It takes a few of us a little longer to discover how we want to be defined.
I've learned a couple things in the past few years, one being that I'm a little unsure of myself. My goal is not to walk aimlessly through life without a clue; I just have no idea what I want to become, who I will be with, or where I'll end up.
Yes, I dabble. I'm a tad unfocused. I can never make up my mind and I sometimes compare myself to people. I often want what I can't have, and what I do have isn't good enough.
When I start to think about who "I" am, I settle in my thoughts for a moment.
And I think of my grandparents.
I haven't seen either of my grandparents in 13 years, and last I heard, they live in the same town, just a few minutes away.
When my mother had a family of her own, the relationship changed between them, and my brother and I paid the price. Perhaps my grandparents grew tired of us. Maybe they felt as if they were no longer needed. I'll never really know.
I remember there were foster children around, always. They acted as their new grandchildren. I found it to be really odd, and so did the rest of my family.
I was seven when I tried to contact my grandparents after not hearing from them in over a year. My grandfather picked up the phone and I was so excited to hear his voice. But he had nothing to say to me, nor did my grandmother, who, as my grandfather explained, was busy doing something in the other room so she didn't have time to come to the phone. From his voice, I could tell he was as cold and as distant as she had become.
The conversation was curt. When it was over, I hung up and never called again.
No more birthday cards arrived in the mail. The visits had stopped. As they drove past our house, their heads turned in the other direction. It was over.
The one thing I wish they had known was that I always could have used my grandparents.
I may not know who I want to be, but I know who I don't want to be. I don't want to be that person who keeps looking for something more, when what they have right in front of them is all they need.
As we grow older, we learn that we should not be defined by others; however, there are people that will always be included in our definitions. It is difficult to write a novel about your life story without mentioning the people who have helped to mold you into the person you are today.
You are defined by the people who have taught you things, given you advice, shown you right from wrong and have witnessed you at your finest moments and lowest lows. They are called family.
And then there are those who have showed you life's disappointments and its unpredictability. They too, have defined you.
So, although my grandparents will never have a seat at my graduation, they will have a page in my book. I will describe the moment when I reflected on what happened. I will call it a defining moment, because that is when I learned what the definition of grateful meant.
I might change my mind, my style, my academic interests or hobbies, but family will be the one thing that remains constant. And I am grateful for them and I am grateful for those who are grateful for me.