About thethirdculturekidproject

Founded by 2 TCKs, the TCK Project aims to bring together TCKs and share our stories. " Many losses are often not acknowledged even by their own parents, and the main problem is unspoken, unrecognized, shunted aside." Through our story sharing, we want to speak of this main problem and cope together. If you're in Singapore, email us!

Almost Home

By Maria

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Some people have a very precise concept of home. They spend their entire lives in one city, know everyone that lives there and are familiar with every little nook and corner. The comfort and sense of belonging these people have is enviable at times.

Then there are those who have a hard time making sense of where home really is. Is it the country they were born in? Brought up in? Studied in? Or the one they’re currently residing in?

Home for me is every city and country I’ve lived in, learned to love and given a part of myself to. The world is my home and this is where I belong. What’s your idea of home?

Here’s a short poem that I wrote at a very emotional time. I was about to leave Houston after having completed my undergraduate degree.

“Almost home”

They say home is where the heart is

I say home is where –

You learn, you grow

You fall, you know

You miss, you are at bliss

You fight, you give

You discover, you prevail

You differentiate the real from the fake

You resist, you give in

You hold on and let go

Home is, where you learn to live.

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High Level Security

By Mehreen

Mehreen_Living In A Bubble, Behind Bars

Growing up as a third culture kid (TCK) I became fond of meeting new people everywhere I went, hearing their stories and experiencing their cultures. I felt liberated to explore endlessly, it gave me fuel and I thrived off this multi-cultural lifestyle.

By age 7 I was blessed to be conversational in three languages, to have already lived in 2 African countries and about to move to the 3rd, and none were of my parent’s origin. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to keep doing it again and again and again.

As free as I felt, much of my childhood was spent in a bubble, behind bars, in high level security homes. This might sound strange, but it was normal for me. All the houses I lived in had 10ft brick walls with electric barbed wire on top surrounding the boundaries of the property. All my friends also had similar security set ups, like I said, it was normal growing up in Africa. All the doors and windows had metal grills and gates. There were security alarm systems that would get triggered, even if a gecko crossed its path. Not to mention the 2 security guards that sat outside the house at night, taking turns walking the perimeter of the house every 30 minutes with a highly-trained German Shepard guard dog. It made me feel safe laying in my bed listening to the gravel shift and crunch beneath the security guard’s shoes as he would walk around the house. It was the “all clear” I needed that it was safe to go back to sleep. And I thought no more of it.

It was not until my family left Africa and moved to London that I felt like a fish out of water. I was 14 now. A little more mature. The new house had no brick walls surrounding it, no guards, no bars on the windows and no security system. I felt so exposed. My dad would walk the house every night making sure all the windows were shut and the doors were locked before he turned in for the night. He felt it too. I could tell. But he kept a tough exterior and tried not to let us catch wind of his protective instincts.

As a grown woman, I now realize how much I have been shaped by my past. I need all those security measures to feel safe, even in an affluential neighbourhood in Chicago. I had my husband install a security system in our home that had sensors on the doors and windows. It was almost unnecessary precaution. But without it I couldn’t sleep at night. I have recently moved again and all the insecurities are flourishing again. New house, new city, new everything and no security system.

Today my eyes and ears popped open when I heard the squeaking of the front door open at 5:30am. My kids asleep in their rooms and my husband out of town unexpectedly. I don’t own a baseball bat, or a gun and I didn’t have a knife by my bedside. What now? I listened for footsteps but didn’t hear any. My instincts kicked in and I turned my flashlight on my phone, typed in 911, kept my finger hovering over the green dial button and started my search. Kids still asleep. Check. Bathrooms clear. Check. Front door locked. Check. No one in the living room. No one in the play room. No one in the kitchen. No one in the laundry room. Phew! All the other entry points were locked. I left the lights on and went back to my room.

I missed those security guards so much today.

As a TCK we grow up in unique environments that not everyone can relate to. These environments shape us and make us who we are. They make us multilingual. They make us tolerant. They make us cautious. They make us vigilant. They may also give us anxieties no one else can relate to but other TCKs. However, we should not have to be apologetic for being who we are. Always be true to yourself. Love always.

 

The Day I Decided to Compromise

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When you’re a TCK, it feels like you’ll always have this feeling of restlessness. There’s so much to see and do in this world and yet, whatever you do, it feels like there’s so much more to do.

Your Facebook newsfeed is filled with photos from fellow TCK who you’ve met or gone to school with and now barely talked to. But they seem to have it covered. Perhaps they’ve settled in a country or perhaps they’re going to university somewhere and travel. The kind that make you wonder if there’s more you could add to your (already hectic) life.

Some have settled down and built a family. That can trigger a sense of envy because they’ve finally started growing roots somewhere, with someone.

I’ve reached a strange place where I’m not where I thought I’d be two years ago, but then again, do you ever really know? Yet, I’ve got this feeling I’ve found a place where I seen myself staying for at least another five years.

And the thought is less scary to me now then it used to be.

When I contemplate a situation and try to think long term, I feel like it’s not me thinking, it’s one of the different cultures I’m made up of, that takes the lead. To put it simply, with different cultures, I feel like there’s different futures available.

But I’ve learned to compromise. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to think long term. It’s okay to not have a clear idea of where you’ll be or what you actually want to do.

They say that being a TCK means you’re more able to take a job in any culture, and fit in but the truth is, you’re also more hesitant about what you want to do. Because when it comes to what you actually like doing, it depends on the different countries, the different people you have grown up with.

I’ve learned to compromise. Some activities will remain hobbies, others will become a part of your everyday life. It’s okay to not be able to do everything, see everyone, travel everywhere.

It’s not an obligation that comes with being a TCK. And while that may be obvious for some, I feel like it isn’t for others.

Settling down and compromising is not a TCK failure. It’s a fear but never see it as a failure.

#2017

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By Rebecca Coleman

               This year I wrote New Year’s resolutions. For those of you who might be asking “so what?” This is a huge deal for me. As a Nomad from birth, it’s always been hard for me to envision a future much beyond the next week. Between moving more times than I am old and never really having any stable or long lasting relationships outside of my immediate family, the future seemed more of a mystical realm, kind of like heaven. This thing that pretty much everyone agrees exists, but not really something that we, as humans can prove the validity of. Whenever younger me thought of the future, I always thought of events falling into place almost magically, everything woking itself out. Essentially, I thought the future wasn’t something that could really have an effect on in the present. Okay, so maybe I sound a bit fatalist, I might be, I’ll chalk that up to one of the effects of being raised in a Muslim country.

Anyways, back to my point. I’ve never been able to make any real, concrete new year’s resolutions. Some years I’d make a mental note of wanting to work out more or read more books. But those thoughts would be forgotten by January 3rd at the latest. Obviously the way I was approaching things was all-wrong.

2016 was definitely a “growing up” year for me. I had to face reality in a way that I’ve never had to before. Last year changed me in many different ways but think one of the largest, most important ways that it changed me was that I became a lot more realistic. As my entire fellow Nomads know, we’re dreamers. We dream of traveling, while simultaneously dreaming of having a stable home, of having friends that live down the street instead of on a different continent. We wish we had more money so we could travel more. We wish we had a flexible job that would allow us to jet off whenever we feel like it. We also daydream of being stable, getting married, having kids, buying a house and never moving again. You get my point. My mind was a constant juxtaposition between growing roots and taking flight. It was almost as if I lived my life out in my head and not in real life. So if 2016 taught me anything it taught me that while dreaming is nice and is sometimes the only thing that keeps you sane, reality is, well…reality. It’s important.

For my whole life I had never thought any further than graduating college. Can you imagine? I had never realistically thought about a real life beyond graduating with my degree. Then before I knew it, it happened. College was done and I freaked out. Cause now what? So instead of facing reality, I went right back to school and got a Masters degree. Phew, two more years of not having to think about the future. But then I graduated again, just 6 months ago. Again, “all of a sudden” I had nowhere else to turn, no other rock to hide under, I had to face reality, something I had arguably never had to think about before. Growing up, I floated wherever my parents’ jobs took us. Thailand, Canada, Guinea, and a whole slew of places in-between. All I had to worry about was making sure I packed plenty of reading material and a few snacks. Changing scenery, friends, and houses every other year made me really value the present. But it caused and imbalance. Before I realized how it affected me, I had no appreciation or real understanding of the importance of preparing for the future. It was something I ignored because I felt it was something that I couldn’t control. In my mind, well everything will just fall into place. Que sera sera or whatever.

So yeah, I graduated last July and I started applying for jobs, cause thats what you do after graduation, right? Well a month went by and nothing, two months went by and nothing. Guess what? Here we are in January of 2017 and I’m still jobless. Now, I could blame my predicament on a lot of different factors; my major, the economy, my location, my ill preparedness, but the fact still stands that whatever the reason may be, I have no job and boy, was I not prepared for that. You mean things don’t work out in real life like they do in our imaginations?? All my daydreaming of landing that perfect job right after graduation hadn’t transferred into real life for some reason. Oddly enough that was quite a shock for me.

I’ve taken many personality/strength weakness tests and one aspect that has consistently been my biggest opportunity for growth throughout my life is my inability to “manage a purpose or vision”, basically I refuse to speculate about an unknown future. Until very recently I had just accepted this weakness as everlasting (how defeatist is that?). But after many tears, a lot of denial, and finally some deep soul searching I realized that I had to take control of my future. I finally understood that despite the fact that I may not be able to control everything, I still have a duty to both my current and future self to make sure I am always in the best state of preparedness as possible.

So on December 30th, 2016 I set out to write my first new year’s resolutions of my entire life. Honestly, they came to me a lot more easily than I thought they would. I saw so many aspects of my life that I knew I needed to change. I saw so many opportunities for growth and future improvement. When I was done I showed my list to my boyfriend. His first words:

“It’s so long.”

In my determination I had written a whole page of detailed goals, resolutions, statements, and affirmations that I made to myself in 2017. Well, yeah, of course its long. They were 25 years in the making!

This year, I feel like for the first time in my life I have a sense of purpose. I’m beginning to find that balance between daydreaming about what you can’t control and actively pursuing your personal zenith in those things that you can control. Its a really good feeling. I don’t feel overwhelmed by my resolutions, instead I feel a drive to reach these goals and improve this person that I’m representing for the rest of my life. Does this make me feel less Nomad? Yes, yes it does. Having this sense of purpose makes me feel slightly more “normal” you know, like a regular person who was born and grew up in the same city. But hey, that’s okay. I’m not losing myself in the process, I’m just becoming a better, more prepared me. I never thought I’d reach this point of planning and preparedness, because honestly, I’d never done it before.

But I never want to be in the place that I was in last year, where I was doubting myself and my abilities simply because I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to put some failsafe in place in case of unexpected life turns. If you’ve been able to follow my ramblings thus far, thank you. If you’ve made it this far but still have no clue what I’m saying, I’m sorry, let me help. So what am I saying here? Simply this; I’ve finally found the value in actively pursuing the future that I want for myself. The dots between the decisions that I make today and the affect that they have on tomorrow have finally connected for me. All in all, I’m thankful for the lessons that I learned in 2016. I’m starting this year out as a more balanced individual. I’m still very much a daydreamer; just a slightly more goal oriented one.

And for those if you who are wondering, no, I haven’t thought past 2017. Geez, baby steps, guys.

That One Thing We Don’t Talk About.

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The whole of a sum.

Whether you’re a TCK, multicultural or biracial, you must have felt it. Having no real sense of belonging. Or, maybe, not the same sense of belonging as some of your peers which live where they were born. And they’re probably going to be get married, have kids and retire in the same place.

There’s no good or bad. They say the grass is always greener on the other side and this is exactly why I wanted to write a blog post today. I want to talk about that feeling of envy I get when I see people who are a single number. Not a sum of cultures, various heritage and traditions. Just people who are a single number.

On a side note – I don’t think no one is ever truly a “single number” or made up of a single culture. Watch this beautiful piece to see what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7FhU-G1_Q

I guess I’m referring to people who feel, act and believe with one culture. Sure, they’ve perhaps traveled a few times  here and there but they know where their comfort zone lies. Well, I’m going to be honest, I’m jealous. I wish I had that kind of stability. That sense of belonging you must feel. Your everyday of a lifetime. You’ll grow, experiences a lot, disappointment like the simple joys of life but you’ll always be anchored to a single place.

I wish I had that friend that has been there from the start. The friend I grew up with. Not a friend who I see once every 5 years for an hour. Not a friend that is becoming someone else, simply going along with whatever environment they are now. Like a chameleon.

I wish my family was next door, in the same town or even the same country. I wish I would be able to have dinner with them every Sunday night or maybe every two weeks. Give them a simple call to catch up. Now it’s all likes and comments, some private messages and perhaps pokes to spark up a conversation that should have happened three weeks ago.

Everyone thinks you’re just strolling through life, achieving whatever and being totally independent. Truth? Sometimes, you feel so lonely and wish I had a constant in life.

What hurts the most is people who have had that group of friends since they were kids. I wish I had that too.

But you know what? Like written earlier, the grass will always be greener on the other side. Perhaps people with that stability seek that wanderlust you think we portray, or maybe they’d like to experience something different. Another language, another culture, another country.

There will always be pros and cons to everything. 

Third Culture Kids Are The Best Chameleons

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I’m done pretending I’m on a single side.

Truth is, I’m in-between and I’ve always been. On the surface, it seems like we connect and don’t get me wrong, we do connect on several points. Yet, there are moments where it’s like a cold shower, I realise how far apart we are on some points.

And it’s scary, in a way. It’s scary to feel so disconnected all the sudden. Worrying even. Being in-between, you’ll never fit in. If you’re in between cultures, you’ll never truly escape one or truly follow one.

There will always be this part of you, slowly creeping in when you least expect it. You remember that you’re kind of lying to yourself, all over again. You will never “totally fit in” one culture or escape another.

Multiple cultures are exactly what’s making you, you. And it’s not easy when you’re surrounded by people who might not get it. They speak one language, have a certain way of life they’ve had since the start, a country they’ve been in their whole life and feel truly attached to. Yet, you sometimes feel obligated to duplicate yourself just so a part of you can feel truly apart of whatever culture you’re surrounded with.

That sense of belonging you’re looking for? You will never get it by trying to mould yourself into a certain person. They say TCKs are the real chameleons, and they are. If you’re constantly looking to blend into whatever environment you are in by denying parts of you, you’re simply lying to yourself.

We’re all constantly trying to build our identity but the trouble for third culture kids is that we’re juggling with multiple identities, all with the potential to grow. How do you make the perfect blend of these identities without feeling like you are a total outlier?

TCK Project #4 – Lily

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What do you usually say if someone asks you where you’re from?

Singapore! Having grown up here for 18 years it’s where I’ve made most of my childhood memories so it’s only natural to call myself Singaporean.

What different cultures are you “made up of”?

American, Australian, Chinese, Singaporean

How has that impacted your education/career? 

Depends on who I talk to – It’s very much the opposite for me. My education and career were what has allowed me to meet people from different cultures and brought me to different countries all over the world. Since young, I was sent off to boarding school every other summer. I bounced around between Australia and China most of the time where I usually attend intensive language school classes. It was really uncomfortable in the beginning cause I never fit in with the kids of either countries – to them I just wasn’t Chinese enough nor Australian enough. Communicating was hard even though I spoke both languages – I didn’t sound like them or spoke as fluently as they did. But I eventually got over these hurdles and was able to assimilate into my respective boarding schools, through changing the way I spoke to adopt their accents and their lingo.

Then during high school, a similar thing happened where I got pulled out of local school in the middle of Sec 4 and transferred to an international school for 2 years. This was another rather difficult transition period for me as high school teenagers were much more unforgiving and unfriendly. Again, I had to go through the whole process of changing the way I spoke, acted and presented myself in front of my classmates. At first I was worried this would change me a lot and I did feel uncomfortable and unhappy at one point but after finding a group of friends who were going through the same in-between experiences as me, it made me feel a lot better.

All of these combined experiences did, however, help me assimilate a lot better when I went off to America for college.

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Have you ever felt the “need” to fight racism? Or counter ignorant statements about different cultures?

Yes and no. I’ve haven’t really experienced outright racism and neither am I a really vocal person about racism but I do experience racially-charged micro-aggressions from time to time, and that’s something I’ll be vocal about if it angers me personally. For example, it’s commonplace for people to hate on Chinese nationals because of the different way they talk and act, and this is especially so in foreign countries. The most frequent display of this takes form of shunning the “unruly, rude Chinese tourist”, and it bothers me when someone speaks ill of “Chinese tourists” or treats us differently out of biasness and presumptions about my race. Having been brought up with strong Chinese heritage and roots, this stereotype is extremely harmful and hurtful, especially when I see my family being treated poorly while travelling abroad on holiday. I’ve seen both my mom and dad having to speak up against waiters and customer service reps for overlooking service towards us on certain occasions, and I’ve had to verbally tell people off for using racial slurs or making racial jokes towards my Asian friends and I when we travel in groups.

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What country is “home” to you currently and why?

Now it’s pretty split between LA and Singapore. A huge part of my identity is split between these two countries and I have a strong longing for LA because the city is just so exciting and new to me, and with a large portion of my college friends still working and living in LA it’s a no-brainer to want to be back in LA. With Singapore, it reminds me a lot of my childhood and the nostalgia associated with the country is what makes it my other home.

Which TCK are you?

Somewhere between (1) “A TCK who fits the system” & (2) “A TCK who doesn’t fit the system but attempts to conform” . Attempting to conform (2) definitely relates strongly to the first half of my life, growing up between China, Australia and Singapore, and also through high school. Whereas I’ve morphed into a full (1) after years of fully assimilating into a multi-cultural individual. It’s almost like I have an on and off switch – I act differently and speak different in different setting, countries, and around different people. I blend so well into crowds that I feel like I can fit in anywhere now!

Do you picture yourself settling in a specific country? Why?

Yes, probably LA or London. I feel a strong connection to LA and in my head it’s always like a dream land for me. I’d love to go back if I could and settle down there. London will be my second choice just because my best friend is there. It’s always been part of our life plan to just live with each other for about a year or and fully experience life and growing up as adults together.