Knowing Where We Came From
There’s more than one way of knowing where we came from. Some are lucky enough to trace their family line to the early 1900s or even earlier than that. What most of us can do, though, is find aspects of ourselves within our extended family.
I’m really lucky that I have such a huge extended family from both my father’s and my mother’s sides. My father was one of five kids and my mother was one of eight. I am fairly certain that my cousins and second cousins number to the hundreds, if not thousands.
People in extended family often compare me to one of my older cousins on my dad’s side. Like many of my relatives from my dad’s side of the family, I am shorter than average. My aunts and cousins are all extroverted and to an extent, I also like hanging out with my friends and I love celebrating holidays like they do. I also learned, from doing a family history project way back in high school, that my uncle was a Jesuit priest and that my grandmother on my father’s side taught literature and aspired to translate English works to Tagalog, the main dialect in the Philippines.
However, there are also aspects of me that come from my mom’s side of the family. While I’m shorter than the average woman, I’m literally taller than all my aunts on my dad’s side. The height difference is due to the fact that my mom was descended from some very tall Filipinos. My grandfather on my mother’s side was 6’0” and keep in mind that the average Filipino is usually 5’4” at most. I also learned that my great-uncle was an actor, my great-aunt was a nun, and that same very tall grandfather was a town leader who liked spicy food and wrote poetry.
Growing up, I used to feel like I was the “odd duck” of the family on both sides. I realize now that here are aspects to myself that can be found once I look at the previous generation. Like two of my grandparents, I am a writer. Like my Jesuit uncle, I aspire to devote myself to the motto of “ad majorem dei gloriam,” doing all I can for the glory of God.
When we know the circumstances and the people in our lives who’ve shaped us, we get a better aspect of who we are. You may not have a huge extended family like mine, but think about the people in your family who’ve inspired you and influenced you. Pope Francis finds great inspiration from grandparents. St. Therese found her inspiration from her father and sisters. No family is perfect, but I think that we can find the best lessons from those who are closest to us, for better or for worse.
Reflect: Who in your family do you think influenced you the most? Who do people say you “take after”? Do you have strong ties to your cultural background as well as your family background? How has your ethnicity or culture influenced you?
Act: Reconnect with your extended family and play a game or share a meal together. Sing karaoke, no matter how off-key you sound. (Okay, that last one is just a suggestion. You can’t have a Filipino party without karaoke.)