

Family roles and support

I truly believe that family is supposed to be the place where you are loved and accepted for who you are.  One of the things I have learned in life, is that it is when a person is accepted, that they are most free to change.

There's a meme going around Facebook today, an image that says "Family isn't always blood.  It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are.  The ones who would do anything to see you smile & who love you."

This also fits with a book I read several years ago, about the new Bohemians.  The book discussed how within the community of people the writer called "new Bohemians," the ties among Chosen Family could often be stronger than the ties between blood relations.  That's... one of the big differences I see, between my Conservative friends & relations, and the Liberal ones.

The concept of the nuclear family, it works when the family is functional, when they are truly there for each other.  Like a story I saw told, about a large homeschool family competing as a team in some competition resembling Oddyssey of the Mind.  The observer wasn't sure it would work out, but the kids all supported each other, cheered each other on, cooperated and worked together beautifully.  When it works, it's lovely.

But so many families are dysfunctional.  They don't work that way, they tear each other down.

The fall semester of my sophomore year in college, was the beginning of my real struggle with college.  Freshman classes had been a challenge, but they had been material that I could still learn and typically master.  Sophomore classes, however, were difficult.  There was a lot of complicated material, a lot of problems that took hours to work.

I tended to approach each semester as if it were a sprint.  I'd push through this round of papers and midterms.  Rest a little, push through the next round of papers and midterms.  Then push through term papers and final exams.  I believe I mentioned dropping a history class because the 19-credit-hour courseload was making me sick.  Well, the 16-credit-hour courseload could make me sick too, it just  took a little longer.

The second place I ever felt truly accepted for me, just the way I was, was at Dan's house.  The people there didn't care that I wasn't interested in drinking.  They didn't care that I never... um... took Brian upstairs, never even went upstairs myself.  If I decided to sing with the group, that was okay.  If I preferred to sit on the couch, or porch, and talk with people, that was okay too.

I didn't go over there most weeks.  I needed my sleep, I was still teaching Sunday School in the mornings, and studying to do in the morning.  But sometimes, when I had time.

So finals week ended, and I stayed on campus as long as I possibly could.  School was over for the semester, so I was free to visit at Dan's house, and stay late.  I didn't have a car, and neither did Brian.  We were able to catch a ride off campus with others after the game.  But Brian and I stayed late, not realizing that we had missed the last ride planning to head back to campus and our dorms.

The gaming group was large, and had been running for a long time.  It had subgroups.  One of the subgroups tended to have a lot of power gamers, characters that got to very high levels, and didn't always play well with the rest of the adventuring party.  It wasn't always easy for me, especially early on, to know what personality traits were Player versus Character.  The main thing I knew, was that I didn't usually like that group.

So, when one of the people from that group offered to give us a ride back to campus, I didn't want to trouble him.  We both had good coats, were dressed for the cold.  So Brian and I set off walking.  We were on the bridge across the river, when they came by in their car, and insisted we get in.  They were quite serious about giving us a ride home, and at that point we took it.

The dorms closed for the winter that Sunday, so my parents picked me up on Sunday.

Finals were over, I had made it through the semester, and now I got sick.  Really, exhausted, sick.  But at home with my parents, I wasn't allowed to sleep in.  First Mom's car broke down, so I had to get up in the morning with everyone else, to help drive my siblings to school, Mom & Dad to work.  Then Dear Brother #4, the 3-year-old, got sick, and had to stay home.  With me.

He was sick enough, we could mostly just curl up in a chair together and sleep it off.  But the next day, Dear Brother #3, the 4-year-old, was also sick.  But not as bad as us, he still wanted to wiggle around and play.

New Years Eve came, and Mom was planning to visit her parents near Indy.  The original plan was that I could go with her, and then we'd bring Brian back up to visit for the rest of the break.  (IIRC, Mom returned him to Indianapolis on her way back from dropping me off at St. Louis for my internship.)

Well, some things happened, and they decided I couldn't go to Indy with Mom.  Dad and I had a fight, and I took a walk.  Again, I was dressed for the weather, and I had my wallet.

I took a very long walk, somewhere around 7 miles all told.  When I reached downtown South Bend, I checked my bank account balance.  There wasn't enough to buy a bus ticket to Indy.  I found myself in front of the State Theater, which was currently showing movies.  Balto, that evening.  It was in the middle of a showing, but I was cold.  I wrote out a check for a ticket to the ~8:00 show, and they let me go on in and have a seat.  So I watched the second half, and then I watched the full thing, and then the theater was closing.

About 9:30 at night, I decided I might try and see if the Huddle was open, on the Notre Dame campus.  Maybe I could play some pool.  Except, well, it was New Year's Eve.  The entire Notre Dame campus was closed, including The Huddle.  By then it was about 11:00 pm or so, and I decided I'd better start heading towards home.

I was almost back to the high school when my friends found me and picked me up, and I slept over at that friend's house the rest of the night.

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(Locations and route are approximate.)

Brian had met up with my Mom in Indy, and found out that I wasn't with them.  He called my parent's house, and Steve told him that I had taken a walk, and Dad was going to sleep.  So, Brian called up my friend.  And when her parents found out that I'd been gone for hours and Dad was going to sleep, they agreed to let my friend go searching for me.

(They found me near her house.  I had already walked past twice.  Her parents weren't very happy with me that year, so I hadn't stopped.)

That's about the time I decided that when I moved to St. Louis for my internship, I was moving out.