I recently wrote a guest post for Cross Culture Therapy, in which I was invited to share my own TCK story. Here’s a taste:
“There were so many cultural clashes for my family and I upon moving to the US, but very few people around us saw the cultural gap. We spoke English (though with “cute” foreign accents) and looked similar enough. There was a subconscious expectation that we knew the ‘rules’ for life in this new context. Yet so much was different! Being a teenager isn’t easy anywhere. Being a teenager while negotiating another culture (with peers who don’t understand that’s what you’re doing) was really tough! I met really lovely people who befriended me, but I still felt confused much of the time. I found everyday life very stressful. My accent also meant everyone knew I was “the Australian girl” as soon as I opened my mouth. But even the friends who were fascinated with my language struggled to understand that there were fundamental differences in how we saw the world.”
As I prepared the post, I realised that I have written very little about my own experiences as a TCK. I think there’s a few reasons for that. In large part it’s that my focus as an author and speaker is on advocating for, and amplifying the voices of, young TCKs around the world. I don’t want to drown out their stories with my own. But part of it is also that I didn’t know what a TCK was until ten years after my own experience. I didn’t have language to explain and express what I went through. And later on I fell into the oh-so-common trap of downplaying my own experience – I was only overseas for two years so I’m not *really* a TCK.
I made a similar comment to Ruth van Reken the first time we met in person. (We’d corresponded by email previously, and she’d already written the foreword for Misunderstood.) She stopped me and said that I didn’t need to dismiss my own story. I shared that experience of living overseas, and I could claim it. That was a surprising thought to me.
I’ve considered it more over time. I still don’t completely identify as a TCK. My childhood experiences were largely rooted in Australia, and my identity as an Australian. My experience of being “in-between” was short-lived as a child. My life as an adult expatriate is very much “in-between” and this forms a key part of my identity – but I have chosen this life. I often feel I fall somewhere in between a TCK and TCA experience. I’m glad for the ability to stand between TCKs and the adults who care for them, to understand each experience (to a degree).
All that to say, writing this guest post was a good chance to reflect on my own experiences. Perhaps sometime in the future I’ll go back and write a little more about my personal experiences as an Australian teenager living in the US. For now – this guest post is a start.