Princess Megan [sans h]

Saturday, May 19, 2018: It’s 8:00pm EST and I’m eating a generous helping of Caramel Drizzle Cheesecake ice cream out of a coral white bowl. This is what single girls do at 8pm on a Saturday night. 😉

Starting out at 5:00am EST this morning, I nestled up next to my mom with a cuppa tea to watch American Meghan Markle wed European Prince Harry. We used our delicate fine bone china tea cups and floral silver rimmed side plates for our English PG tip tea and biscuit breakfast.

We sized up the fashion of wedding guests; from the fascinators to heels to color choices, we looked on with sheer enjoyment as we ourselves were comfy in our PJs and slippers. I couldn’t help but remember the last Royal Wedding I watched seven years ago and wished my mom was with me then. She was in South Africa and I was in South Carolina. For today’s moment in time, we were both in Michigan.

Today was emotional for several reasons.

Marriage.

I was looking forward to marriage. The timeline was set: engaged this summer, married next summer, engagement events in and between and across two continents.

But I’m not. And I’m not in that relationship anymore.

Today, I was confronted [again] with this reality as I watched the royal wedding. The anticipation, the consideration of the cross-cultural relationship, the diamond ring…..

Royal Wedding.jpeg

I thought about how I was “Princess Megan [sans h]” to him.

Recently, I deleted a google document that contained the images of ring[s] potential I would have liked on my hand, the timeline of different events to happen in the U.S. and in Europe, and some musings of wedding decorations to have at said events. The deleted file has freed up space – both virtual and mental. I’m still working on the emotional.

It’s that Season.

Over the past few weeks, I have been confronted with the reality that more of my university friends, childhood friends, and career friends are announcing engagements, getting married, and having babies.

And now, more confrontational than ever before, I’m in a space of singleness.

Yet today, I was encouraged with a renewed sense of purpose on and for my own timeline. I’m building my own career track and (re)negotiating my own sense of identity as an Adult Third Culture Kid. Why should I allow society, community, family, or friends dictate what it means to live life according to a proverbial “ticking clock.” Why do I permit them so much power sometimes?

It’s been somewhat of a personal challenge over the past few months to feel authentically and fully happy for the engagement, marriage, and baby announcements across my various networks as my own prospect for these life markers seem dimmer and dimmer. Closer networks populate my phone screen with their celebratory announcements: a friend texts me the best photos of her engagement photo shoot, another shares over a skype call that she found out the day before she is pregnant, yet another displays beautiful shots of her wedding events as I scroll through my social media accounts. I simply love their joy and appreciate their willingness to share it with me. They have a radiant spirit of authenticity and of electric happiness as they embark on their new paths with the partners they have chosen.

Love is always a choice.

While my community certainly advocated for and supported my past relationship, I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t being authentic in it. It took some coaching, mentorship, and deep reflection to be honest with myself and to choose myself. And I’m on a journey to completely understand who is this ATCK at 31 years old.

Meghan Markle, 36, met her prince 16 months ago. Over the past year, they have surely discovered both nuanced and overt differences and similarities and mishaps and funhaps of their cross cultural relationship. Surely they will discover more. My own cross-cultural relationship was full of them. Today, I am thrilled for these newly weds. I am inspired by their timeline. I think that when you’re older, you know faster who you want to do life with; who you want as a witness to your life and whose life you want witness. Because you have had time to have a fuller understanding of yourself.

Love is powerful.

“There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even oversentimentalise it. There’s power – power in love. . . There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.”  – Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry

As an ATCK now into my thirties, I’m (re)discovering how and why my globally mobile childhood and early adulthood has shaped who I am and if it is who I would like to stay. Today, although a bit sad because of my own sparkly girly dreams shelved, I am confident that I need to continue to lean into myself to believe in greater and better things to come — professionally and personally. Self-love is powerful. Don’t oversentimentalise it. Don’t underestimate it. Simply do it.

Be Thou My Vision, God of Love and Life.

Today, I am confronted with my gratefulness for this time and space and place in life. It is an intersection of rest and growth and cultivation of who and what and where I want to be this summer and next and the non-rush of it all. “Be Thou My Vision” and “Stand By Me” are two of my favorite songs. FAVORITE. And they were played at the Royal Wedding today.

Such a beautiful personal reminder that God gives good gifts to His children. This time in my life is a gift. And so, let me shine my light for God as He stands by me. After all, I am Princess Megan to Him.

FIGT 2018

Families. In. Global. Transition.

Take a look at each of those words individually. I am curious: which one or ones are the reasons you attended or are thinking to attend the annual Families in Global Transition conference?

I have looked at each of those words separately and have considered which one of the four is the reason why I have attended the Families in Global Transition conference for the past three years.

Transition.

My first FIGT conference was three years ago in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I attended the one last year in The Hague, The Netherlands, and the one this year also in The Hague. Every year I’ve shown up with a different identity and with an entirely different research presentation.

Every year, I have been in a very different transition compared to the one I was in the year before.

Over the past three years, I have moved six times in three countries and five cities. I graduated from American University with my second Masters degree, completed a summer intercultural communication and personal leadership course, held three jobs, and co-founded a business. I have delivered over 30 presentations – both virtual and in person – and have become a co-chair of a global nomad member interest group at NAFSA. In a word, my life has been about:

Transition.

In 2016, I attended the FIGT conference with the identity of graduate student presenting research on the intersection between retirement and reentry for global families to their passport country. Having observed my parents go through this exact process the year before after living a global life for 40+ years, I spent my last semester of graduate school collecting data and stories about global families’ experiencing their new-found retirement. I’ll post the report in the Academic Section of this blog platform.

FIGT 2016

In 2017, I attended the FIGT conference as an expat English language instructor in Poland. I presented my “single expat story” during the ignite/lighting speech part of the conference. This platform allowed me to share my perspective of the challenges and opportunities for a single adult living abroad. Again, personally, I was in a transition phase in life trying to find my path after graduate school

FIGT 2017

This year, 2018, I attended the FIGT conference as an independent consultant with Intercultural Transitions and led two presentations in The Hague: one as the Millennial Forum discussant leader and one as the Adult Third Culture Kid panel facilitator. These two leadership opportunities provided platforms for me to transition from my previous FIGT identities into one that I finally feel will stick around awhile: scholar-practitioner – that is, I conduct research and then implement it either through my own writing or own presenting. In other words, I help others:

Transition.

FIGT 2018

And this brings me to my perspective about how FIGT can

Transition.

From my three year experiences at the conference, the main focus of the attendees has been on the word Families. I get it. That’s why the organization was founded; to provide resources and research to families about how to successfully navigate a life overseas. This focus shouldn’t change. But I think there needs to be a shift in the nature of the conference itself.

Attending the conference feels like a family reunion. This year, I felt like I was seeing my older sisters present on their bad-a$$ consultancies and businesses. I felt like I was sharing both my professional and personal news to my inquisitive aunts (they were curious about my love-life even). And, I felt like I was introducing my friends (my first time attendee panelists) to my extended relatives I haven’t seen in a year. It is a cosy and secure feeling at this conference. I felt the support and the space to be vulnerable.

I even call one couple at the conference my FIGT parents. They made my attending the conference financially possible. They are my adopted FIGT parents and I love them so much! I am so grateful for their support and their belief in my vision. They told me, “Your voice needs to be heard at the conference. You need to be a part of the conversations.”

This conference is fondly called by many, “a reunion of strangers.”

But family, in my opinion it’s time to transition a bit, to pivot a little in our perspective and our approach of this “reunion.” Of this annual meeting. We need to in a word:

Transition.

And over the past three years, I have seen the beginning of this transition.

  • We need to invite others to our transition table.
  • We need to be intentional about gate-keepers who can provide funding for transition seminars.
  • We need to dig deep into transition research. I’m talking about peer reviewed research. Not “I’ve got a hunch” research.
  • We need to make our reach broader.
  • We need to diversify.

I had someone tell me at this most recent conference that they felt “left out” because they didn’t know the family as well as I did. They observed the hugs and smiles and inside jokes. And felt that they weren’t a part of the family reunion.

We need to take heed to this perception.

Transition.

  • Transition to hold more seats at the table.
  • Transition to connect with as many as we can at the conference.
  • Transition to a network that goes beyond the family unit. To the units that operate outside our family unit.
  • Transition from privilege.
  • Transition from inside/outside.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are on that track.

We need to remember that transition takes time.

Let’s not beat ourselves up that we haven’t arrived there. Let’s celebrate the 20 years this organization has grown and empower each other to expand it.

Thank you for making membership affordable for us millennials in transition. Thank you for giving us a platform. Thank you for giving us the space to share our perspectives. Thank you for asking for our input. Thank you for listening to us about how the family can diversify.

I look forward to seeing you all next year.

Oh, and family, since we’ve gone there in our conversations, I wouldn’t be opposed with you playing matchmaker for me. I would like to transition into a partnership. And perhaps, within the next few years, arrive with Family being the most significant word to me at the Families in Global Transition conference.

Love,
Megan

The Parentals’ Retirement

Excerpt on Retirement : “That night before I returned to D.C., Dad, Mom, and I sat around our campsite fire in the campground on the outskirts of town. We stared into the burning embers as we thought about this new chapter in our lives. I looked up and told them how I admire them for their lifelong practice of seamlessly moving in and between social spaces gracefully and of being comfortable with interacting with anyone while having the ability to form meaningful conversations. I explained that I love the way they value relationships they have had overseas and how I sense how eagerly they look forward to those they will engage in domestically.

Most importantly, though, I told them that I was happy that they still had their wanderlust youthful spirit to travel and to be adventurous. … ….At that moment, I saw the glow of satisfaction that not only had they anchored themselves to a place but had positioned themselves to lead us in a new story. A story with a HOME we chose for ourselves.

What is Success?

Personal Identity in “Success” : I am proud to be a millennial Adult Third Culture Kid. In and through these identities, I’m not necessarily following/have followed a linear path of/to “success”: good grades = good university = good job = good family = good retirement. That formula doesn’t/isn’t/hasn’t defining/ed my path. My “success” is not necessarily stability and security in my job. It is not my life structure [right now]. My generation and my fellow Adult Third Culture Kids are (re)structuring what “success” is and what it looks like. We value work-life integration, flexibility, sustainability, purpose, and intrinsic motivation. Our “risk” looks different from other generations’ “risk.” We value being someone rather than being something. We know that what we don’t want is just as important as what we do want.

: :

My narrative is different from your narrative, fellow ATCK. But we have a thread of similarity in our drive for “success.”

ATCK Conversations

Hey, Adult Third Culture Kids : Hold conversations with fellow TCKs. Discover how/if your identity is (dis)embedded in location, people, belongings, systems, ____________. Discuss core values and ways of knowing and being fundamental to your community. Unpack the culturally complex and nuanced life you lead. You’ll find commonality and clarity. And trust me: there is healing and closure in the process. 

And quite frankly, the unexamined life stifles growth.

Questions about Change

Change : Whenever I go back to a place or reenter my passport country, I am struck by the change I see in both it and myself. The rate of change seems to be increasingly faster and more overt. What does that mean for identity? And for community? And for sense of belonging? It reminds me of a stream of water — always on course. Always in a state of movement. How do we cultivate a sense of rootedness in the fluidity of change?

ATCK Siblings

Adult Third Culture Kid Siblings : Has anyone else been watching the popular U.S. series “This is Us”? I watched Episode “Number 3” recently and felt so much connection to the feelings of [unresolved] grief and feelings of love and loss that the characters in the story acted out so authentically. The part where “Number 3,” otherwise known as “Randall” in the series, describes life as a game of pac man with chasing things and sometimes having old ghosts show up in different ways resonates so much with my personal TCK stories of (re)entry and moving from country to country. Randall said, “Decade after decade just eating those circles, I mean, trying different routes, trying his best to avoid all those ghosts.” Those “ghosts,” in whatever form for me, produce triggers of emotions and grief that I am running away from processing in and through my TCK identity.

Whereas Randall’s wife, Beth, says that his analogy is “bleak,” he says it’s “beautiful” and goes on to show how acknowledging, facing, and leaning into those “ghost” forms helps us to process current feelings and to understand the root of loss, pain, and unresolved grief. Every time I watch an episode of this show, it is so clear to me that unresolved grief in adulthood is complex and can appear in different ways.

One final line in the episode tonight stung and sprung instant salty tears streaming down my face. Randall’s adopted Dad, “Jack,” was narrating the final scene which showed various unresolved grief the siblings [Number 1, 2, and 3] were facing. He said, “And when one of you falls down … the other one’s standing up.” It hit home. I thought of my relationship with my own brother. How when I have fallen down, especially in my various moves back to the U.S., he has stood up in support (financially, emotionally, wisely). And when he’s fallen down, I stand up for him. We may not understand why one another has fallen down, and it may take a few more episodes in our own series to get to that clarity, but we will be there for one another through it all.

We haven’t been together in place for over a year now. But we’ve connected in emotional spaces to lean into the process of continuing to heal grief, feelings of loss, and helping one another to stand up taller than before. I love you, brother. I’m standing for you right now.

Cultural Competencies

Real Talk : This weekend, I had my Global Competencies Inventory assessment one-on-one debrief and the results cut through BS I was both telling myself and crafting for outward perception management. I have some serious re-entry work to do in terms of treating my present location as any other foreign place I’ve lived. I can start by being more inquisitive and getting involved locally! My cosmopolitanism remains high on the GCI scale but my inquisitiveness was strikingly low. This assessment helped me to realize that I need to launch forward with an intentional curiosity and integrate myself more into my surrounding community — even if it is temporary. The one-on-one consultation also helped me to see with new eyes the importance of engaging with the present. Opening myself up to the possibilities around me will undoubtedly produce new ones exponentially. Hoping that this week I’ll thrive in this renewed perspective and understanding of myself.

Anchors & Mirrors

In a TCK’s personal identity formation, there are three anchors, which paradoxically, also function as mirrors: family, place, and community. Beth Knuckles explains that these three things that, “give us a place of grounding and strength…are also mirrors – reflecting back the messages of who we are as seen by these entities.” Each move for a TCK perpetuates the (re)formation and (re)shifting of their unique anchors and mirrors. : : : So, a bit of advice from an ATCK : : : give TCKs the language to talk about their culturally complex experiences that begins with a conversation of *likeness* not of *difference* because ultimately if TCKs operate from an internalized message of “I’m different”, then they are more likely to struggle to adapt, find commonality, and integrate. Janet Bennett says that TCKs who do not process the fluidity of likeness and difference will be “terminally unique”…and not in a healthy way. Consider the anchors and be mindful of how they are mirrors in different scenarios.