On Friday, some of the best friends I can ever imagine having did a very awesome thing. My Japanese Student Organization family threw all of us who would have celebrated it in Japan this year a 成人式 (seijinshiki, or Coming of Age Ceremony, which I think sounds dumb in English).
I thought it was just gonna be a party and another (of many unnecessary hahaha) excuses to drink on a Friday night with my friends. But then, as the date got closer, my friend who planned the whole thing kept talking about the things he was planning and I realized how serious it was.
Still, nothing could've prepared me for it. I was the one to reserve the room, so I originally got us a classroom since there were only going to be like 20 of us tops at this event, but he wanted a large lecture hall with a podium and microphone so I changed it. I made fun of him for wanting something so extravagant for so few of us, but I feel kind of bad now that I know how much work he put into it.
Anyways, I got there and us "seijin-ers" who were being celebrated had to wait outside until we were allowed into the room. When we were finally let in, all the lights were out and everyone was taking pictures of us. It was kind of disorienting, but we found our seats at the front of the hall facing the audience and sat down.
The national anthems (seriously, both of them) were played and sung accordingly, and then the ceremony officially began.... with self-introductions by all of us. (This is a theme with my friend. At the first JSO meeting this year he made us all do a Japanese-style self-introduction even though we all knew each other...). That took some time, but then we finally got to eat the food that was brought (I made furuche and chocolate-strawberry daifuku!).
After eating, the real meat of the ceremony started. Our friend gave a speech about why he wanted to do this and it was really touching. Then he showed us videos that our friends in Japan made for us at his request on only Monday! It was just... it was a lot. All of these people were celebrating the fact that we were twenty years old and it was just really touching. I can't explain it so well; maybe it was a thing where you had to be there, but it was just... awesome. I mean, I love my parents to death don't get me wrong, but especially in my teenaged years my birthday wasn't really a big deal. I mean sure, my mom made breakfast for me and whatever dinner I requested, but I never got anything extravagant. May is kind of a bad month on our financial calendar, I guess, so I never really ask for anything and so it's just a small thing.
Therefore, having this huge ceremony for me and five other people was just a lot for me to handle!
Finally, after seeing all these videos made for us and hearing another touching speech about our friend, we had to give speeches of our own. I couldn't say everything I wanted at the time, though I said some of it, because there were too many emotions running through me, so I'll say it here.
From the time I was old enough to understand it, it's been drilled into my mind that family is absolutely the most important thing. You can't change who you're related to; you just have to accept and love them the way they are, even when they're not being the best of people or necessarily doing the same to you. Aside from a small but violent blip when I was in junior high school, I understood this and believed this implicitly.
I have had close friends throughout my life, don't get me wrong. Some I have held into my heart alongside my family, keeping them in similar regards (you should know who you are!). But there's something about blood relatives that is different. For one thing, they have no qualifications for being held in my highest regards. They're just there and related to me and that's all it is. I will roll over for them, give them any amount of money, anything they can ask.
And that's fine. I like that about myself, because I like to be able to show that family is that important to me in a tangible way.
However, years of "Family First" and not being able to do some of the things I wanted as a child because of filial obligations have led me to kind of keep my friends at arms length sometimes. I accept people for who they are as a general rule, but it's easier for me to get frustrated with my friends than it is my family, for things that might be considered of lesser import. Especially the friends that I've made since I came to OSU, I've always felt that funny floaty feeling when I think of them, but I never considered them as close as my family, or as close as the friends I have grown to consider "close to" family.
But my friends throwing this huge ceremony for us made me realize something that I think I've known all along. They often say that friends are the family that you get to choose, but I always kind of scoffed at that saying. "You can't choose your family, but you MUST love them unconditionally anyways!" I would always think. "It's selfish to withhold yourself from your family while giving all of yourself to your friends." That kind of thing.
But I realized, that more than a few people in my life (you should still know who you are), my JSO friends have really and truly become my JSO family. And I'm so happy that they are the family I got to choose. You DO make very long-lasting relationships in college and I know that this group of people is the group that I will always be close to, even if we can't talk for months at a time.
It's such an overwhelming feeling of love. I feel like all at once I realized how stupid I was and just yanked that barrier out of my heart and let everybody in at once and it's exciting and giddy and... well it's emotionally overloading. I cried at the ceremony, I cried and drunk Facebooked at the after-party (oh god), and I wanna cry when I think of it now.
For life experiences, this almost tops the list. I am on cloud nine; I can't get off of it! It's just... it's just really really really great.