Last week, I published an article about the amazing company I spent my stay in Rome with. People coming from the four corners of the world. Strangers you simply manage to develop a strong connection with from the very beginning, representing the start of a great friendship that is bound to overcome time and borders. You simply know that you will always find a way to talk to each other again, to spend time together as if you had just seen each other yesterday.
As I was writing that article last weekend, the ideas and thoughts that I wanted to put into writing were just too numerous and too important to leave any of them out. This is why I decided to divide those thoughts, leading to this article being a sequel. As you might have guessed it, this shows the amount of thinking done throughout this trip.
The other day, I stumbled upon a reel on YouTube where two podcasters were discussing their respective relationships with their parents. They were talking about the importance of making the most of the time we have with our parents, and how easy it is to get lost in our own adult lives. As much as we think we still have enough time with our parents, we seem to forget how quickly time flies and how opportunities and blessings fly away from us before we even have a chance to process what happened and what we missed.
After watching this video a few times, I had to stop what I was doing and take a moment to think about what I just heard. Having lived in France for the past four years, I find it safe to say that I can count the number of times I have seen my parents on my two hands. Even less when it comes to my sisters. Make no mistake, I like to think that I have a great relationship with all of them and that we will always have each other’s backs. The cause behind this issue lies in the fact that we are spread among four countries in three different continents. The distance does not help, then again it does not stop us from being in each other’s lives to the point we would travel halfway across the planet if need be.
For some people, this sense of belonging does take place in the group of friends they make with time. The scenario is most likely to be the same: as humans grow up, they tend to grow apart and head their own way into the sunset. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the origins are forgotten.
“Families are like branches to a tree: we grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”
I have lost count of the number of cities I have been to all over the globe, may it be in Lebanon or in other countries. Somewhere along every path I have walked, I would find myself crossing roads with people I had never met before – and whom I probably will never see again. It would just happen that we share a fraction of the walk together for a brief period of time, create some memories and then go back our separate ways. I think this is one of the greatest mysteries of life and of our social nature as humans.
You could know a person for almost a decade and yet never have any significant social interaction or meaningful memory with them. On the other hand, there are people whom you have just met, only to realise that you share the same values and vibes, making it easier to communicate and therefore behave as if you have known each other for almost centuries. You might even get to the point where they start to feel like siblings to you, even though you do not share the same blood. It does not matter when the next time will be, all that matters is that you would go to war for them if they asked for your help. You feel a stronger bond with them, an invisible thread which simply cannot be broken. You might never see them again, and that is okay, since the contact has been established.
I have attended the last three YTOL International Meetings in the past six years: Spain in 2016, Brazil in 2018 and now Italy in 2022. During each of those events, I have made new friends, and I managed to renew beautiful friendships as well. They all hold a special place in my heart. During my last outing which took place two weeks ago, I grew close to three special lads from three various countries, the United States, Mexico and South Africa. Each one of them brought something different to the table, but then again it does not matter what we were eating. What mattered was who we were sharing the meal with, and that was with each other.
There are also three other people in particular that I simply have to set aside from the lot: two relentless brothers from Seville and a braveheart woman from Valencia. They have a one-of-a-kind connection between them three. Having known them for the past six years, I can say with confidence now that I view them as my “Spanish family”. They are the proof of how the most amazing friendships are often the most unexpected ones. We all met back in 2016 in Seville and got to see each other a few times after that. The pinnacle of our friendship – as well as one of the greatest privileges I have ever felt – was when I received a phone call from the older brother in June of 2021. The phone call was brief, and yet it was one of the best news you could hear a friend share with you: this older brother called me to tell me that he and the lady from Valencia had set the date in September of that same year in order to tie the knot, and that they wanted me to be there and share that special moment with them. To this day, I still find myself at a loss for words when I think of that moment.
They say every human being has two families in their lifetime: the family they are born into, and the one they create on their own. The family they are given, and the family they choose. Looking at my two families today, I can say with a chest voice that I feel like the most blessed man on this planet.
I have a stallion for a father, a lioness for a mother, two panthers for biological sisters, a wolf for a biological brother, and hundreds of meerkats for siblings spread at all four corners of the Earth. I find my greatest blessing in realising that I most certainly know someone living in any given city. I would not trade any of them for anything else in this world. As the song by Grand Corps Malade at the beginning of this article says, I struggle a bit to imagine my life without my two families. As a matter of fact, what I mean is I simply cannot imagine it. They are my blood, my soul, my heart, my strength, my kindness. They are everything to me. If I were to lose everything today, their presence is all I would need.
There is this song by Nickelback that I used to listen to quite often.
Combining it with the video I had mentioned earlier, I only have one thought in mind:
I want to see my parents.
I want to spend time with my family.
To my entire family: I love you.
“You do not choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
- Desmond Tutu