There are many times in your life when, regardless of where you are and where your blood relatives might be, you find yourself surrounded by family. The more often you move away from a group of friends, further distancing yourself from family in the process, the more often you have the chance of experiencing this phenomena. But, like any chance, it’s not a guarantee, and frankly, lightning and lotteries are more predictable.
For me, tho, family has been a created circumstance in each of the places I’ve lived for any reasonable length of time – even those times when I was away from my actual relatives. Portland, Oregon, is the odd place where I both had and lacked actual family because of changing circumstances for all of us, yet it’s the first place where I can look and find friends that have become more than friends, but who were only really subject to actually dealing with me for a short period of time. After all, the friends I still have from Montana are from Helena, where I lived for 15 years, not Bozeman, where I suffered for three. I still wonder about some of the friends I had in Bozeman, but I’m not going out of my way to contact them anymore, mostly because the last contacts were less than connecting. Those phone calls were really about understanding the phrase “someone I used to know” than about reconnecting with a true friend. And don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad people at all, we’re all just in vastly different places now.
But back to Portland. I had some amazing personal changes happen while I was living there, not the least of which was coming out and becoming a part of a community that, on such a basic level, understood me. Being gay has many ups and downs, but learning to just be while still being gay is what makes it all worth while. And Portland is where some of my best friends who’ve only known me as an ‘adult’ and have remained in my life. I say “adult” as there is no word for “old enough to know better, young enough to love a challenge for it’s own sake; old enough to give it a go with no worries about the outcome and young enough to think it’s a good idea” but let’s all be real, I’m still not an adult. Both of my sisters, who are 3 and 8 years younger than me, have being an adult down better than I do. Hell, TraumaJane, my baby sister, has been an adult since she was 3.
Phoenix gathered a completely new part of my life. After learning that I could ‘be gay’ and not have the sky fall down on my head in Portland, Phoenix gave me the lesson that while my parents really did raise me to be a yuppie prick who fought for every penny, worked long hours under high stress, and who, in the end, owned a house, a vacation condo, 9 cars and several other ‘things’ as that is where happiness lies – in things – I found that I, personally, lacked the desire. Completely lacked it. Couldn’t care less. Hell, in Phoenix I lived in my friend’s backyard, in a tent by the pool. We called it ‘The Cottage by the Lake’ but it was the tent by the pool. You know you have true friends when they stood by you, as you stood by them, and all of you dealt with reality crashing home and putting you into that tent. And they are still in my life. As are a few others from Phoenix, who collided with me at various points, and regardless of my shortcomings, short temper and amazingly ungraceful lack of tact, have for some reason become stuck on me as much as I am on them. And I love them for it.
Caribou is still a mental anomaly for me. It’s the smallest town I’ve ever lived in, yet it was the place where I did the most growth professionally and, in yet, again, new and exciting ways, personally. I found friends who would walk through fire to help me, and who I would give my life for without question or second thought. I didn’t enjoy living there while I was there as my gay-social life was, well, dead. However, Maine will always keep a part of me. And again, it’s really odd to know that’s true.
Now I’m in Houston, finding my place, changing my life, getting a grip and doing something new and exciting and learning more about myself every day. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it just fucking odd. Actually, lots of me is odd, but in a good way, and finding out something new about yourself, someone you’ve known your entire life, is always a treat.
Finding new friends is easy for me. I have no issues with talking to strangers, no need to hide in a corner and hope for someone else to talk to me, and I’m not bothered by being blown off as a weirdo when someone else is uncomfortable being approached (which I’m good at avoiding, usually, but there have been moments). But friends don’t always become family, which is why as I move there are lots of people with whom I lose contact.
Houston has something new, tho, for me and an old friend. Family, the kind that you find as opposed to the kind you’re given at birth, is rare. It takes time to cultivate and grow, and it’s fragile. Many different people make up your circle of true friends, and the idea that they’ll all get along swimmingly is, um, ridiculous. Or crazy. Or just dumb. Whatever you want to call it, we all know that some of our friends won’t like other friends of ours, just like we don’t like all the friends of our friends. (Read that again, five times, and then order some dramamine.)
However Houston has a group of friends that’s adopted me, and, amazingly, have also adopted The Cheerleader. It’s kinda wonderful, mostly awe-inspiring and just fucking amazing that this has happened, both from the perspective of this group of great friends who have added us to their roster and that, given how different our lives have been, that The Cheerleader and I have found a group we both agree on as well. And remember, she’s been here for 9 years. That’s a long time to wait for a friend, but this time a whole group to found her, and that group promises to support and love her and me like no other.
And my point, now that I’ve rattled off a damn novel here? That’s easy. It’s the holidays. We are responsible for gifts to our friends, for making merry and for holiday cheer. This is another of the transition years where I’m broke, but I know that I have the best gift ever – my love and friendship – for a whole slew of wonderful people. And even better, they are giving me and The Cheerleader the same things – a loving family in a home away from home. What could be better?