“A story is never complete until it is told, heard, and understood.”
As an Adult Third Culture Kid, I have a lot of stories to tell of my global background. Of my safaris, my international school field trips, my advice on luggage, my speaking three languages in one sentence, my definition of home, my favorite restaurant in Tokyo, etc. When I was a K I D moving to another country, I found it a bit easier for others to understand me – and my story/stories. As just another foreigner in the foreign school, I had an understanding that most of my friends had just moved from another country as well…not their passport country necessarily. We just got each other…as kids do. And we loved each other’s stories. [You bet ‘Show & Tell’ looked a bit different in the international school compared to a homogeneous one].
But now, as an A D U L T, I’m finding that my global stories are not as well received when I tell them to my coworkers, family, or even fellow adult friends. The stories are considered, sometimes, as bragging and/or exaggerations. Too Exotic. Too unbelievable. The (non)reaction I perceive and experience has silenced me on more than one occasion and I have downplayed – or even hid – my international upbringing. Sometimes, I don’t mention my TCKness identity in order to fit in with my new community. I don’t want to alienate myself because of jealousy or misunderstanding. But this is a T R A G E D Y. People need to hear my stories. Stories of diversity. Stories of adventure. Stories of what has (re)shaped who I am today. But it takes an effort on my part to (re)frame these stories so they are heard and understood. I can try to link them to a frame of reference or compare them to someone else’s story.
But not be silent.
In telling my story, perhaps I can discover someone else who has struggled with reentry into their passport country and we can tell our stories together, or someone else who has felt marginalized as a minority, or someone who has even used a wooden toboggan to sled down a Swiss alp at 10 years old.
Hey fellow travelers, TCKs, wanderers, nomads, friends: tell your story so it’s heard and understood.