I would just like to tell you that you are not alone.
You get overwhelmed by Walmart sometimes? Don’t worry, me too.
You get overwhelmed at the amount of smoke machine churches in America use? Don’t worry, me too.
You avoid the question “Where are you from?” at all costs? Don’t worry, me too.
Ok, let me back up a little bit.
For anyone reading this who has no clue what a TCK is, allow me to assist you:
Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.
So, I am a TCK. Anyone who has lived in more than one culture for a significant amount of time is a TCK. I lived in Europe for 8 years and have just recently moved back to start University in Mobile, Alabama.
Ever since I moved back to the States for University, I get asked a lot “What was it like to live in Europe?” And as simple as that question is, the answer is loaded. I lived in four different countries within Europe and all of those cultures are different and some of them I know better than others. But to sum up my answer (that would be WAY too long to actually answer someone in person):
The constant change and constant telling of goodbyes induced a lot of tears. But the hellos were so worth the goodbyes. The friendships made were friendships that will never, ever die despite where any of us are in this world. I have seen more countries than many of my elders will ever see in their lifetime and I plan to never take that for granted. I learned how to love those who are different than me and appreciate our differences in background, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. I also learned that I really like coffee and that Europeans really like it too. I learned to appreciate history as I walked up Mars Hill in Greece and realized I was walking on the same stones Paul walked on so many years ago (talk about a humbling experience). My love of fashion grew as I noticed that even through 6 feet of snow, Russian women love to stilettos and somehow they never fell. I learned to appreciate flowers and plants as I noticed that gardening is an important part of German culture. I learned to appreciate music as I was able to listen to a live symphony in Venice, Italy for my senior trip. But most of all, I was able to understand deep rooted friendship. Friendship is so much more than hanging out and having a good time. Being a TCK taught me that friendship is about doing life with people. It’s about sitting down and mourning with someone through deep sadness. It’s about rejoicing in the moments that we smile. It’s about sharing your soul with people. It’s about the little moments of conversation and coffee on the rainy days and dancing on the sunny days. It’s about calling your best friend from across the ocean instead of going to class (sorry, mom) and crying a little bit because you have no clue what you’re doing with your life. It’s about listening to your best friend from across the ocean share their heart with you in that moment where they don’t know what they’re doing with their life, either. It’s more than just having fun together and enjoying one another’s company. These kinds of friendships are deep rooted, soul-knowing, and so precious. That is the BEST part of being a TCK.
So if you’re still reading after all of that, you’re probably thinking, “ok, that sounds nice. But why are you writing about that?”
Well, friends, because sometimes I look back on all the types of things I’ve experiences, like some of the ones I mentioned above, and I think, “So what, now?”
And the reason I’m writing all of this to the public instead of in my journal, is because I am positive I am not the only one.
TCK friends, I hope you know you are not alone in this fight against the “T” word. (Transition. Yeah, I know, we all hate that word.)
So, you live this beautiful, sometimes fairy-tale like life and then you move somewhere for college/University and you’re like “Holy crap, what am I doing?” And sometimes America is really confusing and that only fuels the question even more.
I’m not going to lie, looking back on when I graduated high school about a year ago, I see a lot of pride in myself. I thought that moving back to America would be so easy for me because I have always loved America and I believed I was more American than my other TCK friends (embarrassing to admit, but being transparent is the only way to really convey the point in my post.) At first, things were great. Then I realized I didn’t know everything in the world (shocker). I started realizing I didn’t know the rules of football, an important part of American culture in the South. I also didn’t know how to not spend a 100 dollars in one trip to Walmart because for the first time in a long time, everything I could ever want was in one grocery store. (Like, I’m talking up to 40 choices for cereal. Are you kidding me?! I’lll take them all.) I also realized driving is a lot harder and scarier than I thought it would be and when others realized I haven’t had almost any experience driving a car, nobody wanted to ride with me (Um…kind of embarrassing.) I was also given weird looks when I told them I didn’t even have a car, yet. When others started to laugh at me when I didn’t know what certain things were, it got even more embarrassing.
Ok, so this sounds super depressing but that’s not the point I want to end on. All of this happened because I thought I had it all together, and when I started to realize that nobody has it all together, I started to feel a lot better. Again, I’m writing all of this for those of you who have experienced this and feel embarrassed alone.
I want you to know that you aren’t.
Culture shock is a totally real thing, even when moving back to your home country. Because we don’t ever really know where home is. There are so many parts of this beautiful Earth that we can claim as our homes yet never really feel at home all at the same time. Confusing, I know.
So…Dear TCK friends,
I want you to know that America confuses me too.
I want you to know that I don’t know where home is, either.
I was you to know that it is totally possible not to buy all 40 different types of cereal at Walmart.
I want you to know it’s ok to not have a car.
I want you to know that it’s ok to not know American idioms.
I want you to know it’s ok to talk with a funny accent that sounds different from your American friends.
I want you to know that you have every right to dress in the clothes you wore overseas, but that seem weird to people here.
I want you to know that you have every right to tell your stories to people.
I want you to know that there is absolutely no shame is not knowing how to answer the dreaded “Where are you from?” question.
I want you to know that the best part about us is that we are different.
I want you to know that it’s ok to break down sometimes.
I want you to know that it’s ok to not be ok.
I want you to know that YOU are NOT alone.
I want you to know that I am a Facebook message, text, or call away if you ever want to talk.
I want you to know that we are a family.
I want you to know that I love you.
For anyone reading this who is not a TCK, here are some tips to make TCK’s feel more loved and welcome:
Please don’t make fun of us when we don’t know your culture. If someone doesn’t understand a situation, lovingly explain it to them rather than making fun of them. You can say “I’m just joking” but eventually being made fun of for something we can’t control results in insecurity and resentment.
Please don’t make us feel bad or pretentious for seeing a lot of the world. We love to talk about the TCK life.
Please don’t make us feel bad for not knowing how to drive so well–just help us understand it.
Most of all, just love us where we are at. Don’t expect any TCK to know how things work immediately. It takes time, love, and patience.
If you’re still reading after all of those words, I’m flattered.
Thank you for taking the time to read what is on my heart.