This is my last year of high school. In less months than the amount of fingers I have to count with, I will go to college. Meaning I will be living, experiencing, and working somewhere else. It's a harsh reality and it's a very tangible one. Thousands of teenagers face it every year, I know. But, this is my year to face it. 

Throughout my entire life I have been fundamentally close with my family. I have never been the teenager who "rebels." Throughout middle school and now throughout high school my family has always been my steadfast supporters and community. We are a close knit unit that I, quite honestly, would rather spend time with on the weekends and after school than any of the kids at my school. In fact, that is what I do.

Halloween.  

Halloween.  

Almost every weekend my family and I will go and do something meaningful and fun. While most families don't even eat together, let alone go out together, my family and I go to museums, restaurants, stores, and so many other interesting places. I love the adventures that my family and I partake in. They are memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life and the experiences that transpire while we are together have played a large part in shaping me into the person that I am today.

Leaving for Christmas Eve service.  

Leaving for Christmas Eve service.  

Raising my sister and I my mom and dad had always focused on the importance of experience. Instead of talking to their children, us, as if we were stupid, as most parents do, they talked to us on the same level as them. Our conversations were not me talking up to my dad or my mom, but us having an intelligent interaction. This was part of that overarching idea of experience. My mom and dad have taken my sister and I to museums and to go hiking since we were little. I have been traveling since I was little. Now I know that I am privileged to be able to travel so frequently and for that, I am thankful. My mom and dad always made the focus of the trip to have fun and experience new things. Hiking in Yosemite, eating interesting food in San Francisco, taking pictures in Zion, riding the MAX in Portland, and so many more things are just a handful of the adventure and experiences that my parents have exposed my sister and I too. This, to me, is a very innate form of education. I am not homeschooled, which I am thankful that I am not. However, I do agree with the idea that if you can have a kid experience something, instead of just showing it to them, then they will learn it much more deeply. That is what my parents have done in my life. 

Those numerous travels, however, were not only to cities. Another main focus of our trips are to experience, intimately, nature. That is a big reason that I became an ultrarunner, because of the love for nature and adventure that my parents instilled in me since a young age. Going to national and state parks, really anywhere that a trail existed, was always a goal in day to day life and on vacation. Of course, since my dad has always been a runner he would run wherever we ended up for nature, but that gave my mom, sister, and I the opportunity to hike in that same place. So everywhere from Mt. Diablo outside of San Francisco to Zion National Park I have hiked with my mom and sister. Of course, those experiences eventually evolved into a love for ultrarunning, meaning now I have run everywhere from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the Sierras with my dad.

Shopping for the Christmas tree.  

Shopping for the Christmas tree.  

With my family we each love so many different things that we can love and experience those different things all together, individually, or with just two of us. For example, my sister and I always talk about YouTube and things like that, because we love that and can connect on that topic. To me a big benefit of a family, is the support and connection that one could have in a family. But, it really depends on the family. A friend of mine's family, actually a lot of my friends's families, do not eat dinner together, do not respect each other, do not help each other, and, it seems, do not love each other. You cannot say that you do not have time to make a healthy dinner for and with your family and to subsequently eat that dinner together. There is always time to accomplish what you want and there is always time for love. However, in a lot of families that I see, I do not even see the love. 

To me a solid family unit is the basis of a successful life. Of course you, the child, can sometimes not control what you parents have done, but speaking to parents I think making your children and their positive relationship with you strong is vital. At the basic level of human evolution, some 200,000 years ago, the family unit was always the most important. It was the basis of what would come later. Of course clans, then villages, then towns, cities, states, and countries all developed, but throughout all of that there was a unifying basis between them all, the family. When we go through our lives our family is where we should always be able to turn and I am glad that I know for a fact that I will be able to turn to my family at any point in my life and they will have open arms. As an entrepreneur I know that the life that I have ahead of me will not, to say the least, take a conventional path. But, my family will always be right there behind me. I am eternally grateful for that.

Our world is filled with the idea of singularity. The idea that, "I can do it all on my own." But, nothing has ever been accomplished without community. And from the minute that you are born you have a community, they're called your family. You cannot change the world without a community and you most definitely cannot change yourself without one. In your journey you need support and you have some of your best supporters (at least they should be) right there in your family. A family should not gloss over it's duties to each other. 

"Family: a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not."

Walking in LA.  

Walking in LA.  

We must be that group. To build a successful foundation for growing up, let alone for life a family is where you start. They must be the ones that help you develop into the best person that you can possibly be. Most people never truly find themselves and those that do usually do later in life. After a mid life crisis or something of the sort. I have found myself at a very young age and, people tell me, that I am mature beyond my years. That is largely due to my family. I have learned the things that I have learned and evolved into the enlightened person that I am today, mainly because of my family. That is what a family should do. They should not leave their children to find themselves 30 years after they leave the house. No. A family should help its members onto and stay committed to their most fulfilling journey at as early an age as possible so that they can experience life honestly for as long a time as possible. That is what my family has done for me.

It is not only the parents responsibility to foster this true growth. It is, in fact, the responsibility and innate duty of the entire family unit. A family must come together in the hard times just as much as they do in the easy ones. Failure or hardship should not push a family away from one another, it should do quite the opposite. Because, life is difficult for sure, but if you have a steadfast group that is focused on love and support it makes it all the more easy.

In the corn maze.  

In the corn maze.  

However, it is not a question of how much time should we spending together. Family is not a quota that you fill. It is not a checklist of "responsibilities" that add up to insincerity and fickle interactions. Family is a mindset. It is a way of living. It is not how often you come together, it is how you come together. It is not what you buy for each other, it is how you appreciate the small or the large of what you have. It is not what you look like on the outside to society, it is what you truly are on the inside together. Above all family is not meaningless, family is everything. It is the basic stepping stone to fulfillment or despair. If your family stepping stone is cracked or not there altogether then you cannot reach the other steps. That first stone must be the bedrock to the rest of your journey.

So go out into your life and make that bedrock strong. With the family that you have and the family that you will have. Remember that family should always be there for you, so always be there for your family.

Gratefully,

Jarod

 

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