Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is a simple law of existence, a governing rule of the universe. You cannot have a push without a pull, a cause without an effect, an action without a reaction. Everything is perfectly balanced. For everything we gain, we lose something of equal value in return. It’s simply the price of life. The thing that you lose may not be something you even notice. It might not even be something you cared about. But it is weighted evenly with your gain, and so the trade is made all the same.
For Third Culture Kids, that give and take is one of the largest forces that have shaped us into the multi-cultural creatures we are. In growing up around the world, we have gained culture. We have gained world experience. We have gained knowledge and pride and level of understanding in people that’s almost completely unmatched by any other type of person on the planet. We have gained an insight into the “big picture,” along with ways to explain it and justify all that we know. We have gained the ability to up and move to a country that would terrify others. We have gained the ability to let go, to move on, and to experience the world through a lens shared only by other TCKs.
We have been given the entire world.
And that is the cause leading to our effect. We have been given so much, and so we must give up just as much as well. And in a world where family has always been the most important thing in existence, since the dawn of humanity, we have given up that very thing that keeps us connected to everyone else. We have lost our family. We have lost our home. We have lost what makes us relatable to everyone else on Earth. We have lost our sense of community.
It has been two years today since my grandmother passed away. She had cancer of the everything. It took her by surprise. We didn’t know until it was too late, and when we knew she was gone 5 days later. It all happened on this day, 730 days in the past. I got in a plane two days after it happened. I flew back to England with my cousins who were staying with my family in America. They were younger, all three of them below the age of 18. So I took them home, and waited with my grandfather until my parents arrived.
They asked me to do the Eulogy. Well, they didn’t ask, they just sort of assumed I was going to do it. It makes sense, I suppose, with me being the writer and the oldest grandchild. But like I’ve said before in The Illusive Home and in this very post, nobody understands a Third Culture Kid other than another TCK. The only other TCK in my life at that time was my brother, and he was not in attendance at the funeral. He had just changed schools and couldn’t miss his first day, and so I stood alone in the crematorium at a pedestal in front of over 250 people and talked about my role model, Anne Mitchener.
And here’s the kicker. Here’s what no one else seems to understand, and yet what every TCK that is reading this blog already sees and understands completely. I was talking about a woman who I idealized, but hardly knew. My cousins who sat in the audience, my mother and father, my grandfather, my aunt and uncle, even my ex-girlfriend (who I had not started dating at the time) were closer to my grandmother than I had ever been. They knew her in a way I never could. They knew her as a caregiver, as an integral part of their lives that was always there. They knew her as a home they could drive to and visit, as a person that never missed a birthday and gave them pocket money every week. They knew her as someone that “just stopped by” their home. They knew her as Granny.
And there is the greatest trade and largest sacrifice of my life. The woman I loved and respected I knew no better than someone who I hoped to see once a year for a couple of weeks at most. Sometimes, I didn’t even get that. In fact, at the time of her passing, it had been two years since I’d seen her, three since my brother had seen her. And because I was in university and didn’t have a phone capable of making long distance calls, I would Skype-call their home once every few months at most.
That’s the price we pay. It’s here that all the benefits of being a TCK come crashing down. I’m telling you this because, even though I love my life and am so proud of the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have, I sit and wonder every single day of my life: “What would my life be if I’d never left the United Kingdom?”
The thing is, I’ll never know.
Dedicated to the memory of Anne Mitchener, my Granny, the most amazing woman I never really got to know, and with whom I wish, every single day, that I had gotten to have just one more conversation.
Post by: James R. Mitchener