Here’s My Brexit

Goodbye globalizationYou’re going to be reading a lot of articles about the British vote to exit the EU today, or as it is has been called to sound more flashy and less terrifying over the past months, the Brexit. You’re going to read a lot about how the economy is in turmoil, about how Britain has effectively thrown the world into a spiral, or foresight on what is going to happen with other EU member countries now that Britain has chosen to leave. They’re all right, and they’re all valid articles.

This isn’t one of those articles, though.

If this isn’t your first time here, then you know that I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK). You know that this collection is about the world, about viewing it through the eyes of a TCK, about the beauty of travel and the connectivity of all of us in a rapidly globalizing society. You know that I write here to inspire confidence in fellow TCKs who have not crossed the threshold of their national identity crisis, to show them that in the end, they’ll find peace in knowing they aren’t a citizen of a country, that their lack of patriotism driven by a lack of national identity doesn’t make them weak, but makes them stronger. You know that this collection is, for the most part, full of love where it may fail to achieve inspiration.

This isn’t one of those articles, though.

You see, I’m about to go to bed tonight in my house in America, 4000 miles away from my birth country of England, and when I fall asleep, should I fall asleep, 51.8% of the people in the country I was born in, a country for which I too hold a passport, will be waking up feeling a sense of national pride, while 48.2% will be waking up feeling a sense of national shame. That being said, perhaps the stats of how the vote turned out will not directly reflect the emotions of those reading them when they see the state of the world they created, and I’m sure there will be plenty of articles covering exactly that.

This isn’t one of those articles, though.

This article is about what my birth country did to me today. It’s personal, but then, it’s also so much more than that. It’s international, is touches everyone, even those who will not share my pain or even understand my words, because today, I was robbed of something I have taken for granted for so many years; today my birth country stripped me of my passport to a significant chunk of the world, and it did so out of ignorance of economics, ignorance of international relations, and ignorance of globalization of the people of the world.

Today, England decided to go against everything the first world has been striving to achieve for the entire course of my 29 year life. It decided that walls were better built than torn down, that separation from a global market was better than working alongside it, and it decided that free transfer of persons across its boarders, in or out, was not the way of tomorrow.

You see, I hold a UK passport. And as a TCK, what happened today is devastating. Today marks the day that will begin the breaking of my access to the EU, that free trade of my person into any country of theirs, to live and work and contribute to the economy of culture and capital. Today, the country of my birth, the country I had so much pride in as a man of international identity because of its commitment to an open, expansive, globalized society that tore down walls and showed the world a new way to be better than the boarders we have chosen to imagine and the patriotism we hide behind, decided that the real path to our future lies in isolation.

Today, England built a wall around its society. And in doing so, it didn’t just steal access to the world from me, it stole the very idea of a world without boarders from everyone. And it did so with cheering crowds.

As an man of no national identity, as a man of the world, no as a child of the world, as a Third Culture Kid, I can think of no greater tragedy to the forward motion of internationalism and globalization to date than what Britain just did with roaring crowds and celebrations.

Today, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed to hold a passport to the United Kingdom.

Today, for the first time in my life, the country of my birth betrayed me by betraying the world.

And so here’s my Brexit: Goodbye, England. I can no longer call you “home,” whatever lack of a meaning that has for this wandering TCK, because no home of mine would sit behind a closed border watching globalization fail to thunderous applause.

__________

 

Author of TCK LifePost by: James R. Mitchener

What We Leave Behind

TCK Life What We Leave BehindLeaving our lives behind is a concept that is inherent in every single Third Culture Kid’s upbringing. As far as foundations are concerned, the idea that a departure is always imminent is probably the strongest baseline you can find in the highly jumbled subcultures of TCKs from around the world. TCKs share very little when it comes to the cultural developments that made them, but they are all so close in the foundations that built them into the people they became. They are built out of leaving their lives behind, built of loss, adoption, and absorption. Of starting again, and applying the lessons learned of the past to new and interesting cultures that surround them. And their ability to adapt, to bounce back from loss and create something new from the rubble of their previous lives is all because they started this journey learning that loss is always more than probably, it is inevitable.

Human kind lives in a world where society is still highly pocketed. Cultures exist within cultures, and many of those cultures rely and thrive on a degree of isolation. People cross cultural boarders more so than ever before, but in reality these borders still exist within the confines of an isolated and highly compartmentalized social and developmental structure. The world is getting smaller, but the rate of cultural adaptation hasn’t kept pace with humanity’s abilities to blur the lines within the cultures we inherit.

That is, with exception to those that have been thrust, most unwillingly, into the Third Culture.

The Third Culture is the closest we have come to defining human kind’s ability to embrace cultural adaptation. It starts with a core self identity crisis, in which a Third Culture Kid hits a wall in their lives where they suddenly realize that they are no longer truly a member of the culture of their parents’ culture. For some, this wall is mountainous to overcome. For others, it’s a small hurdle cleared with ease. But that realization hits every TCK at some point in their lives, and from that moment forward they will be tasked with the endless struggle of finding what it is that makes up their cultural identity.

From here, a TCK picks and chooses the pieces of his or her life that hold the most value to who they think they are. A little bit of culture “A,” a lot of culture “B,” and a dash of culture “C” all lends to the creation of a person who can transcend any culture they’ve touched, make themselves part of it, make themselves welcome and comfortable, but never truly becoming a completely interwoven part of the culture itself. This picking and choosing allows for the cross pollination of cultural ideas from a party that the impacted culture can trust, while offering a sponge of cultural absorption in the TCK who will carry the elements of the culture they’re interacting with onto every culture that follows.

The TCKs lack of ability to truly be indoctrinated by any one culture means that they will always be on the move, always looking for new pieces of the puzzle of self identity. This is the drive for forward momentum, like seeds being spread across a field in the wind. Everywhere a TCK goes, they evolve, become different, absorb new cultural elements. Then, when they leave, they leave behind a piece of so many cultures that will be absorbed into the culture they have departed, and the TCK takes with them even more cultural quirks to spread into the next culture they encounter.

As the world gets smaller, we are approaching the point in which culture will inevitably have to change. It may not be in the generation of the millennials, or the generation that follows them immediately thereafter, but soon, at least from a galactic perspective, the entire cultural foundation upon which civilization has been built will have to confront one of two outcomes should humanity choose to survive:

The first and most brutal is a complete cultural reversal. Inspired by mass extinction events of the past in which entire species are wiped out, we are looking at a potential Cultural Shut-down. Any large event, a World War, a technological hiccup that shoots us back in time through our ability as a species to harness technology, will distance us from one another once again and strengthen our ties to individual cultures, making cross pollination of cultures unnecessary and unwanted.

The second, and hopefully more likely, is Cultural Survival through Evolution. Globalization comes at a price. It unifies ideas, people, and minds. And at the same time, it forces the segregation of independent cultural norms that we accept in our current societal state. As the ability to travel comes ever simpler, as cultures rely more heavily on each other to prosper and survive, cultural blending will become absolutely inevitable. Language barriers will collapse. Food sources will be shared. Trade will increase. Boarders will weaken. And in that process, cultures will be mixed more heavily with one another unlike ever before in human history, fuelled by technology that was unimaginable in the days of isolated cultures.

This transition is happening now, only in its infancy, and that infancy lives within TCKs everywhere. TCKs are the signs of a world to come in which culture isn’t about isolation, but rather the sharing of ideas and theories. Many cultures will, albeit sadly, fade away into oblivion with countless millions of forgotten cultures before them. But in the end, we will have a more global society built upon the best pieces of the cultures we experience now.

That transition is many years away. Centuries, perhaps. But if the rapid growth of TCKs shows us anything, it’s that their self identity in culture, the adaptability of human kind, is the gift that they will leave behind for the generations that follow. TCKs are paving the way for a future that they will never live to see. But the future of our species depends on cultural adaptation, and TCKs are already doing something that has never been done before. They’re growing in numbers, and manipulating cultures in a world that has the technology and power to experience the difference adaptability makes in its every corner.

And that adaptability will be the idea that carries our species forward into a world of true globalization. It will be the gift that every Third Culture Kid will leave behind, for the generations that follow.

__________

Author of TCK Life

Post by: James R. Mitchener

Welcome Home, They Say

Welcome Home, They Say “Welcome home!” they say, with a look on their faces that shows such an immeasurable joy that can only be expressed by someone who has stood in my shoes before, holding a key to a new home, the first home, that I’ve ever owned. Their excitement cuts through the air, and it’s so thick with transitive joy that you can almost taste it with every breath you take. They remember every second of their experience so well, the excitement and joy of owning their first home, of finally having a place to call their own, that they can almost relive that moment with you, put themselves in your shoes and experience it all over again, smiles so wide and excitement so strong that I’m afraid the panic I feel inside me is not hidden by the mask of an attempted mirrored reaction to their own.

The truth is, they’ve never worn my shoes before. And I’ve never worn theirs.

I cannot touch that world, a completely different universe I have never experienced running parallel to my own. I do not understand their excitement, their joy, what it is within this moment of walking into an empty building for which I now own a key inspires such an incredibly emotional response. I don’t understand the roots that they’ve created in a house, this single structure that they call “home” that attaches to its name so many different meanings and feelings and collective understandings that are so foreign of concepts to me.

For me, it is all so strange. I am watching the excitement on visitors faces, as they look at the new house and get increasingly jovial as most first culture kids do with the concept of owning a “home,” and they reflect the feelings they expect me to have, of joy, excitement, new futures and a commitment to a single place as the place I want to be. They shine with anticipation of those thoughts and feelings they expect me to have, and I shine back, but not because I feel those feelings or think those thoughts, but because this entire experience is so foreign to me that I mirror them as they mirror what they believe they see in me.

If they knew the truth, though, they would not find excitement and joy at the prospect of owning a house. I love my house, I will not deny that. I love the space, the property, the location, the neighbours, the convenience, the quiet, and the noise. I love that I don’t have to worry about stepping too loud for the people below me, finding a parking spot at night, or climbing three flights of stairs to get to my door. I love the smell of it, the newness, and the fact that I have moved into something that really is mine where I am not constantly being watched. That only I have a key to my door, no manager, no technician, only me.

As a Third Culture Kid, though, there’s a void in the understanding of value that my friends and family see. Their memories of their first home were memories tied to the concept of a word that is lost on me. Home has true meaning to them, growing up within a culture that understands them, that embraces them, and that they embrace back knowing full and well they belong there. A house isn’t just a building to them, it’s a symbol of a connection to a location, a group, a culture, for which represents them to their core.

But my home isn’t in their culture. It isn’t in a building. It is out there somewhere, in the uncomfortable arms of an economy class seat, in a baggage claim department with signs written in characters I cannot read. It’s in the taste of spices I cannot remember, in the smells that abandoned me of the places I cannot see, and in the sounds of streets that echo in my memories. It’s in the hum of an engine as I fly through the air, in the back of my Grandad’s garden, at the local pub down the road, on an under-maintained bus running along the side of mountain. In the people that have shaped me, have made me who I am, who will make me who I continue to become.

As I look into eyes that falsely mirror emotions I am meant to feel at this new “home,” I can feel my heart breaking. Not because I do not understand the concept of home that they embrace so completely, but because they will never understand the beauty I see in not feeling what they expect me to feel. If they were to read these words, their responses would be many, but I find it hard to believe that any of them would be happy. They would see my lack of excitement perhaps as a lack of appreciation for a culture they love, perhaps as a lack of respect for the possession I have. They may judge me for not feeling as they do, for not appreciating it to the level as they do, all because I do not understand the fundamental concept behind everything a home means to them.

I am not sad for the lack of understanding of a home. I’m not even sad because I do not see the world through the same lens as those with whom I choose to spend significant portions of my life. I’m sad because these words speak only to my TCK brethren: The world that we see and the world that we live in is not the same place, and the beauty I long to share is lost in moments of lack of understanding and an inability to convey a world-view that cannot be gifted unless the tides of our youth happened to flow in the same direction. But now, it is too late, and the barriers are set, no matter how hard we try to share our world with others, or have them share theirs with us. We run parallel to each other, seeing the same things side-by-side from an entirely different perspective. And while that is beautiful, it is also heartbreaking, for while the experiences are close, they will always be separated by the same little gap between understanding.

So when I hear them say “Welcome home,” with a meaning I will never understand, I think silently, “Thank you, I’ve loved every second of carrying it with me everywhere I’ve ever been, and everywhere I will ever go, around the world and back again to somewhere completely new.”

Net Neutrality is Globalization, Let’s Fight to Keep It

Third Culture Kid LifeI challenge you to find a Third Culture Kid (TCK) out there who doesn’t agree with this statement: The internet is the purest and most openly accessible form of connection between cultures currently in existence, the single exception being one’s ability to walk into a country and immerse themselves in the culture they’re surrounded by.

With talks of Net Neutrality sky-rocketing again in the United States (I say sky-rocketing with full knowledge that while there are many people making a lot of noise on the issue, there are far too few given the fact that the internet is a vital part of almost everyone’s lives), the fact that we may very well lose a free and open internet is becoming a topic of concern for anyone living in this country.  For the general public and life-long residents of the US, a free and open internet represents a connection to free speech and expression coupled with a gateway to free market enterprise.

The internet is home to everything now, and with that complete involvement in our lives, we find ourselves turning to it in order to acquire information, purchase anything we want, connect with friends and loved ones, start a business, get our name heard, learn new things, relax and unwind, watch television, follow rising stars, listen to music, find new friends, develop contacts, apply for jobs, work our jobs, and ultimately: connect ourselves to the world.

For America, one’s ability to start a company and rise to success has been the driving force of free market enterprise, and with the creation of the internet, that drive has never been stronger. People with highly marketable skills in isolated industries now have a portal of access that allows them to get their name into the world, to create a company that focusses on something unique and desired, and share it across a digital path that spans the entire expanse of our planet. And we do it all under the guise that our information is created equally, no matter what information we choose to share.

Unfortunately for Americans, that belief in a free and open internet is currently nothing more than a lie we are telling ourselves to help us feel better about our existence. And that’s where the Net Neutrality debate comes into play. If you are not aware of what’s happening with Net Neutrality, the FCC, and ISPs across the United States, I encourage you to watch this video. It explains, in as simple as a way as I can conceive, just what we were all so upset about earlier this year. You can read the comments, too, to get a nice spread of just how intense this conversation has gotten:

It turns out that when you allow a company to have a monopoly on an asset, they will often abuse the power of possessing that monopoly for profitable gain. It is foolish for us to blame them for this, as it is a natural part of running a business, but you also have to remember that one of the core values of the free market is that competition is fundamentally good for business. ISPs will argue all day that they do not have a monopoly, but their arguments are nothing short of propaganda that permeates the most hated industry by customers in the nation. In truth, they don’t have a monopoly in most markets. But their lack of competition based on mutual gain might as well be.

I’m not a fan of regulation. I don’t like governments at all and honestly believe them to be incredibly inefficient, money sucking machines driven by idiots, crooks, and thieves. But, unfortunately, there are exceptions to every rule, and while I am a free market person to my core, I am not foolish enough to believe that with ISPs being the same people that want us to watch cable television and buy premium shows, that they’re not going to bully us into them getting what they want. We’ve already entered into a slippery slope of being charged twice for access to an internet we never really recieved in the first place. And if you don’t agree with that, perhaps you forgot about Netflix and Comcast‘s spat earlier this year?

The thing is, as a TCK, the internet is more to me than just a tool for domestic business. Granted, I use it every single day for just that being the Marketing Manager for a rather prominent waste company, authoring this collection, and managing various other private contract roles with different organizations. But it’s bigger than that. It’s a point of connection, and my ability to do those things is driven by a free and open internet in which my traffic is just as valuable as anyone else’s in the eyes of neutrality, and it’s the consumer who decides my worth, not an ISP.

And this is bigger than you think. Hundreds of massive companies, including Google and Netflix have already sided with Net Neutrality advocates everywhere. And that’s a big deal if you think about it. People who yell “Well of course they don’t want to be forced to pay more to have people access their information, they’re giants” are missing the point. It’s true, they don’t want to pay, why would they? It hurts their bottom line. But the point is, if they have to pay, they can.

Can you?

That’s the thing you need to be asking yourself here. Can you afford to pay to get your name heard because an ISP has decided your content is taking too much traffic? Take me, for example. I host a completely free resource of information here at Third Culture Kid Life for TCKs, their parents, their families, and their friends. Over the past three years, it has become quite a trafficked site. I know that if ISPs get their way, they won’t bother with the likes of me right off the bat. But one day, they might. And if they do, what would happen?

Unfortunately for me, and hopefully my readers feel the same, Third Culture Kid Life would be no more. My content could be inaccessible all because I didn’t pay an ISP to get a pass-through to my website so that people could load my page. And with the content of the world at my fingertips, that entire concept is absolutely terrifying.

So please, while you still can: Take a stand. Fight for a free and open internet. Fight for Net Neutrality. Let’s keep the culture of the world, and the culture of the internet that connects it, as strong as it has always been.

__________

Author of TCK LifePost by: James R. Mitchener

 

 

 

 

Dear Scotland, Please Don’t Go

Dear-Scotland-Please-Don't-GoDear Scotland,

You don’t know me, and sadly, I do not know you. Not as I should at least, not as I’d like. I have seen so many countries in my life that admitting I’ve never set foot on your soil fills me with a massive amount of shame, especially seeing as I was so close just under two years ago, planning a trip en-route to a convention that unfortunately I had to cancel due to a snowstorm and your airport being closed. I was excited, too, to meet you. There’s something beautiful about knowing you’re going to step off a plane and be somewhere completely different, somewhere completely new that you’ve never seen before in your life. And while you’re so close to the country in which I spent the first measly four years of my life, sharing a border with it in fact, I have embarrassingly never managed to make my way up into your lands.

You see, I’m what the 21st century knows as a Third Culture Kid (TCK). I was born in one country (England), grew up all over the world with various 2-3 year stints in different countries, and adopted various cultures from each and every place I visited instead of a singular culture most common in children that grow up in a normal, mono-cultural lifestyle. One of the most interesting things that happens to TCKs is that they have an incredibly hard time learning how to relate to the concept of a “home.”

First Culture Kids (FCKs) form a natural attachment to their homeland, understanding that this place, the place that me, my family, my friends have all lived, is my home. Even when they move away from that location, should they choose to in their adult years, they always retain that level of connection to their home-town. TCKs don’t have that. We travelled from place to place in our developmental years, learning from various cultures, communities, and countries but never being tied to a singular cultural or patriotic experience. We’ve seen dozens of sides of dozens of coins, and each one has some sort of value to us, but that singular connection, that place we can call home, is completely foreign to us.

Take me, for example. I was born in England, but England is just the country where my parent’s lived, where my extended family lives, and another place I frequently visit to share in scattered moments once a year with family members that go about their normal day-to-day lives without me ever being part of them. In a sense, my brother and I are the forgotten members of the family, the ones that are of course still in the thoughts of our extended family, but never like everyone else, never truly connected to the daily lives that everyone else shares so closely. We’re just too distant, too different, and too… foreign.

The reason why I tell you this is so that you can understand the gravity of my plea. Not understanding the concept of a home, not being tied to the lives that so many people live on a daily basis, TCKs have a tendency to view the world quite differently from grounded, level-headed individuals such as yourselves. We’re a bit of a mess, you could say, but that mess has its moments of realisation, and I believe that one of those moments is now:

I have a passport, you see, my ticket to the world. With it, I can travel almost anywhere I choose, visit almost any place I could want to see, and continue to expand my knowledge of both individualised and globalised culture. It is a ticket to everything, this silly little piece of paper with nothing but my picture, name, a random number that was assigned to me as my life-long identification,  all tucked away in this lovely little red book embossed with a beautiful logo. This passport is special, because while it sits comfortably beside a blue passport that reads United States of America, this one, the passport I was granted due to my birthright, carries so much more meaning to a child of the world such as myself.

This passport is one for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I have spent years of my life trying to understand what it is about that passport, that simple little red book that brings me so much pride. And you see, while I carry two, one for a country in which I currently reside and one for a country in which I have hardly resided, the passport for the United Kingdom symbolizes everything that a TCK has come to learn about the world.

This book, formed because of pacts and unities dating centuries, was a truly glorious and unforgettable claim for unified globalisation. It is the success story behind attempts that preceded it and followed it time and time again, a truly world shattering statement that we free people are better together than we are apart. That through each other, we can achieve so much more, go so much further, and be so much stronger than we had ever even imagined.

Having seen this world through so many different cultural lenses, having watched so many people strive for exactly the same thing in so many different languages, looking at my passport and knowing that long before I set eyes on this world, there were people fighting to bring it together in a way that strengthened their neighbours, not weakened them or belittled them or scared them, I couldn’t be more proud to carry that document.

So please, Scotland. I beg of you. Do not leave. I have no home like you know, I have no sense of national self devotion, no patriotism the way you would understand. I am a child of the world. And as such, I beg of you to stay. I beg of you to claim the authority you seek, but as a nation united with others in a quest to bring people together, not force them apart. Both you and your neighbour nations, the community for which I hold the single most important document of my life, are something to be so proud of, something that I am proud of each and every day from thousands of miles away, knowing that at any time I can return and settle down with pride in what you’ve all achieved.

So please, don’t go. You have the power to push unity on, or show that further separating the world is the right thing to do. And believe me when I say, we are all just people of the world fighting to be heard. Please, don’t go. Please, stay with us for globalisation, and make this TCK proud.

__________

James R. Mitchener

Post by: James R. Mitchener

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Done Here

TCK Life I'm Not Done HereIf you’re here, then you’re either a Third Culture Kid, the parent of a TCK, or have some sort of intimate relationship with TCK life and/or expatriation. In some way, you at the very least partially understand that TCKs are a mess of culture driven by this seemingly unnatural desire to get up and go, experience more, and jump from location to location leaving everything behind in hopes of capturing that next piece of the puzzle that makes up multiculturalism. People have coined us everything from Permanent Internationals to Global Nomads, and you know what, we’re proud of all the titles that non-travelers and international explorers alike have thrown our way. We embrace our multiculturalism with such ferocity that anyone would think we have in our possession something as precious and sought after as the fountain of youth.

We talk about how much we love the world, how much we always want to see more, how much we need to move and experience the next step. We talk about how we don’t mind saying goodbye, how we handle departure differently from everyone else, how nothing is permanent in our lives, even the culture we create. We talk about all the things we’ve seen, all the things we want to see, and how all these sights made us who we are or will make us into something better. We talk about going, moving, and the next step in what appears to be an endless path of places for which our thirst can never be quenched. But in all my time as an author for Third Culture Kids, the one thing I’ve never said is this:

I’m not done here yet.

It’s time that changed. When TCKs talk about what it is that makes them who they are, TCKs that have truly embraced their multiculturalism, there’s an oddly consistent trend in which we don’t really talk much about the place we are right now. We talk about the cultures of our past, the pieces we’ve already absorbed and are confident in explaining, the shining lights of memories past. We talk about the future and what it holds, the potential for new cultures and the promise of an ever-changing understanding on what it means to truly be a citizen of Earth and not a member of a single country. But we don’t ever really talk about where we are, right now.

In part it’s because we haven’t fully pieced together the elements of the culture we are currently experiencing, we haven’t decided on our final adoptions in regards to cultural development, and we know that by admitting that we are still learning, still adopting, we bind ourselves a little closer with the inevitable goodbyes that sit in our future. We know that by opening that door, we strengthen bonds to people that would start believing that they understand us, when the truth is we don’t want you to understand us because we aren’t like you. We don’t see the world as countries and pockets. We don’t believe that one person or culture is better than another. We don’t want to be another person in the herd of a like-minded community. We want to challenge everything, we want to make you think, and we want you to see the world as we do: That we are all just people, like everyone else, stuck here fighting to be more than just a forgotten name in a forgotten world.

But that’s not fair for the now. Because the truth is, as I sit here in Raleigh, North Carolina and look out at the rest of the world and consider the next inevitable step, a move that will absolutely come one day in my future, maybe soon, maybe not, I can’t help but shake that one thought in the back of my mind, one that counter-acts our entire external projection of what it means to be a TCK. The truth is, I’m not done here yet.

I know I’m not alone. I know that TCKs everywhere have whispered that same silent thought to themselves, maybe not everywhere, but somewhere. They’ve said quietly “But… I don’t want to go. I’m not done here yet. I need more time,” and no one has heard them.

Because who would we be, the TCKs that we are so proud of, if we let the world know that there was actually something about this place that was more special than all the others? Who would we be if we admitted that this culture is still growing, still adding to the pot of knowledge that we possess, and there’s more to it than we pretend to have already figured out? Who would we be, the people that are so confident in our ability to just let go and move on, if we admitted that in this place there are people that we just aren’t ready to do that with, that we just aren’t ready to leave behind and release from our world? Who would we be, if we admitted that we wanted to stay, if only for a little while longer?

But the truth is, we’ve all thought it. And we’ve all pretended we haven’t. And we’ve all moved on and gone to other places and left whatever it was behind just a little sooner than we would have liked.

But we don’t have to. It’s alright, you know. You can do it, if you really want to. You can look out over the trees or plains or deserts or mountains and think how beautiful they are. You can look at a colleague or a friend or a lover or a partner and think “I’m not ready to let you go.” You can get in your car or on the bus or on a bike and go from A to B without discovering anything new and know that you don’t really mind that you’ve taken this road before a thousand times and still find it fascinating.

You can admit that maybe, just maybe, you’re not quite done here yet. And if you really want, it’s alright if you choose to stay a little while longer.

__________

James R. Mitchener

Post by: James R. Mitchener

 

 

 

 

Childhood Home

Childhood-HomeYou tell me about your childhood home, and I smile and nod, balancing on the edge of every single word watching as your eyes light up and the memories of your youth flood through you. As you comment so naturally, so consistently, on this backdrop of the events that made you who you are today, I hang on every jump from past to present tense of a home that both exists now, and existed then, that is as loved as any person in your family or any memory of your life. It isn’t just a place, this childhood home. The memories of your youth have interwoven with its frame to make it almost human, an evolving part of your development that changed as you changed, that grew as you grew, that shaped itself over and over as you went from crib to bed, child to teen, teen to young adult.

I listen with such overwhelming attention because you’re speaking to me of this natural world that to you seems so natural and so normal, but to me seems so foreign and confusing.  You pause in thought, smile, and sigh as the memory sits in the forefront of your mind. And then you ask me about my childhood home.

All at once, the neurons fire, grasping for memories that are not there. I realize now just how foreign of a concept this is to me, just how little a question like that connects to any experience of my life. How do I answer that, when my home has been in airport terminals across the world, when sitting on an airplane is more natural than a bus or a car or a train. Where do I begin in trying to bridge the difference between what was your experience and what was mine?

Do I tell you about my house in England? The small little home in a quiet little town, the one with the toilet under the stairs that I would get toilet roll out of to put on the floor in the living room across the hall to pretend it was a pit of fire? The one where my bedroom was up the stairs through the tiny hallway, just on the right, where I had a train set that my dad had built me that he painted a lake onto that I believed needed real water instead of painted water that would flow off the sides and nearly ruin the bedroom wall? The one where I had a little blue plastic stool to stand on to brush my teeth with toothpaste that tasted a flavour of some berries, maybe, or something else small and forgotten in the memory of a three year old boy?

Do I tell you about the apartment in Hong Kong? The small, three roomed apartment on the 17th or 14th or 16th floor, in building B? The one where we had a sofa couch made of some sort of foam composite that we would stand on its side and open up to make a wall in the game room? The one where just through the kitchen you could find Mallette’s tiny little room where she would sit and do whatever she did until Robert or I bothered her? The one where when we were getting into the elevator and I was carrying my yellow haired troll doll that I loved, and then proceeded to drop so he fell down the crack and tumbled to his grave beneath the elevator?

Do I tell you about the house my parents had built in Houston? The massive-by-English-standards home with the master bedroom upstairs that threw off the American builders who did not put master bedrooms upstairs? The one that we would run around outside of in the blistering heat of Texas playing action games with our neighbors, all about our age? The one where I sat in the kitchen for hours every single day procrastinating on my homework, driving my mother mad?

Do I tell you about the little house at the end of the road in France? The one where my Nan and Grandad drove across the ocean from England to bring us their old kitchen so my mum could get rid of the horrible green cabinets and replace them with the kitchen her mother had retired in a renovation? The one where I would walk all the way up the road to get on the school bus to attend my favorite school I had ever experienced up until that point in my life? The one where we got our first computer and discovered the internet with the large bay windows fully open letting in the beautiful french breeze?

Do I tell you about the five story connected townhouse in Hong Kong that was incredibly thin and shot to the sky? The one where my brother had an entire floor to himself and two bedrooms because one of the bedrooms was only just large enough to fit his bed, but not large enough that he could ever open his closet? The one that had the independent wall mounted air conditioning units that kept my room so cold it was like I lived in an ice box? The one where we got robbed three times and Ralph, our dalmatian, had scratched half-inch deep treads into the staircase as he chased the burglar from our home?

Do I tell you about the house we returned to in Houston that felt nothing like it had before, an empty shell of a past experience that was nothing as it should have been. The one in which I cried myself to sleep every night in that bed for weeks, as a fully matured teenager, upon arriving because I was in a room that I had sat in before and so helplessly could never escape from to go back to the world I loved? The one I locked myself away inside of, letting my grades slip into oblivion and my concern for the world fade to silence? The one where I learned how different I was, and who I had finally become, and slowly overcame the heartbreak to uncover the pride of all that I had seen?

No.

I tell you about none of them. I tell you that I have no childhood home. That my life is a string of memories from all over the world, that every single one of them made me who I am, and that my life is not built upon the memories of a single location. I tell you that there are things I loved about them all, and things I hated about them all, but in the end, they were just buildings of my past, and the things that mattered were the friends I made and the experiences I had.

And you understand. Or you say you do, because that is what we do, and you agree that the house is just a place, but it’s a place full of memories for you, and that you and I aren’t so different in that regard, except that your childhood memories are on one childhood home, and mine are from many.

But I don’t think you understand. Because I don’t understand. And that’s sort of beautiful.

__________

James R. Mitchener

Post by: James R. Mitchener