Being a TCK: a Summary

Due to time constraints (as in, I have almost no time these days), I’m going to wrap up this series of articles on what it is like to be a TCK (third culture kid). To be someone who was born one place and raised in another place (or places) is to be someone who is caught in the middle of many cultures and who finds herself or himself attempting to reconcile so many facets of a complex life. I have already discussed several topics connecting to being a TCK, so in this article, I’ll attempt to tie them all together through a summary and collection of my own experiences.

[dropcap4 bgColor=”#751313″]B[/dropcap4]eing a TCK is to eat weird and exotic foods. I’ve consumed the following over my lifetime: warthog, crocodile, wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, yak, crickets, beef tongue, octopus, squid, sea urchin, eel, durian (in candies only), custard apples, starfruit, passion fruit, breadfruit, jack fruit, papaya, mangoes, and the list goes on. I used to own a shirt with the slogan, “Ate it. Done it. Been there.” Fitting!

Being a TCK is to travel the world. Some TCKs travel extensively. For myself, I have moved fifty times (and I can prove it). I’ve lived in five countries on three different continents. I’ve been to four continents. I’ve visited 28 states in the US. I’ve been to 31 countries around the world. I’ve seen a lot, and I want to see more.

Starbucks in Chiang Mai Thailand
on the Starbucks terrace in Chiang Mai

Being a TCK is to live within unexpected realities. During a college trip to Thailand, I sat on an upstairs verandah, overlooking a bustling outdoor market in Chiang Mai, sipping my Starbucks coffee. Just that morning, I had enjoyed a quiet time at the hotel where we were staying, inhaling the floral soapy smell of incense burning at a nearby Buddhist shrine.

Being a TCK is to see the world through multiple lenses. Having been exposed to so many different viewpoints – cultural, religious, socioeconomic – a TCK is usually able to examine situations from numerous perspectives. For this reason, many TCKs choose to pursue career paths that dovetail with this ability, becoming diplomats, social justice advocates, peace negotiators, counselors, etc. Part of this means recognizing our privilege and turning it around to affect change in the world.

Jubilee House in Badlapur
Sanju and me in Badlapur, India

Being a TCK is to experience life on a wide spectrum. I’ve sat in quiet mourning with a family from our church in N’Djaména after they lost a young daughter to malaria. In that hushed time, I understood that words cannot express compassion the way a physical presence can. In a different time and place, young orphans brought me laughter by their giddy joie de vivre, reminding me of what Golda Meir said about, “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.” Unless you understand the tragedies of the world, you cannot appreciate its goodness.

Being a TCK is to blend in and to stand out. Wherever I go, I will find ways to fit into my new circumstances, but even as I do so, there will come a time where I will stand out. In the US, I stand out only once people get to know me. They realize that although I’m American, I have vastly different life circumstances and that what I find comforting and homey seems unusual and foreign to them.

Being a TCK is to undergo longing. I long for Africa – my home. I long for relationships long past. With so much moving came so many goodbyes. I long for sights and smells, tastes and sounds. I long for weather patterns like Harmattan and rainy season. I long to relive my memories and to create new ones. Having tasted so much of life, I realize how much of life I have yet to know.

I could go on and on about being a TCK – people write books on the subject – but I hope that this series of articles has been both interesting and informative. If you have questions on the topic, please feel free to ask me! If you are a TCK, know that you aren’t alone. If you know a TCK, enjoy getting to know them!

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Dormouse

Bilingual (and a half) white girl who spent thirteen of her formative years in Africa. She is a writer, mentor, coffee drinker, wife, cat owner, language lover, photography dabbler, aspiring speaker, and a lifetime student. She keeps her writing going over at ellayneshaw.com.

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