It’s Day 22 of the 31 Days in the Life of a TCK series! Welcome! You can find more info on the series here.
Today I am very excited to hear from Rachel Cason, an adult TCK, in her last year of Ph.D studies on the impact of the TCK experience on identity, belonging and place. She has settled in England since her ‘re-entry’ from West Africa at 16, is divorced, a mum to a three year-old drama queen, and engaged to a vicar-to-be. We work together at Euro TCK, and it’s great fun to share TCK knowledge and jokes while planning conferences, strolling through the English countryside, or drying dishes for 100 people.:)
I spent a good number of my teenage years haunted by ice-breakers, and other “joining-in” games that enforced “fun”.
For an introverted girl, worn out and intimidated by the regular meeting of new people, they were a nightmare to be avoided at all cost.
Yet, when I returned to England at 16, after a childhood of transitioning between the mission community in West Africa and my “home” city in England, my strategy of “sitting it out” started to wear thin.
Up until this point, furlough years in England were defined by minimal engagement with my passport peers, with me “joining in” only as much as was necessary to disguise the disinterest I had in their “parochial” lives.
After all, we were from different worlds, and our collisions tended to feel like year-long ice-breaker scenarios, ended only by relieved goodbyes and plane journeys.
Upon arrival in England at 16 however, the return was more permanent, and no planes beckoned me towards an exit sign.
It was an English teacher who unwittingly issued the challenge to “join in”.
Chatting in class after a long dry summer, she bemoaned the death of a much loved fig tree from her garden due to the “drought”.
At her words, and thoughtless misapplication of the word “drought”, I was rendered mute by my outrage.
Somewhere in the eye of the storm of my own emotions, a little voice whispered, “You can’t stay angry forever at people for simply not having had your experiences. If you are going to survive this, you are going to have to learn to like these people.”
I suddenly realised I had grown up appreciating the cross-cultural ability of learning to value the worldviews of people from various tribes in the Sahara, yet somehow assumed that I could dismiss the cultural worlds of middle England.
My doctoral research interviewing over 60 teenage and adult Third Culture Kids suggest that the struggle to “join in” is fairly universal. For those with highly mobile histories, investment on a local, or even national level is a challenge.
There may even circulate the assumption that doing so would suggest stagnation; that “joining in” locally implies a loss of a global imagination and narrowing of cultural interests.
I want to suggest, however, the restlessness and rootlessness experienced by many TCKs could be most effectively countered through local investment.
After all roots are organic, they can be developed and deepened through practise, if we only have the imagination and will to “join in”.
How did you experience “joining in” when coming back to your passport country?