Teen's essay about his family wins HJN contest

February 2020
Emet Mendelson

It’s funny how we rarely take time to think about our families.  Your family lives with you but you sort of take them for granted. Like everyone else, I didn’t think much about my family or what makes them special and unique. After all, aren’t all families unique and special? 

But that all changed when I recently found myself at a wedding—my uncle’s wedding actually—and I listened to a number of family speeches. Don’t get me wrong. I found them to be pretty entertaining! And besides, I am pretty used to family speeches. Most momentous life events seem to include a moment or two to reflect on your family and how they have shaped you. 

It isn’t just my family that does this — every family seems to.  Basketball players and Emmy winners stand with their trophies in their hands, explaining how their parents/ grandparents/ siblings have helped them arrive at this point.
But this wedding speech in particular got me thinking:  What role does my family play in shaping who I am?  Would I be the same guy if I had been born into a different family or if my 3 siblings had not arrived on the scene after me?  While I like to think that I’d be me no matter what, the truth is, the people who I spend most of my time with have had an impact on me.

The way we behave as a family is a lot like most other families. I guess each family changes over time and is affected by big events and experiences. So why do I think that my family is a bit different than most? 

A few things happened to us as a family that make us a bit different than most families we meet.  First, we have travelled a lot together.  We lived in Switzerland for a number of years and have travelled to five different continents.  We have road tripped for months on end and stayed in places with no running water or electricity.  Spending time together in remote places where people don’t speak the same language as you is a pretty big bonding experience.  When we were travelling in Italy, for example, and I was fighting with my brother, we had to quickly get over our fight and play together.   You learn a lot about each other travelling as a family because you spend so much time together. We have so many funny shared stories about our travels that we talk about.  We spend a lot of time thinking about where we are going next. We take turns choosing destinations, and have a long list of some of the best places we have visited. 

We have had some great times as a family but we have also experienced a lot of difficulties.  In 2014, one of my sisters was hit by a car on her way to school and was in the intensive care unit for a long time.  For a while, we did not know if she would survive.   Almost losing a sibling taught me not to worry about little things and focus on what is important.  The accident also showed me that I can’t always be at the centre of attention.  In a family, the person who needs the most help is going to get what they need when they need it.

Another challenge our family has experienced is living apart from the rest of our family. We have a large, fun extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles but we have always lived in a different province or country.  We always think about how much fun it would be to live in the same city or on the same street as our cousins. On the other hand, seeing each other rarely means we have to make the most of the time we spend together.  So naturally, our get-togethers are epic.
The world is a big place and we have travelled to a fair bit of it. There are so many awesome places to live, I am thinking that it is unlikely that my siblings and I will all live on the same street.  Luckily, my family has shown me that it doesn’t matter where you are, family is family no matter where you live.  My siblings and I will have to make sure that the time we spend together is momentous. We may not be able to continue our travels together, but you better believe that when we get together, we will have a blast.

After all it’s a family tradition.