A TCK's Reflection; Brene Brown's Call to Courage
- Picture Memories
- The grief, the belonging, and the loss
- Trust then vulnerability
The grief and loss that is experienced when the element of belonging is removed is deep. Forming a "normal" cycle of belonging could take someone 2 to 3 years to process through completely...and even then there may be another significant change. After elementary school, my family (as most missionaries would do) returned to the States for summers. While this wasn't necessarily traumatic, it did disrupt the sense of normalcy that our community had sought to cultivate September through May. Upon returning to school (similarly to in the US), someone wouldn't be there because their family was reassigned/relocated and a new classmate was there to fill the void...and a whole new cycle of learning about belonging would begin. Personally, anytime someone new came into my class, I felt a little bit nervous because what if my role was threatened? What if my friend group was disrupted? But, that is a personal insecurity that I will always deal with. When the sense of normalcy and belonging was disrupted, it was natural to grieve the loss of what was once known as normal. This cycle was commonplace at an international school.
The third and final thing this Third Culture Citizen heard and was jarred by by what Ms. Brown to say was more of a comparison of a mono-cultural reality and a third culture reality.
This concept is huge for a mono-cultural. When preparing to move from our "host cultures" back to our "home cultures," it is regularly told to TCKs to "expect shallow conversation for the first several months and maybe years when engaging with mono-culturals..."
The above paragraphs center around belonging and normalcy in a transient environment. One of the ways TCKs establish normalcy is by going to a deep relational level quickly. You get the junk exposed quickly so you can begin talking about things of more substance. By being a TCK you essentially feel that you have the right to hear each other stories because you're all in the same "tribe." You get each other because many times you're the minority (the only English speakers in your town, the only ones who know what its like to spend your summers in one county and go to school in another, the ones who know what it's like to have to make a border run when a visa is about to expire, who know what boarding school is like, and so on).
For the mono-cultural citizen, going deep is almost a right of passage to join the tribe.
While watching A Call to Courage, my friend and I occasionally paused the show to have a quick discussion. This was one of the primary discussion points I had.
In the last 12 years since I've lived in the U.S., I've found that I still struggle with getting to the meat of a relationship. I am thankful that I have friends who've decided that they like me enough to keep me around after I've spilled too much too early. There have been times when I've had to remind myself that I need to back off and let others take the lead in more intimate conversation because as Brene says, we share our stories with the people who've earned the right to hear them. I never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable by forcing them to share beyond what they're willing to share freely.
Additionally, I am so incredibly thankful for the friendships I've been allowed to cultivate with people who've lived in more countries than me and with people who've lived in the same county their entire lives. Hearing stories is a privilege. Some are more willing to share their stories than others and we all need to respect that. We all have to choose to "show up," as Brown says, and choose to be vulnerable with each other in our relationships in order for them to move forward.