Recommended reading: June 3rd, TCK perspective

Time for some more writing by TCKs – long posts and short, with TCKs reflecting on their experiences and telling their stories. I know it’s only been a month since the last TCK Perspective I shared, but I’ve found so many great pieces lately I didn’t want to wait!

Identity & Belonging – TCK Art Gallery
Noggy Bloggy
Aneurin has another fantastic online TCK art gallery, this one themed “Identity and Belonging”. This post features Tina Quick, author of the fantastic book A Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition, choosing a few favourite pieces from the gallery to highlight.
“As an ATCK and the mother of three TCKs this piece impacted me because as the artist says, “The pieces we collect are often attached to a place that speaks loud to our identity.” What may seem insignificant to others has intense value to us. That is why I always tell parents never to throw away their TCK’s belongings without asking first. One day they will be ready to let go as that identity evolves.”

The freedom of being a third culture kid
Honi Soit
I love this piece! ATCK Georgia describes her relationship with her mixed cultural heritage and upbringing, and how embracing a TCK identity helped her make peace with all trhe pieces.
“…my cultural heritage tends to disorient most people that I meet. That invariably leads to false conceptions of my identity founded on comfortable and familiar stereotypes. TCKs are prevented from easily giving voice to their origin stories, and are severed from the roots of a precise nationality, a home. Wherever I go, I have often felt and been treated as an outsider. Comments on my accent have in the past sent me spiralling into a state of unease and insecurity with my identity. . .The decision to identify as a TCK actually occurred after moving to Australia. I realised that the non-judgemental, unassuming acceptance I had received within the expat community I grew up in was something truly unique. Elsewhere, it seems that people quickly categorise a new face as either ‘one of us’ or ‘one of them’, local or foreigner. . .To live authentically, for me, has meant accepting my roots as a TCK. While my younger self felt constantly torn between differing cultures, having the freedom to pick and choose from my own mixed bag of traditions has been the most rewarding experience.”

“Where Are You From?”
A Life Overseas
This piece is a missionary kid’s reflections on the question all TCKs struggle with. She wrestles with the difficulty – feeling judged and resentful, struggling to reconcile experiences, the memories of life in one place that she DOESN’T have. She concludes with the way she’s found peace in the midst of this – the Christian theology of citizenship in heaven. I did a research thesis on this citizenship in heaven and its impact on Christian TCKs, so it was nice to see my topic reflected here.
““Where are you from?” The dreaded question is asked all too often as soon as I open my mouth and my Australian-British-South African accent comes out. A question that seems simple yet holds the weight of my being, it is the question of my identity. It is not simply the answer to that question alone which can be a difficult and strange one to have when someone actually doesn’t care about my history — but rather the judgments that are made upon the story that ensues.”

4 Things Missionary Kids Won’t Tell You
ABWE
This is another piece by a teeange missionary kid, and it’s really important. I’ve heard these same sentiments from many, many young TCKs over the years. The first two points are applicable to lots of TCKs from different sectors, and the second two points are specific to mission/ministry families. All four points are really important reading for parents.
“We may talk differently because of where we grew up. We may not understand American sports. We may eat our burgers with forks and knives. But we are still kids who want to belong. Our fear of never fitting in may seem irrational, but continually pointing out our differences only feeds this fear. But, our parents, supporters, friends, and pastors have the power to make us feel welcome, by accepting us no matter how different we may seem.”

A TCK’s Reflection; Brene Brown’s Call to Courage
We All See this World a Little Differently
This post has some personal and really helpful reflections on vulnerability, grief, and relationship building. These are themes that are coming up a lot in my current research, and I appreciated the way Joel approached these often difficult topics. His authenticity is refreshing and his insights widely applicable.
“I absolutely loved my life growing up overseas, but there is an element of constant change that all TCKs have in their lives that I could have lived without. Either you (the TCK) or someone you know is always moving. I had very few friends that remained in my life from kindergarten through high school. The expectation in an ex-pat community is that people will only be around for a couple of years before moving onto another assignment from their business or mission board. Only a handful of people will be around long term. The grief and loss that is experienced when the element of belonging is removed is deep.”

‘I’m either too black or not black enough’: One teenager’s experience
BBC News
This powerful piece was written by a teenager studying at an international school in Europe. She unpacks her experience of being an African American in a school where her culture is largely unknown, where she sees appreciation and appropriation of its surface characteristics, but no knowledge of the history and lived experience behind those cultural markers.
“Technically, all people of African descent are minorities in America, the place where I’ve lived most of my life. Yet, this is the first time I’ve been aware of it. There are so few black students at my school that by next year, there’s a good chance that no one in secondary will have black skin. Should that not be scary? Is it weird for me that it is? It’s not that I’m scared to be the only black person at the school; that’s not really the issue. It’s that there’s part of black culture that has spread throughout the student population that reeks of ignorance. . .I am either too black or not black enough; yet no matter what, I am in the wrong. The stares weigh over me like a thick smog, the whispers cloud my hearing, and on this campus I am left an outcast. Isolated. Alone”

Thoughts on Remembering
Third Culture Thoughts
In this piece a TCK explores nostalgia – the pain of leaving and losing friends, and the place of memory. There’s a good balance here – recognising the need to reflect and feel, but not to let that hold you back.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to move countries or cities multiple times in my life, and while it’s an opportunity every time to reinvent yourself for the new environment you’ll be in, you also leave a lot behind. Even if you didn’t like that person you were or that place you lived in, it’s a part of how you became you today. Others may not think that’s important but I do. I suppose it’s a little existential of me. We only have the time we have here and now in our lives. Each of us is one in billions of other human beings, and we are on a rock floating in a stupendously large universe. Our lives are, in a cosmic sense, infinitesimally small, but they are our lives and that makes them important to us. It makes them worth remembering because no one else will.”

Who am I really? Ask the Third Country Kids
Shine
This interview with a Third Culture Kid includes some great gems relating to identity struggles and language usage:
“The hardest part of my life was having to go back to the country that I thought was my home and realizing that I was not from there. That I was not from Indonesia, I did not look Indonesian. That I was not from Kenya, I did not look Kenyan. But I was also not French. . .When I am really angry, I shout in French. It is the most delicious language to get angry in. When I talk to a baby or a puppy, I go to Dutch. Because my mum is Dutch, and I guess it’s my motherly side that comes out. When I want to theorize about complex things, I want to do that in English only because I studied in English. So, languages are part of my personality and they mix and match.”

Past the Point of Resilience
TCK Town
A TCK shares a powerful personal story about when change becomes too much – and what coping looks like.
“As a TCK I am used to moving constantly, I am used to change, and I am used to jumping into a culture and embracing all its quirky characteristics until I grow to love them. I took pride in my ability to say goodbye easily and move with an optimistic attitude about each place we went to. I was the first in my family to pack my suitcase and be ready to go, the first to explore and meet new friends and the first to try new food. I thrived off of change. I never thought that this change I loved so much would betray me. . .On top of my family falling apart and the suddenness of having to come back to a place I didn’t want to be, I was dealing with culture shock. Instead of being resilient and embracing the simultaneously familiar yet unfamiliar world around me, I rejected it. I didn’t want to be part of this way of life and I didn’t want to be from here. I missed everything about our life overseas.”

The Clouds
TCK Town
And finally, in what seems to have become an unintentional tradition in these TCK Perspective posts, a poem. (This one is also from TCK Town.) Here’s my favourite stanza:
“Between worlds, clutching neither time nor needs.
Clammy hands grasp old baggage. Last to stand.
Blonde curls, pockets full of sunflower seeds.
Turbulent past brings nostalgic disband.”

Recommended reading: July 30th, 2018

Last week’s recommended reading had a TCK perspective theme – a collection of posts written by TCKs reflecting on their experiences. I’m continuing that theme this week, although this week I’m also including some posts about TCKs, written by those who care about them.

On Welcoming the Third Culture Kid
A Life Overseas
Fabulous post by the always wonderful Marilyn, offering lists of DOs and DON’Ts for how to support Third Culture Kids walking through repatriation. There is so much gold here! For example,
DO: “Let them talk about their past. They have left so much, let them talk about what they have left.”
DON’T: “Put a time limit on their adjustment and their grieving. We are all different. We grow and adjust at different rates. So don’t put time limits on the TCK. Allow them room even as you continue to love and challenge them.”

Third Culture Kid Diaries: Connecting with Locals and Making Friends
Restless Feet Adventures
This is a great post by a Taiwanese TCK sharing four tips for how to build relationships. Her reflections come two years into repatriation, and includes that perennial TCK problem – why is it so much harder to make friends at ‘home’ when I did it just fine elsewhere? Now – back to her four ways to connect with others, anywhere: shared experiences, similar interests, pop culture, and mutual friends.
“I realized I let my focus on the fact that I didn’t grow up in Taiwan overshadow all the other ways I made friends in the past…Sometimes I have to remind myself to go out and socialize with people because I’m so comfortable and enjoy doing things alone. But building and maintaining relationships is important to me so I just have to keep reminding myself to go out and do it!

A high-school reunion, international style
Monday Morning Emails
In this post Terry reflects on the reunion of six high school friends – living in different countries, holding different citizenships – including her son. It’s a great piece! Here’s a taste:
As I listened to a conversation that straddled countries as easily as ‘hopping on that plane’, it confirmed that despite the obvious challenges of a global life, it fosters engaged global citizens. We can be proud of this. As parents we often question this overseas life and the impact that it has on our children.

Finding common ground in Minnesota
TCK Town
One TCK shares about her friendship with another TCK. For me, this piece is about showing grace in the face of racism. By that I don’t mean staying silent – not at all! – but I mean not letting those negative experiences steal the possibility of good experiences. Being the best version of yourself, even when treated unjustly. Taking the first step to build connections with others, even when they wouldn’t do that for you.
“I’m so thankful for this friendship and all it has taught me. Without Samiya I would not know how amazing Somali tea is, I would not know the traditions of Ramadan or that Syria has some of the nicest people you will ever meet. There is joy in loving people who are different than you. If we can learn to love those who are different than us, we could see how rich and flavorful our lives can be.”

Continental Drift
Expitterpattica
A very sweet poem from an expat mum to her TCK children, as they approach a(nother) international move. It is a beautiful piece, and I’ll share a few lines from it with you here:
You don’t want to change, you don’t want to go,
you want to stay put, I know, my love, I know,
It’s OKAY to feel worried or nervous or fearful,
I feel all those things too and saying goodbye still makes me tearful,
But we have to let go, step into the unknown,
I promise Life will unfold and you’ll never be alone,

It’s that time of the year again… ‘Moving Season’
Little Miss Expat
One TCK interviews a good friend who moved a year ago. Some lovely responses here reflecting on both the positives and negatives of moving to a new international location. What I most appreciate, however, is the way she encourages “stayers” like herself to both recognise the difficult of the leaving season for themselves, but also to aim to support “leavers” well.
“Overall, I think it’s just super important to remember that life is what you make of it, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control the way that you deal with it and what you make of the situation. People moving away is one of those situations which is sad, but also exciting as it’s the start of a new adventure for the person moving. And as the friend staying behind, you also have to support your friend with this new chapter in their life. Don’t view moving as something bad, shift your focus, and see it as the start of something exciting and different.”

Itchy feet
Third Culture Queer
I really appreciate this perspective, from a queer TCK who looks at the intersection of those two identities. This short post considers the “ichy feet” syndrome familiar to many internationals, but with the extra layer of difficulty that comes with a queer identity. I especially appreciate the conclusion, which holds truth for us all – both going and staying are choices, and both hold some sort of risk:
Being gay is illegal in many countries, and only a handful of places are vaguely okay on the whole trans and non-binary thing. Do I want to live somewhere I would not be able to be myself, where I would have to hide? . . .Whatever I decide, it is a risk. A risk I will have to censor myself. A risk I stay here stuck in a rut. A risk I don’t take control of my own life. But each risk has its payoffs, and I need to decide which I want to go for.”

Recommended reading: July 23rd, 2018

This week’s recommended reading has a special theme: TCK perspectives. All the posts I’m recommending this week were written by TCKs reflecting on their experiences – as missionary kids, military kids, diplomatic kids, from and in various countries. I haven’t written much by way of  “summaries” of each piece. Instead I strongly recommend you go and read them. Most are short, and the power of first-person narratives is worth the extra clicks – I promise.

Growing Up Behind a Brick Wall
Global Nomads World
Alexa writes about living in a diplomatic compound in Russia. She paints a vivid picture of childhood experiences that draws you into her world there. She concludes by describing the strange experience of returning later:
…the true essence of the place is never-changing. . .And yet not a single thing is the same – except for that essence. No one recognizes you. It’s like coming back home after college but instead of all your family friends saying, “it’s nice to see you!” they say “it’s nice to meet you.”

Little Soldier
TCK Town
In this poignant piece, “Military Brat” Shannon reflects on her understanding of and relationship to her mother’s profession as a soldier. She also says something I’ve heard from lots of different TCKs, not just military kids: “I had to be on my best behavior for my parents’ sake. This kind of responsibility makes every member of the community feel like part of a team.

A Third Culture Kid’s Soul
This is Katha: thoughts of a traveling mind
Katha writes about the tension of wanting to go-explore-encounter, but also to stay and be rooted at home.
“Two souls rage inside of me. Telling me to go. Begging me to return and stay. . .I leave pieces of myself behind whenever I have to say goodbye. And then I travel to find them again.”

Free Verse: human mess
Embassy Kid
This is a lovely short poem about a mix of cultures in a single life and the tension that creates.

What is Going Home?
My Island Journeys
This post starting with a prompt about “going home”. What follows is a lovely set of memories around an IKEA, and learning to hold onto and let go of “home” in different places.
For me, going home was permission. Permission to concretely remember a place, and therefore to concretely admit that I’d left it. Permission to grow up, now that I had clear memories of the place that I’d left in a fog of grown-up-too-soon grief.

Life as a ‘Third Culture Kid’
The Gryphon
This is an older piece, but valuable for including short perspectives from four young women, each with (different) European passports. One of many standout quotes:
I feel obliged to identify as a Belgian, given my nationality. However, having just lived in Belgium for a year and a half, I don’t feel that’s completely accurate.”

A TCK’s Struggle with Depression
TCK Training
Aneurin talks about his struggle with depression, and how this struggle has interacted with his TCK experiences. Of particular note is the way he describes swinging from feeling his TCK experience was all good, to all bad. It’s much harder to exist in the shades of grey between extremes, but such an important skill to learn for long term emotional health.
I now know that mental illnesses are common like a cold. I also know that TCK’s are more prone than monocultural people to suffer from them. These illnesses are often our body’s response to traumatic events. . .I think being a TCK is amazing, but it needs to be done well. There are many challenges that need to be navigated, things like the challenges of transition or unresolved grief. We are a remarkably resilient people group, but we always need to get help from others, particularly when it comes to mental illnesses.

Home and Rootlessness – TCK Art Gallery
Noggy Bloggy
Finally, this post is from Aneurin’s regular blog, and introduces a TCK Art Gallery. The post showcases three pieces picked out by Michele Phoenix as particular favourites of hers. The gallery itself features a wide range of visual art, photography, and also poetry. Lots of beautiful work worthy of time and reflection.