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.

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Pulling Out The Pushes Of My Past

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By Rafia A

Growing up as a third culture kid there was one aspect about myself that I deeply despised – my inability to allow people to get close to me. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t a lonely kid with no friends. I was actually quite the opposite. In all of the friend circles I have formed over my constant moves, I always acquired the status of the funny, eccentric friend who kept the group molded together. I would always be the one to initiate making plans to hang out together. I would always solve inter-friendship problems. I would let my friends pour out their hearts to me and help them heal with my wise words. I was everyone’s and anyone’s best friend at any given time.

Well, I let them all believe so. To be someone’s best friend, their designated care giver, the action has to be mutual right? Well with me it never has been because I’ve never let it be so. For some unknown, inexplicable reason to teenage me, all of her most precious friendships always ended up in shambles. She didn’t know why, but 20 year old me does. Up until now I was always curious to why I pushed people away. It’s not like I sat myself down one day to brainstorm and then decided to become this way… instead this act of pushing people away has had inherent, natural roots.

After having pondered on why I am the way I am for many months, I have come to one conclusion: TCKs may form an inherent separation mechanism, in an attempt conducting a pre-mortem for the possibility of failed relationships or experiencing immense pain. They prevent anyone from getting close before they even have the chance to end up hurt by the relationship’s consequences. This mechanism arises out of defense of the TCK’s feelings as subconsciously it is aware that it has to leave, and thus everything has to come to an end. Hence, to control it’s feelings, the TCK makes the weirdishly mature decision of inhibiting proximal relationships by pushing people, who violate this sanction, away. It may seem a little exaggerated, but hey it’s why I do what I do and apparently is something a few of my other friends resonate with.

It sounds crazy, dramatic, over the top, but its true. I have never let anyone get close to me because I do not want to end up hurt once I leave them. If anyone ever exerted themselves in trying to push past my boundary, I would change myself towards them and work on pushing them away. I always thought that it was for the best. Now having been somewhat sedentary in my home country for the past two and a half years, I am forcing myself to denature this mechanism of mine and instead let myself experience the reality of emotions. I regret being this way and ruining many friendships, all for the sake of protecting them from any future harm.

Sometimes, it’s okay to feel vulnerable. It’s okay to experience pain. It’s normal, unlike what the TCK is used to.

The Day I Decided to Trust You

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As a TCK, you never really expect to be in a “fixed and final” phase, especially when in a relationship. Well, a couple years ago, I’ve found myself in a relationship of close to 3 years (quite an achievement for a TCK right?) To be honest, at that point, I thought I was settled but there was something within me, pulling me back to the country where I spent more than half of my life. A country that shaped me. And I’ve realised, that itch is always going to be there, no matter what.  It turned out that I got the opportunity to head back to where I grew up, which was on a 13 hour plane ride away from where we were. It turns out that he followed along, for 4 months. It’s been said that if you really want to get a know a person, travel together. Well, it was exactly that.

I discovered another side of someone I thought I knew, a side I really did not like. Someone who criticised, despised and humiliated a country that meant too much to me. At that point, something broke inside me and I knew this was it. I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. We broke up, and I was on to a phase I don’t really have words for. Being stubborn, I have trouble admitting things but I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t well although I thought I was. I was now out of a comfort zone I had established for myself, something I could hang on and relate to. And I wanted to find that again yet not too much because I didn’t want to feel “trapped”. A nice oxymoron but I guess you could say it was typical of a TCK.

After quite a bit of failed attempts to rebuild myself, I found you. Now you were something else. You were the only one who remained through the stormy self I was. You stuck through the chaotic me and better yet, you opened my eyes. I just plainly wasn’t well. It’s tough to hear people define “normal” to you when you’re a TCK. You end up asking yourself if they even know what normal means. You also tend to think you know more, about different cultures or ways of life when you’re a TCK. This is normal, and it’s also due to the fact that you’ve might have dealt with ignorance, especially when you head back to your home country after having lived abroad for many years and you try to share your story with classmates who have never traveled. You tend to be jaded.

You made me see things in a different way. I’ve felt like I gained a better understanding of the world and people in general. Most importantly, I gained a better understanding of myself. My reactions, my outbursts or my thoughts. You took the time to understand why I would think, say things or act a certain way at a certain time. This numbness I’ve felt as a TCK, incompleteness, uncertainty, you’ve addressed. It’s you took apart every piece of me to put it back together in the best way possible. And I’m not going to lie, it’s been a painful and slow process but I think we’re on the right track.

The only dark cloud is the uncertainty of keeping you.

Having lost my friends over and over again. Having completely changed lives more than once. Adapting and readapting over and over and over again. The following have shaped me to believe that perhaps, one day you’ll leave. Or maybe, one day I’ll leave. I’m used to thinking this is all temporary and you can’t blame me. But I know one thing, you’re the only consistency I wouldn’t mind keeping.

Thoughts on being in a relationship when you’re a TCK

By Angharad

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Relationships, feel hard to trust.

At least for me they do.

Not all relationships.

Casual ones usually serve a purpose and then are done or always remain casual but intimate long term /deep /committed /loving /supportive/ fun /adventurous ones have never been something that I’ve felt like I’m good with, therefore I haven’t trusted them. And If they are coated in sex and romance I definitely have messed it up.

I’m in the process right now of deciding to be with a person for a long time. She’s wonderful and patient. Loving and kind. She’s been in her own process and sees mine. She supports it. And its fucking scary as shit. I also have other humans that I am dating, sleeping with, being in love with, and sharing time with. I practice ethical non-monogamy.

I have never, and will never, just take what is expected and run with it. Breaking something down and understanding how I want things to be is what works for me. So, naturally, I do that with relationships. So…

The idea of daily longevity is new.

See I have longevity with some people, my eldest friends that I’ve known since infancy but we’ve never lived in the same place, my nuclear and extended family, college friends, and random smatterings of childhood friends.

But I can pick and choose what parts they know – I can choose to distance the intimate and vulnerable parts of me. And I’m really good at learning what makes people feel seen, charmed, and connected to. I’ve met many people. 10 significant moves in my 30 years of life and daily connections in small ways. Moving let me work beautifully on that skill. I’m really good at the first part of relationships, I know how to get people to like me. I know what parts of me to let shine to get people to want to spend time with me. I am genuinely myself, just not all of me all the time to everybody- definitely not initially.

I’ve learnt to be kind, charismatic, charming, and enthusiastic when meeting people- this often results in people believing that we have a close intimate relationship and me feeling like I am holding so much space for other people. I often can get people to show me their depth without sharing much of mine.

When I was younger I rarely was home- I love my family, a lot. We were tight as a young family, our love is deep. It has to be when you are the only constant in each other’s lives and I wanted to be out with my friends, doing, being, experiencing. I socialized and did things a lot. Home was where I rested, ate, and had my big feelings.

This is true now. I hibernate when I am home. I spent time alone. I sit. I cry. I smoke. I write. I bathe. I have big feelings. I also spend a lot more time at home now than when I was younger, probably because I’m the only one there.

My relationship with myself as increasingly grown to be the most important one I have. I’ve found that when I place myself in primary focus my other relationships are stronger. I charm easier, delve deeper, connected more, and sustain longer.

That trust in relationship, I’m learning, is formed from trust in the self. From knowing the self. From staying planted in the self and interacting from what you need. All relationships have to stem from the self. The primary relationship. You as the focus. The one that can be the hardest to access and to be fully committed to at all times.

This is how I learn to trust other relationships, I trust myself first.

No Holding Back Infinity

By Rachel

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He and I used to go to the same karaoke bar.  A guitarist in a band, he had flowing curls and a devil-may-care manner about him.  So I went ahead and did what any woman with rock n’ roll dreams would.  I slept with him.

We had a pub dinner together some time afterwards and that’s where it died.  We couldn’t talk to each other.  I found his dimensions singular, even if he did play a damn fine cover of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”  I’m not sure what he thought about me. Pretentious? Annoying? Eventually we fell into mild irritation, then apathy.

C’est la vie.  These things are short lived, thank goodness.

From a TCK perspective relationships can be nebulous, difficult, the very definition of “it’s complicated”.  Even writing this piece is not easy, as I try hard not to misstep.  It’s because we are limitless, so many combinations, an identity composed of many identities, absolutely impossible to generalize.  As I write I am wondering; how many of you are LGBTQ?  Will your parents be involved in the process of choosing your spouse? Do you go from one thrilling encounter to the next, do you not date at all?  The TCK spectrum of social, cultural, sub-cultural and sexual identities is an extraordinary galaxy.

From my small corner, I have friends who are in arranged marriages, elaborate tales of parents-meet-parents-meets-boy-meets-girl.

These relationships are kind, loving, respectful and thriving.

I also have same-sex friends who are in a committed relationship with one another, whose big, transcendent love racks up frequent flier miles due to them being continents apart.

Their relationship is kind, loving, respectful and thriving.

And don’t get me started on polygyny, polyamory and other combinations – they work too (although it requires serious time management skills).

When talking about love across countries, cultures and identities the only certainty is infinity.

There is no template, no script to follow.

So in all this, what can be said about relationships, particularly relationships that TCK’s may find themselves in?  

Well, from my perspective (and please keep in mind, it’s only one way of looking at things) I’ve found that curiosity is a real asset.

Strange, isn’t it?  But hear me out.

Curiosity is the first step on the path.  You need it to start a conversation, to open a door, to have adventures. Opening doors, crossing boundaries, exploring – it’s what we know, right?

Curiosity is vital to being a part of the world, and I don’t know any TCK who thinks, “I wish my world was smaller. Must remember to build that wall.”  You may as well burn your passport.

So don’t waste time with anyone who wants to make your world small. Don’t spend time with those who are not curious, who aren’t interested, who won’t see possibilities and be excited by them.

I said that there’s no template.  However, there are some attributes and philosophies that can help smooth the way.

Open-mindedness.  The celebration of growth.  A willingness to embrace change.  Largeness of heart.  Having intelligent, informed, passionate conversations.  Being fascinated by the world and wanting to be a part of it. These are all good places to start.

On a personal note, I am engaged to a non-TCK, so this is possible even if your significant other grew up completely differently from you.  It’s a sturdy and joyful relationship, one which has weathered frustrations, tragedies and setbacks.  We love (and like) one another very much.

It is also big and generous, like a sprawling tree with deep roots and far-reaching branches.  We know that we are home to one another.  We also know that we can journey far away and have our own adventures, be our own selves.  I am fortunate knowing that I can hop on a plane and meet with old friends without fearing the cold tug of possession, without the shadow of someone else’s smallness over me.  My world is large, and my relationship celebrates that.  

A relationship is not a fortress to protect you from the world.  It is not a shield, or a line in the sand.

A good relationship helps you discover the world and be more alive within it.

I’d like to steal a little from Walt Whitman and say that you are large.  You contain multitudes.
So why be with anyone who would make you less?

How Lucky am I to Have Something that Makes Saying Goodbye So Hard

By Ayesha Solaiman

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No one ever talks about how lonely it is to be a TCK. A wanderer. A nomad. A traveler. A wanderluster who fills out her dreams by traveling the world. Or the girl who dreams of having a home, a real home with a puppy, marks on the walls showing how tall she’s grown over the years, neighbors she grew up with, and her cousins just a 10 minute drive away. Or for the girl who dreams of both. No one talks about it. But take it from me; it’s ridiculous how lonely it can be.

What’s the point of allowing your soul to fall in love with another if you know you will be saying goodbye in a year’s time? Or two years time? You do it once, no problem. You do it twice, no problem. You do it even three times, no problem. But eventually after your heart is broken enough, you take caution, picking and choosing between allowing life to make you lonely or taking the initiative, and making yourself lonely on your own.

What horrible logic right? I mean, really… To play devil’s advocate, everyone dies eventually right, so goodbyes are inevitable? So why make any relationships at all then, with this logic? No. It’s not like that. It’s definite. It’s sooner. It’s as if that expiry date is painted on their forehead, ticking like a bomb. Tick. Tock. Sometimes you move just for a year, other times for longer, but usually TCK’s know how long they’ll be staying in one place for. The shorter the time, the harder it is to really open up, because you know it’s coming to an end soon. You learn from previous heartbreaks and heartaches that goodbye isn’t really as easy as it sounds.

And I’m not necessarily talking about love in a romantic sense. TCK’s will be able to relate. How many of you have different groups of best friends from each of the different places you’ve lived? I do. Some of them, I’m no longer in touch with (most of them, I should say…). The others, who think it is worth spending time to keep in touch with me, I haven’t seen for a long time. Some just a few days. Others, a few months. Majority of others, a few years… Can you imagine how lonely it is to allow your soul to open, meet, find peace in the presence of another, and then be pushed away from that person because of distance? Even if you promise each other to stay in touch, is it really the same finding a time that suits you both or all to Skype for an hour, rather than walking right to them at any given moment that you need them?! Take it from me: it’s not.

Similarly, it sucks to move, find a group of friends, say goodbye to them, and watch them all grow without you. Watch them make memories without you. Watch them no longer need you. As a TCK, you’re just a bird. A bird that just flies away, even when sometimes you wish you could stay.

You said goodbye to one person, and it sucked. I’ve said goodbye to hundreds (perhaps 50 or so that I would say really mattered). Other TCK’s, maybe even more. I always tell myself, and them, that it’s not goodbye.. it’s just see you later. And if both people are willing to and able to put in the effort, yes, this is true, but when you’re a TCK you know that life isn’t a fairy tale. People grow up. People move on. People gain experiences without you, friendships blossom with others, and you’re no longer their best friend even if they’re still yours. I’ve watched this happen so many times. To me, and to many of my other TCK friends. It sucks.

You’re in a constant loop of being long distance. You’re in a long distance relationship with the person you love with all your heart, but only get to see once a year (if that!) because he/she lives (literally) on the other side of the world. You’re in multiple long distance friendships with people you don’t know when. or if, you’ll see see again. You may even be, like me, in long distance families where everyone picks their favourite continent and moves – you’re lucky if you’re able to gather everyone (even if it’s just a few siblings!) to meet for a holiday.

Being a TCK is glamorous. It’s magical. I’m grateful. But please take it from me, it can be one of the most isolating and lonely lifestyles. It’s no wonder there is such a high correlation between being a TCK and rates of depression (google it). Goodbyes suck, guys, even when they’re just “see you later”.

That all said… I wouldn’t trade this life for the world. Even if it’s filled with constant goodbyes, loneliness, and aching for one more hug from that special person who is always so far away, “how lucky am I to have [people] that make saying goodbye so hard?”

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Written at a time when I felt homesick and missed a lot of the wonderful people I met in my life. Inspired by me wishing there were 100 of me, so I could be with all the people I love, all at the same time. It’s a big world, distance wise, and while social media/Skype really helps, it just isn’t the same as holding your S.O.’s, best friend’s, or family member’s hand. I wanted this piece to be real, and to be raw. I know a lot of it sounds negative, but… It’s reality. And this piece is not meant to be overly negative. I am eternally grateful for my life, the opportunities I’ve had, the places I’ve visited, the people I have met. I just wish I would never have to say goodbye to any of them. My heart is certainly big enough for them all. Here’s to wishing for no more goodbyes, and many more hellos.