Fields of expertise
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard
Think about who you are, today.
Now ask yourself, “Why are you the way you are?”
You are the culmination of all your past experiences.
We all are.
The experiences we’ve had and the people we share them with drastically shape who we are.
Naturally, there’s one group of people who have the largest impact on our lives: our families.
Love them or hate them, our families shape us and I’m no exception.
To understand who I am, you’d have to understand where I came from.
So, let me tell you a little about my family.
I have quite a large family (I’m the second oldest of ten) and you can bet that they’ve had quite a large impact on my life.
I have 3 brothers, one older and 2 younger, and six younger sisters.
My family is also very diverse.
6 of my brothers and sisters are adopted. I have two African American brothers and three sisters with down syndrome. Awesome, I know!
I loved growing up in a large family and I love everything about my family.
It’s hard living so far away from them (I’m in Budapest and they’re in New York State) but we make it work with Facetime, Skype, Snapchat etc.
I could write quite a bit about my family but instead, I’ll share something I wrote a long time ago.
I recently rediscovered a college admissions essay where I wrote about the diversity of my family and the impact it had on my life.
To my surprise, it was subsequently republished in “The Buffalo News.” (my English teacher forwarded it to the paper):
Diversity – Under One Roof
All is silent as if our presence has done some wrong. Slowly, whispers fill the air, discussing this unusual occurrence. I used to be embarrassed, for myself and for the rest of us, but the challenge of finding pride in it all was all the more rewarding.
I remember walking into a building, any building, be it a restaurant, a shopping center or a synagogue, and noticing the stares. The two gossiping women in the corner, the rabbi or the cashier would lift their heads and strangely acknowledge my family’s presence. I remember thinking, “What could they possibly be staring at? Are we that beautiful?”
It wasn’t until junior high school that it hit me. “I have two African American brothers and three sisters with Down syndrome!” It wasn’t a shock for I’ve lived with these people, my brothers and sisters, for my entire life. Consciously, I knew what they looked like, but it simply wasn’t important. Even today, on a daily basis, I don’t realize the diversity of my family until I see my brother picking out his afro while I catch myself thinking, “Shit, I want an afro!”
As a child, I dealt with minimal teasing. After all, my peers often thought that having black brothers was “cool.” As for my differently abled sisters, their presence was bound to draw attention, however, it became normal to cope with it. From early childhood, it became unmistakably clear that I loved my family, regardless of what the rest of the world thought of us.
It is of course frustrating to deal with the ignorance of people. “Black jokes” and “retarded jokes” were never humorous to me. It was hard to turn away from the group of kids bashing “retarded” children but I like to look at myself as a leader, and I try my best to lead by example.
It was once embarrassing, dealing with all the stares. However, it is my belief that embarrassment accomplishes nothing, and pride strengthens everything. I take pride in my family, and I love the way we choose to live. Let the gossipers and shoppers stare. Let them see my pride, my happiness and our love. Let them know that we function as any other family functions.
Jordan Fried was a junior at Williamsville North High School in Williamsville, NY. He is the white non-adopted sibling of two adopted African American brothers and three white adopted sisters with Down syndrome. The article was originally published in the Buffalo News, December 14, 2005. It is reprinted with permission.