You may be a bit confused this week, as you’re used to seeing a different name attached to this column. Rest assured, it’s still me, featuring my new last name. While this has been a process almost four years in the making, I finally can introduce myself to you properly. Hi, I’m Noah Kolenda!
This name change came about because I wanted to bear the name of my mother and her family, the family that raised me. Through this change in my life, I have had the opportunity to reflect a lot about family and how wide that word and its definition can be.
Family isn’t defined by biology, by birth certificate, by court document or by someone that isn’t you. Sure, those things can matter in certain circumstances, but none of them automatically make someone family. To me, I’ve come to learn over the years that family is an earned title for a system of people of your choosing that support you for who you are. You don’t owe your time or energy to people who aren’t going to give that to you.
In this time of self-discovery, where most of us are out on our own for the first time, the pressure is on. We’re experiencing so much life and so many choices all at once that we need a judgment free support system to help us handle this journey and fall back on when we need it. Having this is essential to our growth as people.
The old wives’ tale of it taking a village to raise a child doesn’t stop the moment you turn 18 or leave home. It takes a community to get through the human experience. Whatever that looks like for you, find it and hold on to it.
If there’s one thing I hope will stick with you from my columns, it’s this: you’re a hot commodity, and people who don’t value you as such don’t deserve pieces of you. I’m not saying this to inflate your ego, but to remind you when you need it, or if no one else is telling you this already. You deserve people who are going to be in your corner, win, lose or draw, ready to support you.
Learning when to exit relationships when I’m no longer being treated how I deserve to be treated has improved my life significantly. I’ve learned not to settle for conditional love just because of relationship length or significance. I’ve learned that I’m worth putting in the effort for, and so are you. While you’re here building up an educational base, build up your community too.
This university offers many options to connect with new communities, and I encourage you to take advantage of them. Find your community based on your interests, your intersectional identities or jump into something new. You’ll never know where you’ll pick up a new family member.
This is the next chapter of our lives, and we’re evolving. Make sure your relationships are evolving with you and that they’re adding value to your life. You deserve a strong support system as you take on the world. Find your village and crush it wherever you land.