Stephanie Daniloff

This past week, my grandparents, aunts and uncles all came to my house to celebrate my brother’s college graduation. Since I rarely see my extended family, events like these are times that mean more about reconnecting than about celebrating.

To be completely honest, I always resented these “bonding times” because they always felt so forced, and they always seemed to disrupt my daily rhythms. This time, however, after three years of not seeing my relatives, I realized that I was being unnecessarily pessimistic about what I expected from my relatives. I always expected their every comment to contain some sort of superior wisdom about the meaning of life, or about what it takes to reach happiness. With these expectations, I was always let down.

As the arrival of my relatives came closer and closer, and as my dad assigned me to clean the house to prepare for the arrival of our relatives, I decided that I would work to make this visit meaningful. I decided that I would attempt to just “be myself”, as cliche as that sounds, in order to remove any sense of forcefulness that usually came along with my attempts to connect.

It was a strange change to go from having only three people in my house to having eight. All of them arriving in a week that I had self proclaimed as “hell week” because of the number of commitments I had, I found myself yet again being overwhelmed and annoyed by the disruption of daily life. Shutting myself in my room as I focused on school work, I kept telling myself that it was okay that I was missing some of the family bonding.

Finally, after finishing my “hell week”, my parents convinced me to get up at 5:00 am and go on a sunrise hike with the family the next day. Extremely reluctantly, I eventually gave in to them as they enticed me with promises of “refreshing air” and “a gorgeous sunrise”. Waking up the next morning immediately made me regret the promise I had made the night before. As we started our walk, however, I finally found myself with the time and the lack of commitments to finally talk with my relatives.

Without searching for profound conversations, I found them.

My uncle went into telling me about how he was thinking of quitting his job, and how he was looking forward to the free time he would have. He encouraged me as I told him about the qualms I had about my own future, and I felt that I was having a very real conversation with him. As the sun began to rise, and I drifted to and fro between conversations with my different family members, I felt more connected to them than I had before. I didn’t intend on going on this hike for the specific reason of trying to connect, but I found that by giving my full attention, without any expectations, to my relatives, I ended up connecting with them in a way I hadn’t before.

Although it may be inconvenient, and uncomfortable at times, it is important and beneficial that we appreciate the wisdom and the little tid bits of encouragement that our family members can no doubt offer us. I always felt regretful that I was never as close with my extended family as some of my other friends, or as close as I believed was “normal”, but now I see that that closeness cannot, and should not, be forced.