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.

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?

A Different Kind of Christmas

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Spending your Christmas far away from your family is not unusual for TCKs, although it does remain surprising to others who have never spent a Christmas away from their loved ones. I still remember the look on my college’s face when she asked where I was spending Christmas. It’s during these kinds of times where you might end up questioning your choices. Although I’ve spent a total of 3 Christmas days away from family in the past 23 years, the most painful one was this year.

I feel that it’s because, as you grow older, you tend to realise how important family is and that feeling echoes in everyone’s hearts whether they are a TCK or not. Especially if you have a religious background, Christmas is a time where you are bound to reunite with the family, no questions asked. The first two Christmas days I spent apart from the family seemed like no big deal.I was used to this whole moving around thing. However, as a TCK, it feels like the more I’ve grown older and have had the possibility to make my own choices as to where I want to live, the more I’ve realised that I could define home as wherever my family was.

This year, I’m about 7,364 kilometres away from home. In a country where it doesn’t snow and where they don’t actually celebrate Christmas. My family got together and had a nice home cooked Christmas dinner. Any regrets? None. It’s painful only because I simply miss them and because, well, I’ve realised how important family is.

When you move around and change cities, countries or school, family is the only constant you’ll have which is why, they’re pretty much your “home”. And you realise that even more when you spend Christmas with a loving family who is extremely close with one another. 

Home: A Place in the Hearts of My Loved Ones

By Rafia A.

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“So, where are you from?”

That is the question we TCKs continuously face problems answering. That is also the question I was recently asked by a freshman while showing him around our university. For the first time in my life upon being asked this question, I paused for three eternal seconds and proceeded to lie and say, “Oh, I’m just from here.”

I’m a TCK of Indian origin who has spent majority of her life living outside of India. I lived here for a short period during fifth and sixth grade, and later returned back two years ago to start college. Today, at 20 years of age, I am an Indian who does not feel a sense of belonging to her country and struggles to call it her home.

To me the concept of having to identify with a place and to call it my home was never an issue that boggled me. It was simple – the place where I was currently residing was home. Therefore, home was always a physical entity in which I was omnipresent. Well, all until now.

Recently, I found out that in a few months my parents and my little sister will be moving to a new city. Unlike past times, this time I will not be embarking with them on their expedition to unravel our family’s new destination. Instead I’ll be staying in Delhi, accompanied by extended family members and friends yet feeling all alone, while my parents will be alone in a foreign land, but accompanied by each other. Is it weird for me to think I won’t hesitate to call that new city my home as opposed to Delhi? That I’ll always connect with the foreign more than I ever will with the familiar?

But what does this all mean? Having spent some time pondering on why I struggled to answer the freshman’s question on where I was from made me realised a few things. This struggle was because of my newfound complexity of “home” which contradicts majority of my previous beliefs. What I can decipher and establish from my influx of emotions and thoughts is that home is not a physical entity nor is it static. Home is an abstract place in the hearts of my loved ones – wherever they go, my sanctuary will follow.

So to the freshman who asked me where I’m from, and others who will follow – I am a third culture kid of Indian origin who has grown up in five other countries, aside from India. I do not have one home instead I have many homes that reside in every corner of the world, depending my loved ones presently are.