Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

To TCKs Who are Launching into Adult Life

I saw this post about TCKs (Third Culture Kids) on Buzzfeed the other day and it got me thinking.  For one thing, how mainstream is being a TCK getting to be these days?  Well after all our president is one, so maybe it's all the rage.

I've seen posts similar to this before and it always strikes me that I'm old because I see something about use of social media and think "you kids today have it so easy!"  When I was your age it cost a dollar a minute for a bad connection on a land line which fortunately my parents finally had in their actual house.  I also think I'm old because I don't even know what some of the forms of social media listed are or how to use them.

I also think that I was never really cut out to be a TCK and am maybe not a good representative of what they are like as adults because I never have liked to travel and don't even know where my passport is.  But I have actually discovered some forms of social media (mostly Facebook) so I know that many of my classmates from the old days also stick pretty close to home.

Which leads me to my final thought and the one that motivated me to write this post.  I want to let TCKs who are just finishing high school and trying to figure out where they belong in the world that some parts of being a TCK get easier over time.  It's true that you never completely grow out of it.  You will probably always eat rice by pushing it with a fork onto a big spoon (that works way better - why change it?).  You may always gravitate toward people from other countries or have an accent that people find confusing.  But there's a good chance that you won't always feel like you don't belong anywhere.  And that "deer in the headlights" feeling you get when someone asks you where you are from will probably fade.

Let me explain.  No.  There is too much.  Let me sum up.  For starters, college.  Everybody there feels a little displaced.  Many are leaving "home" for the first time and just about everyone is meeting for the first time.  So it's on people's mind and they ask "Where are you from?"  Hate that, right?  Because what are they really asking?  What country are you a citizen of?  Where did you spend the most time growing up?  What culture do you identify the most strongly with?  Where will you be going over Christmas break or for the summer?  It's possible that every one of these questions has a different answer.  And then you have to figure out how much they really want to know.  Why are they asking?  How long will they listen?  How much do I really want to think about it right now?

And you don't know anyone and you really want some people to understand.  So you tell the story a lot.  Over time a couple of things happen.  Even while you're still in college you build up a group of friends who knows the story.  Some of them get it, some don't.  You may find some other TCKs.  You may hang out with international students.  But people ask you where you're from less often.

Then you graduate from college.  You get a job.  And from what I can tell lots of people end up finding some place that they call "home."  Some keep moving around or choose the multi-country lifestyle they grew up with but many pick a country and stick with it.  A town even.  Lots of jobs kind of require this. 

What happened to me, eventually, was that I stopped feeling like I had the initials TCK tattooed across my forehead.  I could have whole conversations with people I had never met before and it would never come up.  I could even know someone for months or years without them finding out where I had grown up.  This was not because I was ashamed of my background or even because they were particularly unfriendly or uninterested in me.  It was just because the relationships had specific foundations and purposes that did not require us to ask "Where are you from?"  And also because, after you live some place for a while that is actually where you are from.  Usually.  Sort of.  Enough that doesn't keep coming up in conversation.  Lots of people grew up somewhere other than where they are now living and it's not something people always try to figure out about each other right away.

But it does come up sometimes.  And you do have to get through that initial manic get-to-know-you college time.  So here's my take on how to get through it with the least stress possible:  Have a short answer ready.  Decide ahead of time how you are going to answer the question.  I still use the phrase "I'm originally from...." which works for me because I was born in the town that both my parents grew up in and where I still have extended family living.  But you may need a different phrase like "My family moved around a lot."  Just realize that you are in control of who gets what information.  Not everyone needs the full story.  Some people will be interested and when you get a chance to tell it go for it.  It will help you build that network that will give you a place to belong.

So that about sums it up for now.  Have fun storming the castle!


  1. Hey Rachel, I just wanted to take the time to tell you I really appreciated this post. It's so hopeful, and I shared it in several FB groups I'm in. I know you went on to describe in later posts how being a TCK wasn't really a great experience for you. I think that actually makes the message of this post stronger -- that the bad things that happen, the awkward things, if you wait long enough, they won't be in your face as much, and life will be a little simpler. Anyway, just wanted to tell you I appreciated it. Also. Love the Princess Bride. We clearly have some similar taste in movies so it would be fun some day to sit down and talk about other faves :) ~Elizabeth

    1. Thanks! I guess it's that old proverb of "times heals" in part. But I do feel that if I can get through to a place of greater peace that many others can too. I know that lots of folks are paying attention to how to help MKs have the best experience possible which is a comfort to me.