Location:England, United Kingdom
Twenty young adults sat in a room, each hunched over a desk and writing furiously. I hunch over my paper, but the words won’t come out. Instead, big fat globs fall onto my paper. In a room full of people, I feel desperately alone.
Two hours later, I walk out of my senior English final. My teacher is in the hallway. “I didn’t like that first prompt,” I say.
“Yeah, I figured a lot of people would have a problem with it. Those pre-twentieth centu-”
She stops when she sees my face.
“No, I really didn’t like it.”
“Oh sweetie, are you ok?”
And that’s when I lost it. Next thing I know, I’m crying on her shoulder, bending down to hug her small frame.
“Oh, you aren’t ok. What’s wrong?”
She was right. I’m wasn't ok. The essay was on the story of a father terrified of losing his son’s love. It ended when the son, a young adult, took his keys and left the house, his father in tears.
The day before, my mother had asked me to move out. There were no tears over my loss. She just said I should leave, as if it meant nothing. I didn’t know where I’d be sleeping in a week. Tonight, maybe. I couldn’t choke out the full story. It still hurt too much, and I didn’t want to cry all day. But my teacher understood the broad details.
What happened next is something I will never forget. She didn’t miss a beat. My English teacher offered me a place to stay, whenever I needed it. She gave me her phone number, told me to call whether I found a place or notm. She offered to feed me. Anything I needed. Anything to keep me safe.
I learned that the people you think you can depend on aren’t always there for you. My rock, my home, my mother, asked me to leave, gave me some boxes and hugged me goodbye. My world fell apart. I felt abandoned, in a way that went beyond the physical insecurities of my situation. Then I learned that some people will always be there when it matters. This teacher, whom I’d known forty minutes a day, five days a week, offered to assume the role that my family would not.
Over next few months, I found myself surrounded by the later. I didn’t go home with my English teacher. I moved in with a friend, who I today am proud to call my sister, not by birth but by circumstance. My friends stood beside me, the entire way. When my mom “confiscated” my college savings, they listened to me cry. When she towed my car, my best friend showed up to drive me home. When she came to my home to take my things, my roommate brought them to the door but refused to let her in.
Family is a tricky thing. Are they immutable, determined once and for all at birth? I thought I would be alone. Instead, my family grew. I’ll always have a home. In fact, I have so many homes I don’t know what to do with them. The people I love, love me back. If that’s not family, I don’t know what is.