She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by–
And never knew.
-by Shel Silverstein
If you came back, you wanted to leave again. If you went away, you longed to come back. Wherever you were, you could hear the call of the herdsman’s horn far away in the hills. You had one home out there and one over here and yet you were an alien in both places. Your true abiding place was the vision of something very far off, and your soul, like the waves, always restless and forever in motion. -Johan Bojer, in The Immigrants
One week ago, having picked up my best friend at the airport and barely finished a whirlwind of papers, I was driving out to West Chicago with a stomach full of butterflies. My friend and former vocal ensemble director Michèle had issued a summons, and trust me when I say that you just can’t say no to Michèle. She’s one of the most charming and witty and saucy women I have ever met, and to top it off, she is beginning a new ministry to TCKs and needed our help. So off I went to spend a weekend with a group of my kind–Third Culture Kids.
Maybe you’ve never heard of us. I wouldn’t be surprised. Academia refer to us as “bicultural,” something I found out on my very first day of graduate school. (I didn’t take the time to explain to my professor that the term was inadequate. If only I were made of just two cultures.) Well, don’t worry if you don’t know who we are. We’re really hard to explain anyway.
Enter Michèle. This lovely lady has taken it upon herself to be a resource to the TCKs of the world. (Check it out.) She’s not just a voice for us (even though she is a TCK, with a lovely voice to boot); she actually wants us to have our own voice, and she takes the time to let us share our own stories.
That was the point of last weekend. We gathered in a lovely little guesthouse in West Chicago, pampered by the culinary ministrations of her lovely mama. She gathered 13 of us. We represented 21 countries in all. We were all alum of the same boarding school, and although we hadn’t all attended at the same time, that commonality was immediately binding in the most familiar way. I can hardly believe now that I was actually nervous about last weekend, that I actually thought I might not have anything to contribute, or that I might feel like I didn’t belong. I’d forgotten what it meant to commune with other TCKs.
I can’t even begin to process last weekend. There were lots of laughs shared and lots of tears shed as we told our stories of what it meant to move overseas, to attend a boarding school, to return to America–and to try to fit into all these different contexts. I hadn’t thought about this stuff in so long. I think this could be the start of a new journey for me.
We began the weekend with this request from Michèle: “Please finish the statement, ‘Because I am a TCK…'” I gave some mediocre response because I’m an introvert and I need a ridiculous amount of time to process and answer questions like that. This week, though, I wrote my real answer–or, actually, it kind of wrote itself. To be honest, my answer kind of shocked me. It’s as if in the last few years, I’ve cut myself off from who I used to be. I guess this weekend re-opened a whole can of worms. But as I sit here, remembering the weekend, I know it’s a good thing. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed being connected with this part of myself, even the parts that are bittersweet.
Because I am a TCK…I resent change, but am afraid of permanence.
Yeah, I need to chew on that a while, too. =]