Ambrosha's life in Vana'Diel
My son started playing FFXI in April of 2004, not too long after the Chains of Promathia expansion was released in the US. He plays on the PS2, character name: Aony. After he'd been playing a while, I tried it out myself with one of his mules, and enjoyed it enough to get my own account, so we could work together. That was October 2004. We've both been on Gilgamesh the entire time.
I think that every successful player in FFXI, who has continued in game for a long time, has an in-game "family" - those other players that you meet early in your career, who you wind up grouping with and doing those early quests together. The Rank 3 dragon fight, quests to unlock advanced jobs, Genkai 1 & 2, etc. You form a special bond with those people, because you share that something special of having seen things in the game for the first time ever, and you did it together. If you go on, they're the people that call you when they are looking to complete an especially difficult mission or quest, help you get AF armor, or the really hard to get drops from rare Notorious Monsters, BCNM's, and they're the folks you team up with for regular activities, like Assault, static parties for new jobs, farming your gil, and everything else that makes a character successful.
For me, that family was the gang from the CemeterysGates linkshell. Running with the CG crew I was able to get through those first AF quests, get past Genkai, and see some of the first events in the game that required a large team to work together (Garrison, Eco-warrior, etc). I had a lot of opportunities to help other players get things done as well, and felt most useful back then, even if it was something as simple as helping a new player get their Khazam keys.
Sadly, those folks are all gone now, and I'm left without an in-game family. I bounce around from place to place, finding pick up groups when I can for the events or game content that you can't do solo. It's hit or miss, and I don't get nearly as much done in the game as I would like to, but I'm still able to have fun, and see a lot of the Story Lines in the game, which is what I like the most about FFXI. I'll never be one of the big players on the server, but so far, I'm still having a good time.