Closeness vs Peace

It's okay if you're not close to your family.

written by oz chen

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I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you don’t need to be close to your family. Especially if you have peace.

For decades, there was only the 4 of us in America.

My mom, my sisters, and I.

No one else from Taiwan was interested in moving to America.

Having grown up watching American media, I got the impression that the “right” kind of family is a big one, where everyone is close. Friends, even.

Everybody Loves Raymond was a staple in my household.

My sisters and I were close growing up.
They helped raise me and taught me my multiplication tables on the walks to school.
Then, long even before my sisters left for college, I started to feel that we weren’t that close.

For a long time I wondered if we were supposed to be closer.

Because if the picture in my mind of a perfect family is close siblings, and my siblings and I aren’t close…what does that mean? *Cognitive dissonance*

Over the years, my perspective has changed dramatically.

First, a revelation from my mother…

I asked her if she’d consider moving back to Taiwan for retirement. The healthcare is superior to the shitshow that is American medicine. Cost of living is cheap. Most important of all, she’d be close to her roots, her family…save for her immediate children.

(This wasn’t a novel suggestion. A lot of my friends’ parents moved back to their motherlands).

What she said caught me completely off guard:

She said she didn’t want the drama that came with the Taiwan family. She lives a good independent life in the states. Has her own property. No one can meddle in her business. She doesn’t have to deal with the complicated family drama, which includes jockeying for a fair inheritance from our grandparents…

Well that, I never considered. I just didn’t want my mom to be lonely.

I tell you this story because it was a powerful reminder to appreciate what we have, instead of focusing on what we don’t have.

Between my mother and sisters, we have harmony.
We respect each other.
We don’t have drama.

It’s something I’ve taken for granted: there are tradeoffs in life, and sometimes the tradeoff you make for closeness is peace. Professor Scott Galloway put it this way:

“My friends who have uber-close, but dysfunctional, relationships with their families are often exhausted for the wrong reasons. The three of us are low maintenance, no-drama, and additive to each other’s lives. I’ll trade closeness for harmony… and we have a lot of that.”

And that’s just it. In my wanting, it’s counterintuitive to consider what I don’t want. And in the wise words of Naval Ravikant, there’s no point in being jealous if I’m not willing to do a 100% wholesale swap with someone else:

I realized with all these people I was jealous of, I couldn’t just choose little aspects of their life. I couldn’t say I want his body, I want her money, I want his personality. You have to be that person. Do you want to actually be that person with all of their reactions, their desires, their family, their happiness level, their outlook on life, their self-image? If you’re not willing to do a wholesale, 24/7, 100% swap with who that person is, then there is no point in being jealous.

May we be thankful for what we have, because there is always something we’re glad to not have.

Aside #1

How I’d describe my family is that we were never that close…but we were never distant either.

For example, I don’t feel like I’m “friends,” with my mom, but we’re able to have really wide ranging conversations that would shock my other (Asian) friends.

Everything is relative.

Aside #2

All the memes about dreading Thanksgiving with family is offset by Friendsgiving. Because friends are your chosen families in life. I’m so grateful to my friends Cassie and Adam for hosting a lovely gathering.

liked this article? tell your mom, tell your kids


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