Quote from,

Third Culture Kids- The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds
David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken*

Monday, November 17, 2014

Our families.

Family. There's all kinds.

There's your "regular" birth family -you know, the one you're born into and "stuck with" because well, they're blood.
There's the family by choice because we don't all "have it good" and sometimes you just find your group of people that become your family.
There's the adoption and foster processes that can create families.
There's the family by association of either community or culture. You know, you grow up in a village so everyone's just automatically family and they love you, bot because they have to but because that's what they're there for, kinda thing.

So where does that put me?

I'm adopted, I have a family by association of community/culture, I have my family "by choice" and I"m sure  somewhere out there I still have my blood family. And trust me, it is all very confusing sometimes.

For instance, I grew up overseas with my adopted family where all my aunties and uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins were my village tribe and church communities. Then every three of four years, we'd move back to my country of passport and I'd get to see my adopted family on mum and dad's sides.

And when I was little, that was fine. When I was in my childhood home/country, I grew up with my village tribes and church communities and I had a full set of grandparents, more aunties, uncles, sisters, brothers and cousins than you would think possible. I was guided and taught what to do, I knew my role in the culture and I knew I was loved. It wasn't because they had to love me, but because they chose to and they wanted to and they did. Time and time again I saw their love in their care, their discipline, their forgiveness -I could go on for ages... And I loved them all back. Then we'd head back to my passport country where I knew everyone by name, I hugged, was hugged back, I knew I was loved and welcome in my family but it never felt the same. I just didn't have the connection with them that I had with my village and church families (we'll call them VCF -village/church family, for short). I knew they loved me and I loved them too but...as much as I wasn't blood with my VCF, I wasn't blood with them either. And what made the difference for me was, the rapport just wasn't there. I hadn't grown up with them or in their culture for that matter. With my adopted family it was just awkward and strange and in the back of my mind, I could feel my loyalties to my VCF kick in that much more.

So what is it like today?

I have been living in my passport country for over four years now and I've only gone back to visit my VCF  once. In that same amount of time, I've only visited my adopted families maybe three or four times. The disconnect I feel, as time separates and changes us all, has grown and I feel a sense of lost loyalties. Yes, my VCF thinks of me often, but being in a third world country, there just doesn't exist the means to easily communicate and keep up to date with each other -so relations have broken down. At the same time, I don't know how to interact with my adopted family and in many ways, I feel more comfortable simply letting the relationships exist as they are, there but with a measure of distance. How could they understand the life I lived growing up? And how can I understand the life and the culture they all embrace when I've not been fully assimilated into it myself?

So in the midst of all this disconnect, as I needed another level of complexity -I have delved into my birth origins and began to search for understanding regarding my birth and real blood family. But that's a topic for another time.

Family. TCK you aren't alone. I know and I get it. You grew up overseas yet you were expected to maintain an up to date database of knowledge and cultural say on your passport country. You travelled into a large variety of cultures and created families around you in every location you lived in. Yet even as you were building that family, you were also withdrawing into yourself because you know it's not permanent and sooner or later you'll be uprooted again, going through that all too familiar process of goodbyes, heartaches and tears. Only to turn around again, pick up your luggage and roll into another new place, sleep, wake up and be asked to build your life all over again. Yea we keep up with our friends and families and sometimes we're even lucky enough to be able to go back and have the opportunity to try to pick up where we left off. But it isn't the same. And it hurts.

The distance between you and your various families. The time away and apart from everyone that ever cared about you. The way it's always different and just not the same whenever you try to pick things up again. It all adds up. And what makes it worse is when you look around and see someone else from the same boat as you, moving on and being so successful about it. There's that tinge of disappointment that they seemed to have just let go of their past, there's the anger that they have moved on so easily and there's the frustration that you haven't done what have because you're still holding on to your VCF's.

TCK I want you to know that it's not a bad thing. It's not a bad thing that they've moved on. And it's most definitely not a bad thing that you're still where you are.

The tears at night, the grumbling during the day -hey, listen. I get it. How could I possibly understand? Because I was right there with you.

Hang in there TCK. You and me, we'll get through this.