Family.

Maybe I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to be surrounded by the most loving, caring and selfless people in the world. For me, my family has been everything and then some in my twenty-nine years of existence. How could I ever forget my childhood spending summer weekends running up and down the stairs of my grandmother’s apartment complex in Brooklyn or even swimming in the pool for hours on end with my cousins at my home in New Jersey? Or how about the long walks in the neighborhood with my mom after school, playing on the playground with my sisters or those picnics at McKinley Park. They were some of the best days of my life. Not only were they days filled with unforgettable memories, they instilled the meaning of family within me. We laughed and we cried, we watched the sun come up on those warm summer mornings, but most importantly we loved each other and together we grew.

I thank my parents for raising me in such a way that has allowed me to feel comfortable sharing anything with other members of my family. There is this sense of openness that is difficult to replicate elsewhere. Sometimes I actually feel bad for my sisters because I usually chew their ear off about anything that goes in my life. Same goes for my mom, and even my dad. But no matter what happens, good or bad, they’ve always had a keen interest in listening to me. Beyond listening they’ve done nothing but offer me up the best advice and support I could ever ask for. Over the years I’ve found my deepest comfort in just talking to them. It puts my mind at ease. And believe me, I’ve talked to them about everything. It could be about work, women, finances, life; there’s no topic left behind. They’ve never judged me and while their advice and opinions aren’t always what I want to hear, I know for certain they have my best interest at heart.

I’ll never forget the day I packed up the last of my belongings at my home a week before it was set to close and I would turn over the keys to the new owners. That was going to be it, I had no intention to return at any point that week or ever again for that matter. I was okay with that, I had finally come to terms with letting go and starting a new chapter in my life. Of course my family was there to help me with the move like they always have been in the past. We were wrapping up after about eight hours of packing and my sister says to me, “Anthony, order pizza.” I laughed and said “I guess this is the last supper? Aren’t you all tired?” For starters, she knows pizza is my favorite but beyond that I knew she wanted me to have that one last memory with my family in my home. And so we ordered pizza and ate on the island in the kitchen on last time.

We laughed and joked about some of the memories we had but as with anything in life, time was winding down. I started to look around at my home thinking about every moment I shared there. Some were amazing and some I hope to forget. For those who don’t know me I’m a very strong person. Internally, I let my emotions flow but on the exterior I don’t portray much. I guess you can say I have a good poker face. It was hard for me to say goodbye but I was ready. I was ready to close the book on a chapter of my life that brought me to the highest and lowest points of my life. I looked at my sister and she started to cry. I asked her why she was crying and she said “Because I know how hurt you are inside and my heart breaks for you.” She was right, as only my family could be. I don’t know if I will ever be able to describe the pain I felt that day. I was devastated but I held it together because I knew God had a better plan for me. As they walked out I smiled and said, “One day, soon, I’ll have a new home and we will create new memories”. Everyone else walked out and I said one final goodbye. I walked around to every room taking one last glance and I will admit, I shed a tear or two. This was supposed to be the home I built my family in, not the one I would walk out of alone. I said a prayer to God and I thanked him for blessing me with something so beautiful, something beyond my wildest dreams. I walked out the door and shut it behind me for the final time. I don’t know how I did it, I just know I wouldn’t have been able to without my family.

My family has been my strength throughout my life. They’ve picked me up at my darkest moments and they’ve celebrated with me at my brightest. I was lost, broken, confused, hurt … you name it and I was it. But they taught me to be honest with myself and fearless with my emotions. They continuously encouraged me to look forward and never behind. Whenever I ventured off track they were right there to put me back on. Everything they’ve done for me has been with the most sincere and genuine love. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them in my life and I thank God every day for that. There is something to be said for that bond you share with people you love. Your fear of betrayal disappears, your fear of rejection becomes nonexistent, but most of all you never have to fear being alone because you know they will always be there.

My heart goes out to those who are unable to say the same about their family. It’s such a gift to love, and family is the foundation for that. I’ve spent my entire life always trying to do the right thing so that I never disappoint them. I always have and always will share my life and the stories that come along with it with my family. They deserve to be a part of every aspect of my life. I’ve been criticized for saying that, for sharing too much with them and what’s funny is that those who criticized me are the ones betrayed me. My family never has and I am certain they never will.

All I have ever wanted to do was make them proud, to make them realize that all of the hard work and effort they put into me to ensure I would live my life the right way has paid off. Bringing them joy is the greatest gift I could ever ask for. As we’ve gotten older I have been blessed to share that love with all of my nieces and nephews. I absolutely adore them and they make it evident that they love me just as much. To me that’s what life is all about. I get to watch them grow and instill in them the same values that were instilled in me. What my entire family has given me I can only hope to instill in my own children one day. I hope that one day my son or daughter feel that same level of comfort with my wife and I that I do with my mother and father. I hope that they have the opportunity to play with their cousins and realize what family means and how important it is. And so I will continue to work hard so that one day I can build my family on the same foundation my family built for me; love. It’s the only thing that truly matters.I can only hope to find someone who feels that exact same way.