|That's me on the left!|
* Here is a wonderful response to and defense against my post: Recovering *
Every since I wrote the post on what I consider to be the Top Ten TCK Quirks, I have experienced an outpouring of support and appreciation for what I wrote. It is my most commented on piece and because of the huge response, I have decided to gear my blog more towards TCK related matters, in addition to my current travel adventures. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of musings on the subject of us. I apologize if the following sounds like a bit of a rant. Also, this is very long, so I will put titles so you can skip to what you find interesting (if anything at all).
Down with the Label of a "Recovering" TCK
I want to kick this off by addressing the issue of a "recovering" TCK. This label makes it seem as if being a TCK is a traumatic sickness or wound that needs to be healed. Leaving aside the usage as a joke, there are some people who clearly feel this way. When I read the story of Brice Royer, founder of My Tckid (a community site full of TCKs), I was a little troubled by his story. At the age of 19, he started suffering mysterious physical ailments that he (years) later figured out were due to emotional pain. Once he had this realization, the pain disappeared and he founded the site in order to help other suffering TCKs have a sense of belonging. While I am not saying that this wasn't real for him, or that emotional turmoil can't manifest itself physically, the fact that it was because of the privilege of having a multicultural experience bothers me.
While I have gone through some unhappy periods, I have never regretted the way I was raised and am extremely grateful that I was lucky enough to have the life I have lived. There are SO many people in this world who will never have the opportunity to see what I have seen and while I used to take this for granted, I have since learned to appreciate the hand I was dealt. This post on Thought Catalog thoroughly expresses how I feel about this subject.
My biggest rough patch was when I moved back to the states for four years when I was ten. I struggled to find a way to keep in contact with my best friends from New Delhi since the whole email thing was quite new. I was completely miserable. I hated where I lived, although this might have been slightly influenced by the fact that I had just read the Goosebumps story Welcome to Dead House and I was a little paranoid that the suburb we moved into might be the very one from the book.
In school, when I would say comments like, "I fell off a camel when it was running in a desert in India," (true story, my brother used to be slightly rotund and since I couldn't get my arms all the way around him, I ended up slipping and falling. Luckily I had already been gradually moving sideways and so the rest of the fall was just a short drop onto a soft dune), my classmates would just stare blankly at me before awkwardly changing the subject. This pushed me into books, and while I had friends, some close, I was not a happy camper. I am still remembered by some people as the girl whose dad had a tarantula and lots of lizards and snakes. I don't mind that title though!
I was extremely relieved to move to Chennai afterwards and go back "home" to India. It was a hard time, but I am glad I went through it. That was the most I have ever had to adapt and I learned a lot about myself from living in my "passport" country. Having had the experience of the states helps me to talk to people today about what was happening in the U.S. at the time and so I can relate to even more people because of this experience.
End the Pity Party
I say down with the pity parties! I know I sound a bit harsh as I write about my frustration with fellow TCKs feeling agonized over their past, but honestly, I think that this background should be embraced with pride. Admittedly, I do get annoyed explaining my background to people, but I have worked to curb this reaction. I wrote this in the comments of my post, but I thought this was pertinent to write again: I used to lie about where I was from, a lot. To make conversations easier, I would just say the U.S. or Hong Kong. If people pressed and I gave them the full list and they asked me ridiculous questions, I would make things up like I rode elephants to school and lived in a hut in a village with only a single computer. I have since realized this might not be the best response and have started to take the time to explain what a TCK is and what kind of TCK I am. I hope that more and more people will start hearing the label "TCK", know what it means, and ask informed questions on people's backgrounds.
I did a social experiment the other night. I was out with friends of friends who I met in the elevator of the restaurant Blue Smoke BBQ (basically the friend was supposed to be there but couldn't make it and when I was explaining this situation to another friend of mine in the elevator, his friends overheard and we ended up sitting together). They were all Princeton in Asia fellows who had been assigned to Hong Kong. These were traveled individuals who went to big name schools stateside. I ended up asking them if they knew what a TCK was. They were stumped. I hope that if they ever meet another TCK, they will understand better how to react to confusing diversity.
Another personal failing of mine is arrogance. Stemming from my time in the states, I used to believe that if you hadn't lived like I had, you hadn't lived. I also used to believe that if you hadn't grown up traveling, that you were incapable of having the travel bug and therefore I couldn't relate to you. Even traveling as an adult or a college student didn't make the cut since I have been around people who either went "crazy," as in over drank, etc., or were insufferable because of some supposed life-changing experience. I have since realized that this is definitely not everyone, it isn't even most people. Plus, even if a person has never traveled, there are so many other interests that we could share (music, movies, books, politics, desire to travel in the future, etc). I used to place on myself the pressure of defining my experiences and that caused a lot of my unhappiness. I think that other TCKs are definitely guilty of this too.
Not Preaching and Disclaimer
Honestly, I am not trying to preach. Live your life however you want. I think that TCKs are awesome and we should embrace the fact that we were born extraordinarily lucky.
Again, I am not disputing the fact that some people are struggling to cope with feeling alienated, etc., but there sure are a lot of sites with seminars, lessons, and all sorts of "helpful" advice for getting through such a "difficult" background. Questions from people asking why they can't form meaningful long-term relationships, why they feel restless, and frustrations with identity feel like they are trying to blame how they were raised as opposed to other more current causes. I could be very wrong about this (and probably am in some cases), so please let me know if you feel differently (in a respectful and calm manner, please!).
I promise the next post will be travel-related! I have been swamped with friends, family, visas since coming to Hong Kong and I will have more time as soon as I go to Xining, Qinghai, China tomorrow.