PART 5 – “How to relate to Non-TCKs”. By Ruth Van Reken.
Being a Third Culture Kid becomes a way to frame or describe my life experiences but that it does not define my total identity.
If I believe this, then I also want to get to know the other person. I don’t need to wait for this person to ask me all about myself but I can begin to explore who he or she is as well.
As I hear common themes emerge in our life stories, I can connect the dots at these emotional places.
Let me give an example of what I mean.
When Paulette Bethel, my friend and also participant in TCKID.com and TCK Academy, share our stories with each other, the details are profoundly different. She grew up in the States as an African American/Creole in New Orleans, Louisiana. I grew up as a white American child in Kano, Nigeria. Her minority status included having to sit at times in designated areas because of her race. My position as a minority was one of economic and educational privilege compared to the vast majority of those around me.
Could our stories be more different?
Ironically, however, when Paulette first read Third Culture Kids, she contacted me because her sense of emotional identity with the TCK story ran so deep. We have spent much time considering these commonalities and now understand that while my cultural world changed with an airplane ride every few years, hers changed every night as she was bussed to school in another part of her town each day and then had to “reenter” her home culture every evening. I could go on and on with all I have learned from Paulette alone that has helped me put my own experience in wider (and hopefully more usable) context. The point is, we share a common experience of moving between cultural worlds and both of us know the feelings associated with trying to understand and assess the operative rules in each place we are in, even if one happened internationally and the other nationally.
There is a lot of hope.
I have seen countless adult TCKs deal successfully with these very types of questions through counseling, through journaling, through friendships, through various other means and find the healing they need so they can move on to use with delight the gifts of our background as well. There is so much to celebrate about your life as well. So after you make a list of your losses, make a list of your gains as well and dare to live in the paradox of both realities.
Simply put, this is my bottom line advice.
Look for the choices you can make to move towards where you want to be…choices to stay and work things out rather than running away, choices to seek to learn about others rather than waiting for them to ask you about yourself, choices to dare to find joy in the journey – even if it’s something as simple as taking a ride on a roller coaster and reflecting on how this might be a metaphor for your life…wonderful ups, some scary downs, but overall a great ride!
May you seek and find the answers your heart longs for and may you realize the reality of what Garth Brooks sings in his song, “The Dance” …”I could have missed the pain, but I’d a’ had to miss..the Dance.” Dance with joy, my friend. Thank you for following this mini-course and I hope you found it helpful.
You can find heaps of other tips on how to improve your relationships and fully develop the gifts you received from this TCK experience by attending the Teleclass and asking your questions!
Looking forward to helping you.
Ruth Van Reken