A "Recovering" TCK

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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. 

Personal Issues 

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.

Tagged in: Personal TCK Stuff
in General Hits: 2687 7 Comments


  • Guest
    Anonymous Friday, 02 March 2012

    haha I can't even imagine how stark the compar...

    haha I can't even imagine how stark the comparison must be... exiled Tibetan monks with what must be the purest of souls - BTW I'm sick with jealousy that you have actually lived in Tibet - versus people who ate magic omelettes and danced around in fluorescent paint with 5,000 other Westerners. A friend expected me to be impressed by an acid trip at Angkor Wat, when I was just disgusted at their lack of respect. I don't necessarily feel ashamed by my snob streak (nor should any of us) - it's part of who I am, but I have had to learn not to roll my eyes, and to politely listen to rants about what the poverty and disease is like along tourist trails, how I just have no idea unless 'I actually go there and experience it.' NK x

  • Guest
    Cecilia Haynes Thursday, 01 March 2012

    NK, I have been working on my snob streak, althou...

    NK,I have been working on my snob streak, although progress has been mixed... ;) Yeah, especially since I went to Dharamsala, my tolerance for people who believe they are experiencing an emotional and spiritual epiphany due to an excess of drugs has dropped dramatically low (shocking considering I didn't have much of a tolerance as it was). Meh, at this point and especially since this is my venue for self-expression, I feel that I am perfectly justified in showing my foibles. Embrace the superiority complex and learn to hide it ;)

  • Guest
    Anonymous Tuesday, 28 February 2012

    Ahhh Cici, had some majorly TCK snobby thoughts th...

    Ahhh Cici, had some majorly TCK snobby thoughts the last week and this post sums it up nicely. Good to know there are other people with the same character flaw haha.A few friends spent 6 weeks drinking and "intimately socialising" their way through SE Asia, and then have flooded my facebook newsfeed with posts about how their lives and perspective have totally changed - even 8 weeks after they have returned home. The temptation to obnoxiously snap that 'taking drugs at a full moon party does not an enlightened being make' is so strong. But I know it's just my residual superiority complex. Ahhh rant over.. NK :-)

  • Guest
    Cecilia Haynes Saturday, 17 December 2011

    DrieCulturen, It's great knowing that there i...

    DrieCulturen,It's great knowing that there is a wider community outside even those we knew from schools! I haven't read "A Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition," but I hope to pick it up soon. I have actually visited your blog and am very much enjoying it!

  • Guest
    DrieCulturen Friday, 16 December 2011

    Hi Cecilia, nice post. I am really glad that there...

    Hi Cecilia, nice post. I am really glad that there are an increasing number of books, blogs and an increasing amount of information about third culture kids. I agree that it is a privilege to have a multicultural experience. I was born and bred in Africa, but my parents are Dutch. There are some real challenges for TCKs. My biggest struggle was going (by myself)to Holland to study. I wish the book "A Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition" by Tina Quick had been written at the time. Information does help. I discovered I'm not weird, but it has everything to do with my experiences growing up abroad. I blog about TCKs and would love you to hop over and visit my blog.

  • Guest
    Cecilia Haynes Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Thanks lovepats! There are so many different types...

    Thanks lovepats! There are so many different types of TCKs, it's hard to speak for some, let alone most. Thanks for the book recommendation, checking it out now!

  • Guest
    lovepats Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Excellent piece. I agree with most of what you say...

    Excellent piece. I agree with most of what you say. It is a privileged life - or at least I experienced it that way - and even if it may have been hard, I think many of my friends with very stable geographic lives had enough trauma in their family or school settings that far overshadow any difficulties I had! A new anthology of stories around growing up global has just been published - Writing Out of Limbo. You may want to check it out!

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