I have this friend who has something like 600 cousins, and not in the 'OH-EM-GEE he has like sixty-eleven hundred cousins, squee!' way, either. He actually has 600ish cousiny-relations who all live within a reasonable proximity to one another, but more significantly, they all know each other. They know which ones are lawyers and which ones are accountants and who is in construction and how many are pregnant and they never want for anything.
My friend has 600+ people who would, at a moment's notice, lend him their expertise, their support and their good lobster pot. There is a difference between expecting others to do things for you and simply knowing there are those out there who will, and I believe that difference is called Having a Village.
I do not have 600 cousins. I have one living biological cousin and I haven't seen her since her sister died in 1996. I guarantee you I won't ever see her again, either. I have three, maybe four (I'm not entirely sure) step-cousins, but I don't know so much as their full names. I don't even know the full names of any of my grandparents save my father's father.
What I do have is one big brother and the most amazingly magical motley assortment of people who I've picked up along the way, people I can turn to when I need it - no matter what it happens to be. I know which ones understand me when I'm breaking, and I know which ones are willing to play mom or sister, and I know which ones to call upon on a Thursday night when I'm trying to write the most important document of my life thus far. I know they will answer, and I know they will charge for the guns with me if I ask it of them.
It's not ever going to be the same as having a bona fide family; I'll always feel like I'm imposing, like I'm not showing enough gratitude, like I'm not giving enough back. I'll forever wonder why my Six Hundred doesn't ride back the way my parents, my church and every person I ever tried to love did, but it isn't mine to reason why, I guess.
It is mine to charge forward, wildy. It is mine to do and die. There is a difference between living up to someone else's expectations and simply wanting to become the person everyone who loves you believes you can be, and I believe that difference is called Being Part of a Village.
With ::knuckles of respect:: to Lord Tennyson for, like, all of it.