How I made friends that are more like family, miles away from home

For many of us, part of becoming an adult often involves moving away from your family. Whether it’s to attend college, start a new job, or move in with a significant other, chances are that life might take you far away from home. While change is good and you shouldn’t be afraid to embrace new adventures in your life, it can be scary leaving everything you’ve known behind, especially if you’re moving to a new place where you know absolutely no one.

After I graduated high school, I pretty much wanted to get as far away from home as possible. And by home, I really mean my parents. Not that I don’t love them, but as an 18-year-old who was raised pretty conservatively, the idea of freedom was intoxicating. So I decided to attend an out-of-state university, thereby putting a solid nine hours between myself and my family.

Independence was exhilarating, and even after graduation, I decided to stay where I was. I missed my parents and family, but I was okay with the idea of living my own life, and was secure enough in my relationship with them that the distance really didn’t bother me too much. That is, until life started kicking my butt a little more aggressively than usual.

I was going through some really tough stuff in my work and personal life, and what became painfully clear to me was the fact that I was, essentially, alone. Suddenly, I wished I could simply swing by my parents’ house after a long day at work, or go see a movie with my brother to get my mind off of my troubles. But when your closest family member is an aunt a good four-hour drive away, those comforts aren’t realistically accessible.

I knew I needed some sort of support system if I wanted to stay strong and get through things. That’s why I focused on building a system of friends to be my “home-away-from-home family.” I had been living away from home for close to eight years at that point, so I had a large group of friends and acquaintances, but I knew I needed more than just that “girl I had that class with that one time” if I was going to make it. That’s where the building comes in.

So, I started really focusing on the relationships that meant the most to me and the friends I already had strong relationships with. The foundation of friendship and solidarity was already there, so I took the leap of faith and confided in those people about what I had been going through. I couldn’t have anticipated the overwhelming support I received back, and that support has made all the difference.

I think that sometimes we assume that no one will understand our struggles, or we worry that we will face harsh judgement for confiding our deepest secrets. Even with my closest friends, I think I was just too scared of what they might think about me to confide truthfully to anyone. What I learned by opening up to those I trusted, however, was that family doesn’t have to mean blood. Family means the people who stick around even when the chips are down, the people who give unconditional support even when they don’t have to. That’s what I ended up experiencing first-hand when I reached out.

When I think of the love and support I’ve received from my friend-family, it overwhelms me with emotion. I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who has stood by me during my darkest hours, and I feel an inner strength knowing that no matter where I am, I have family there.

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