Whenever people ask how it’s been living with my cousin, I’ve found it pretty difficult to explain. I instinctively want to say, “It’s like living with family,” but I’ve found more and more over the years that family, tragically, does not mean to others what it means to me.

My earliest memories are of family. They are of kissing my newborn cousin. Running with my cousins through the halls. My uncle’s scratchy mustache. My aunts and my grandmother cooking, beautiful aromas wafting through the house. My dad coming home at 11:30 and me and my siblings staying up (so late!) to surprise him. Running underneath the tables of a restaurant during a family gathering, playing tag with my sisters and cousins, and then being carried out of a car, only semi-conscious, afterward.

Then, as we grew up, we cousins figured out how to buy candy for each other. Remarkable how money worked to share joy! And then we grew into our other shared passions – pogs, Pokemon, and videogames. We held sleepovers as much as possible when we discovered how the phone worked. My aunt’s house is the first number I memorized, and it’s still in my muscle memory. In this day and age, where cell phones dial for us, I still remember most of my cousins’ house numbers.

To me, it’s simple. Family, and I mean my extended family as well, means tranquility. Peace. That is our shared story. I can always tell my family the complete truth. I hold no ill will toward any of my family, and none, I hope, hold any toward me. I have been amazingly lucky and blessed.

I recently graduated. It’s a turning point, I suppose. But I have such a strong sense of peace from the idea of returning home that I feel relief and joy rather than fear, as so many graduates do.

So when people ask me how it’s been living with my cousin, Kevin, I respond, “It’s like living with family.” And I know that I need to explain that, but I don’t. There’s too much to explain. Too many funny stories, too many family camping trips, too many proud moments.

Thank you. You are my family. You made me who I am. You inspire me to be someone better.

And sometimes you forget and leave me in gas stations, but that’s alright.

It builds character.