What’s it like to be an adult TCK (third culture kid)? Well, I’ll tell you.
Imagine you have a cozy, comfortable room with hard wood floors and comfortable throw rugs. You’re accustomed to friendly conversation between your bare feet and the cool, supple wood, only interrupted by the soft embrace of textured carpet. Then one day your room floods with six inches of water. It’s quite the cold shock when you get up in the morning. Everything on the floor is wet. But you are flexible and you refuse to let a little water get you down. What’s more, you feel encouraged when you discover that all your neighbors’ rooms are flooded. In fact, they’ve been flooded for as long as they can remember, and they’ve done just fine.
The first couple days are novel. You find it almost exciting trying to figure out how to adapt your life to your new environment. You may even find the newness refreshing. But it really doesn’t take long for the frustration to creep in. You keep dropping important items into the water. You get tired of rolling up your pants to keep them from getting wet, and you start to miss the old conversations between your feet, dry hardwood and textured carpet. But you’re made of strong stuff and you persevere.
Time passes and the water doesn’t recede. But none of your friends seem to notice. They see nothing abnormal about rolling up their pants, carrying their shoes to the door, and drying their feet before bed. But you find yourself moving your furniture so you can climb to the door without setting foot in the water. You have dreams about sprawling on the floor and sliding across the wood in your socks. You begin to feel insane. And perhaps you are insane. And perhaps you will be insane for the rest of your life, but old habits die hard.
And that’s a glimpse of what being a functioning adult TCK. You’ve learned a lot of new skills. You like your friends. You’re by no means always miserable. But you still climb over your furniture and pine over dry, bare feet.
Some of you are wondering if I’ve lost my mind. But I think some of you understand…