There are many things that matter to me in life

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There are many things that matter to me in life but above all, are family. The core of our beings, the love in our hearts, the thoughts in our minds, are what comes from being family. Webster defines family as being a group of persons related by common ancestry. However, I feel "family" is much more than that. I have my ancestral family, my family of close friends, and a group of acquaintances I regard to be part of my extended family.

My ancestral family, which I consider to be the most important, gives us our breeding and lineage. Basically, it determines who we are. Heredity plays an important role in our looks, personality, and genetic make-up but how we are raised, disciplined, and cared for defines our character. Without the guidance of nurturing parents to teach us good values, morals and a genuine respect for life, we would be lost.

I have learned over the years that I respect and appreciate the love of my family, the time we spend together, the adventures we take, and the challenges we face. The unconditional love of my family enables me to take risks that could possibly end in failure. Knowing whether I come in first place or last, win or lose, they are always there for me, giving me courage to take risks and dare to be different. The time we spend together will give me memories to last the rest of my life. Especially the simple times when we're doing nothing but sharing a thought, a feeling, or a dream, mean so much. These are memories I will treasure forever. The adventures are always a learning experience. Whether it's whitewater rafting down the New River or scuba diving in Mexico, we are experiencing other cultures and ways of life that open our minds to more worldly views. The challenges we face together as a family can only make us stronger. Getting through the death of my father, struggling for years as a single parent family, and dealing with the ups and downs of our family businesses have brought us only closer. We face the challenges head on, together as one, making decisions and moving forward. I have learned great strength and maturity through these experiences. A family is like breathing and eating, you have to have them to survive.

As a teenager, my family of close friends also helps define who I am. I have learned in my fifteen years of life that friends come and go. Those who stick around are the ones you learn to cherish. They are the ones with whom you share your deepest, darkest secrets. The friends you confide your dreams with and cry to when you are struggling. Not only do my friends and I consider each other "family", we learn from each other's mistakes. It doesn't take the whole group to make the same mistake. We share our problems with each other and figure out how to avoid letting the same thing happen to us. We learn from each other in a way that is exceptionally unique, comfortable, and different from conventional learning. When one of us is struggling with an important issue such as anorexia, adoption, or death, it affects us all. We are a support system for each other, we feel each other's pain, and we stand by one another with enthusiasm, encouragement, and often-colorful advice! My extended family is made up of the acquaintances in my life that only pass though, never intending to stay. You hold them close for a short time, perhaps only minutes, and strangely when they are gone they are still with you. They've made a lasting impression on you in a peculiar way. You can find that gleam in their eyes on the face of a total stranger, their smile on the face of your teacher, or the tone of their voice resonating off the walls of a crowded building. I know these acquaintances will be with me forever in a way I will embrace and protect for the rest of my life.

Family is a group of people related; related in more ways than ancestry and bloodlines. Families are made up of those we care about and respect. Families are made up of many things but most importantly; a family is made up of love.