Thursday, June 21, 2018

TCK Identity: I am a walking exotic complication

The wind makes me feel so free and happy. Helsingborg, Sweden. Oct 2017.

To understand a third culture kid is to dissect a Kue Lapis (thousand layer cake) or a millefeuille. Or if you love wine as much as I do, a heavily textured aged wine. There are so many layers to a person who identifies as having grown up as a TCK. I am no different. But perhaps it does get a bit complicated from the historical point of view.
Some people have told me that I am exotic. What does the word exotic mean?

  1. 1. 
    originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country.

    "exotic birds"


  1. 1. 
    an exotic plant or animal.

    "he planted exotics in the sheltered garden"

In most instances, when someone tells me that I am exotic, I want to punch them in the face because I am not an animal or a person to be stared at like exotic animals in a zoo or fetishised. Lets start with the complications...
My name...
My name gives no indication to my ethnicity, nationality, or birthplace (yes ALL three represent different countries).
My cultural belonging and accent is also associated with a country that is neither of the above because I grew up in International Schools. But also one of my previous homes. I have multiple around the world.
My parents grew up straddling different cultures, countries, racism, and multilingual households. Bless them. Yes, it gets complicated.
My ethnicity or heritage if you were to get into the nuances of history has had tumultuous bouts of racial riots, racism, hierarchy, segregation, ridicule, nomadism, immigration, to put it simply: complication.
The sum of all these parts are just the starting point of how textural and "exotic" complex being that I started with.

But I am not special. At least I do not think I am.

I just have whole load of very different stories that most people who have "sown and grown in one place" (Alex Graham James poem from the TCK "bible" of Third Culture Kids). I am different. And difference in society gets marginalised, bullied, put on a pedestal, exoticsized, fetishised, "model minority", martyr, etc. I am different when I am in places where I look different than most. I am different when I am in places where I look like I should belong. Over the years, I have embraced this difference but most have not.

So no, TCKs shouldn't be placed in the "special" category. We have different stories but we also have similar stories of growing up, coming to terms with dealing with adolescence, growing pains, going to university, living on your own, working, settling into a routine schedule, etc. It doesn't matter where one lives. The point is that we are all human and we are just trying to exist in this world together.

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