family is family is family

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Whether I care to publicly admit it or not, the two issues that cause me the most emotional struggle are self-consciousness and family. Generally I don’t care what other people think, but hey, I’m a girl. And as for family? It’s cliché but it’s a thing.

There’s the family you’re born into and the family you choose. At least for me, that’s how it works. I know it’s completely different for some people and a lot harder for some people.

I could go on for hours about the fairness of being the second born child, a girl, to the first born son in a Japanese family. To shorten it, it’s not fair. And the level of inadequacy and intolerance that I felt for years, and sometimes still do, was painful. I guess it thickens your skin and it was (probably? not) for the better. Just the difference in expectations is… ridiculous. But it does strengthen you. And that was the family I was born into.

To be perfectly clear, I couldn’t be happier with the family I was born into. I also couldn’t be prouder. And I would never wish to be part of any other family. But it just wasn’t all rainbows.

The family I was born into is complicated though. Honestly, I don’t know my extended family at all. My dad came here in 1975 from Tokyo and my mom followed. All of their family still lives in Japan. My grandparents on my mother’s side died before I met them, and she has four or five other siblings, all ranging from 25 to 5 years older than her (I think). I’ve met that side of the family only once. A lot of cousins, and kids of cousins and aunts and uncles. My dad’s side was his parents and his brother. I think I met my grandfather once, as a baby but he passed away before I had any memory of him. My uncle doesn’t exactly exist to us; my mom hasn’t even met him. And my grandmother, she used to visit us every year but my dad got sick and she isn’t in great health either. So I haven’t seen her for about five years now.

My dad did have a best friend here though. My Uncle Bob. Robert, to the rest of the world. Uncle Bob to me. They met at school, way back when. If you care to read their story, it’s best told by Robert here. Actually today I went to his new show, Utopia, which had it’s opening reception this evening. More info on it here. And it was there that this whole family thing came into focus.

I may have been born into a complicated, very Japanese family, but my parents also chose a family for me. At the show I saw a few of some of my parent’s closest, oldest friends, and it felt amazing. I felt the incredible amount of talent in the room and I haven’t felt this lucky and privileged in a long time. It was Robert, and Randy (who frequently was at my house as a model for dozens of pieces my dad painted, and same went for Robert) and Julie (one of my dad’s school friends as well) and to be around this great generation of artists was comforting, more than anything. Even though while I was growing up, my parents became parents and got busy, it was cool to see that at one point, this was the family they chose, and at the very end, this was the family that came back to my dad. Robert Hunt, Randy Chavez, Julie Peterson, Charles Pyle, Ron Chan, amongst many, many more that were also important to my parents (I doubt they’re ever going to read this, but I know there are many more that I know by image just not by name, and I feel super bad about it) were the family my parents chose. And I’m proud to be able to just know them.

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“East of the West” – Robert Hunt, 2012-2014

I want the family I choose, outside of the family I have, to make me feel as happy and safe and proud and loved. I think so far I’ve done a pretty good job. You all know Kate. But there’s also Patrick, Andrew, Theo and Sergio. And there’s Victoria at work. And there’s Kristina and Leilani from swimming. I’m always grateful they’re in my life. Patrick is… everything. He inspires me everyday to not care about what other people do, and to live the fullest life possible. Andrew is all brain (literally – he studied brains at Uni in the UK), and I’ve never had a boring conversation with Andrew. Theo is new and he’s a pretty good reminder that being able to laugh at yourself is one of the healthiest things a person can do for themselves. He also can’t take a good picture, snaps really loudly and it’s weird and I’m a little jealous that he’s better at it than I am, and likes sports. He’s my sports guy. Also, I mentioned this before but he’s the quintessential nice guy. Sergio makes me laugh too. Plus, he’s simply that guy that I know will do anything with me (as long as it doesn’t involve leopard print, although if I say “no questions asked”, he’d do it). He’s the best sport about things, to the point that I dragged him out of his comfy pants at 9:30pm to go exchange a television with me at Best Buy. He’s up for anything, even if he won’t say out loud that he doesn’t want to be there, he’ll be supportive about it as best he can. And Victoria? She’s basically the most inspiring woman I’ve ever met. I could listen to her stories all day, and keep learning and learning from her. She keeps me going at work and has gotten me through a lot and I’m forever in her debt for that. She has the youngest and biggest heart, and loves with her entire heart, and only makes everybody’s lives better. Kristina and Leilani are the little and big sisters I never had. Both are beautiful, intelligent, and I know both will take over their specific worlds one day.

That is the family I have chosen so far. It’s the family I got to choose. And I’m ecstatic to have them in my life.

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L to R: Sergio, Theo, Kate

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