Letters from the dorm: friendships and romantic relationships are great, but family always comes first


Your family are the ones that will always have your back, even if you forget to have theirs when you are growing up

Cyril Ip |

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It's easy to let connections die, but your family will always be there for you.

When we are young, we have a tendency to become deeply absorbed in our friendships, our romantic relationships, and our acquaintanceships. The excitement of getting to interact with new people, with fresh faces, draws us away from the familiar, and we lose or neglect our connection with the old faces that can seem monotonous – in essence, family.

I realise that there are many family dynamics out there. Some of us do not have an ideal relationship with our family members, so we put more weight into our friendships. I think it’s very important to highlight that because we are constantly forced to see and expect to see the archetypal family as normal, even if that may not be the case in our lives. We see, in mainstream media, a model family typically consists of a mother, a father and their two children – one boy and one girl. This carefully manoeuvres society into not giving weight to other family structures outside this norm or fairy tale. But what about single mums and single dads, step-mums and step-dads? What about those who bring up children that aren’t biologically their own? They deserve the spotlight too. 

No matter the family structure, though, we all forget about them sometimes. Maybe it’s because we’re always experiencing something new, and we’re confident our foundation – our home and our family – will always be there. I’m frequently reminded of my neglect whenever I call my mum. Every Saturday, when I speak to her on FaceTime, I realise I might not have given her or my aunts any thought since the previous week’s conversation. If it wasn’t for our regular weekly calls, then maybe I would go even longer before I think of family. I could try to justify my lack of thought, but I won’t try. Nothing really justifies forgetting about family. 

Family gave me life. I experienced what it means to be content, to be warm, to be amused, thanks to my family, long before anyone else made me feel those things. When I remember these things, I also remember that family might always be there for you, but you have to be there for them – to make them a priority. It doesn’t matter if you’re not even truly related by blood, because your family is made up of people who love you unconditionally. Distractions in life happen, but they should not be used as an excuse to forget those who love you.

I say this as someone who has been studying abroad for four years. It’s easy to let connections die. When you’re living your own life, it can seem like there’s no real need to be as devoted or as close to your family as you once were. Life, however, has taught me that there is a very real need. My mother and my aunts are the heroines of my life, and the connections I have with them should not and will not fall between the cracks of my thoughts again. 

The language I’m using is exaggerated for effect. I’m obviously not thinking about my family when I am sitting an exam, for instance. That’s not the point. I’m saying that your family deserves more devotion than the new things or connections you’re making in life. Send your family a text, write them a card, give them a call; whatever it is you do, no matter how small, will mean something to them. It tells them that you know family comes first.

Edited by Ginny Wong