Humans of the Dub: Holiday Season / Non-traditional Families / Support Systems


Photograph by Ethan Marsh, Humans of the Dub

Ethan Marsh, Humans of the Dub - Staff

Tell me a little about your family.

My parents are separated. I have an older brother who’s seven years older than me. I grew up in the south, so I have a huge family. There’s always food at every single event. That’s a huge deal with us.

I have a giant family. My mom has, like seven brothers and sisters. My dad has four step siblings and two half-siblings, so there’s a lot of us. Everything is really important to my family, especially during holidays. We just had Thanksgiving and there were so many of us that we were touching elbows trying to eat, it was hard. But yeah, I enjoy spending time with my family.

Where’s your family originally from?

Both my parents are from a small town in Georgia. My dad’s in the Navy s we moved around a lot. I never really got to experience having a familial home base. We did try to visit as much as we could. The furthest we ever lived was nine hours. We would make the drive for pretty much every holiday because all of my family still lives in that small town. When we go visit, they’re all in one place, which makes it pretty easy.

How has your dad being in the navy impacted and influenced your family?

I think it makes us want to connect more. We always want to call each other, it makes long distance kind of hard. We try our best to stay close with each other by calling each other, sending each other emails, even sending cards every holiday. You kind of have to try harder to stay connected and try harder to be a close-knit family. I feel like I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like having it. That way, the time that you do get to spend together when we finally get to travel there is that much more special.

Who in your family has been the most influential in your life?

My grandmother on my dad’s side has been the most influential person in my life. She actually died of stage four cancer a few years ago. The strength that she showed through trying to beat cancer was probably the most inspirational thing I’ve ever experienced. Just having someone want to fight so hard for their life, because they enjoyed it so much made me appreciate my life and my time on Earth so much more. That’s been my biggest influences. Just seeing her go through that and how difficult it was for her. It was hard for me to watch, but also something that I’ll always cherish and like something that made me stronger as a person.

We were probably the closest. When I was younger, I would call her just as much as I call my mom now. We would talk on the phone every day, I spent summers alone with her. Since my brother was so much older, he was already out of the house a lot. I would like fly to Georgia by myself and go visit her. We had our rituals. We’d eat Chinese food every Friday night. We loved to watch crime shows and stuff like that. We were definitely really close.

What makes your family different from other families?

Something that’s really strange about my family is that my parents are separated, but they still live together and get along with each other and are still friends. They’re no longer married, but they still live together. It’s just like having a normal, nuclear family, except they’re not actually together. It’s kind of strange, but it’s also really cool and convenient to me. It’s very hard to explain how that works, mostly because I’m not even really sure. I’m very appreciative that I get to be with both my parents. I know a lot of people with divorced parents have problems connecting with both of them, or maintaining the same relationship with both of them while having to split their time and decide things like, ‘Who should I spend holidays with?’

Do you think that has made a big impact on your family having a healthy dynamic to it, instead of a dysfunctional one?

Yeah. I think that if my parents lived separately, I wouldn’t really know what to do. I’ve always had them in the same household. I’m close with both of them in respective ways. We have a healthy family dynamic; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love having both my parents in the same house. I love that even though they’re not married, they get along so well. It makes things so much easier on the family as a whole, because they’re not fighting. They don’t have animosity between them. That’s not something that creates drama or that I have to deal with.

How important do you think family is in life?

I think family is probably one of the most important things you can have. Stability is a really important thing for success. I would say and having a good support system of people that are there for you no matter what and who love you no matter what you do is so important. And no matter what, you’re stuck with them. They can’t do anything about it. I love having a big family. I think even if you have a small family, you can still have supportive people in your life. For me, that’s what family really represents.

Do you think having a big and happy family – do you think that has made a big impact on your time at UNCW and your ability to be successful as a student?

Yeah, I think having a big, happy, healthy family is something that gives me the motivation to continue to be successful. I have the support to do whatever I want to do in life. While I know a lot of people have that, I think it is a big factor in my wanting to continue my education. I want to be successful in life, because they want that for me, and they would do anything to allow me to have that.