What this TCK Does

It has come to my attention recently that the impossible question of “where are you from?” has started bleeding into many different aspects of my life. What started out as that Third Culture Kid question of where is your home has turned into a string of other, more detailed self-defining questions that feel impossible to answer. It has evolved, grown into something more powerful, something more curious, and something more saddening. It has grown into questions like “who are your family?”, “where are you going?”, “what do you need?”, “what do you want?”, and most importantly these days: “What do you do?”

In an attempt towards bringing you closer to understanding me on a more personal level, I’m going to go ahead and attempt to answer that question. These days, it feels as difficult a question as “How has being a TCK shaped your life?” It’s a really hard question to answer, almost impossible, but it all comes down to baby steps. I’m doing this because I want you to see what happens to a TCK that has grown up and entered the world. I want you to see the madness of my life, the chaos that controls me, and the need for a challenge and a change that motivates me.

My work life is a direct reflection of my TCK life. I cannot stay put, I cannot sit still, and I cannot stop being busy. To not work is to be bored, and to be bored is to be dead. In a perfect, hand-in-hand parallel, to not travel is to be stuck, and to be stuck is to be dead. So maybe for all those of you that are looking to find an explanation closer to home of what goes on inside the head of a TCK, perhaps this will do the trick. Perhaps this take on what’s one of the most normal parts of life, going to work and getting paid, will help those who don’t understand make sense of the life of a TCK.

I will start by telling you I did the corporate thing once. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t for me. Too much of the same, day in and day out. I even joined a start-up, but as soon as a new management team came into the mix, the old dogs (me included in the pack) were pushed to the side lines and told to shut up. The creative flair that made a start-up the greatest experience of my working life was sucked away, and I was forced into a monotonous, unchallenging role. My brain always needs to be challenged, to pushed to find something new and impossible and find a way to tame it. So now, I do all the following, every single day:

I’m a Writer. I write everything from website content to novels. For work, I have built copy for over 100 websites ranging from air conditioning to dental. I have written sales copy, proposals, reports, manuals, guides, lesson plans, curriculum, marketing copy, collateral, and everything else you can possibly think of under the sun. I write. I’m very good at it, and I enjoy doing it. So, I do it for a living. I also write for fun. I mean, if you enjoy something enough, why not right? I write short stories, randomness, religious opinions, TCK descriptions, travel information, and even novels. My creative writing ranges from fantasy to realistic fiction, and I will dabble in absolutely anything so long as it’s not poetry. I’m not good at poetry, and I’m not a fan of reading it either.

I’m a Social Media Marketing Specialist. I help Small to Medium sized business develop successful brand awareness plans for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Blogging. I use top-of-mind-awareness to help these companies not only get in front of their desired demographics, but find a way to stay there. This is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done because it’s always a challenge. Social Media is so new that the game is always changing, and staying one step ahead of it is nerve-racking and thrilling at exactly the same time. The funny thing is, despite the fact I do this with clients, I suffer the curse of never wanting to do it to my own social media. I probably should change that…

I’m a Travel Agent. I book travel for people all over the place. I do this because I love sending people to new and distant places. It has been such a staple part of my life, the idea of getting to share that with others was impossible for me to pass up. Plus, with all the global travel and the time in Asia, I get to throw in a nice little first-hand-experience sort of thing to go along with the bundle. “Sure, the Great Wall of China is great, but if you don’t eat dinner at the restaurant in the back alley with the rats running around inside, you are doing it wrong. The rats know where to eat. Follow the rats! Plus, if they’re hanging around there, it’s a good indicator they aren’t part of the main course.”

I’m a SEO and PPC conversions specialist. I help different companies analyze their campaigns for Googles Paid Search advertisements, help optimize the efficiency of their landing pages, and check copy, keywords, and content relevancy for Organic listings. I will then help develop new and improved campaigns based on my recommendations, reworking copy or creating new ads.

But most importantly, I’m a Third Culture Kid. And I know, to many, that doesn’t sound like a job, but it’s the job that makes all those other ones possible. I’m a writer because I can create people that are so believable that no one would ever question them. Why? Because I’ve seen so many people from so many cultures, learned the way they behave, and adopted those qualities myself. I’m a Social Media Specialist because I am a child of the world, and social media allows for a completely global connection unmatched by anything the world has ever seen before. I’m a travel agent because the idea of sending people away makes me believe that maybe they’ll get a shred of understanding of what it’s like to not have a home. But when they return and say “I’m glad to be back, despite how great it was,” I’m always disappointed. And I work in Online Marketing because I understand the way people think to a level of detail unmatched by almost anyone I’ve ever met. I’ve never studied marketing in my life, but I’m damn good at it because I grew up watching people with such detail that I can almost always predict exactly what someone is going to do before they do it. So to me, marketing, predicting people’s purchasing behavior, uncovering demographics, and all that jazz is just as easy to me as immersing myself in a culture. I was born to do it.

So, to all those non-TCKs out there that wanted a little personal flair, a little understanding of what a TCK does with their lives, there’s mine. It’s crazy, it’s chaotic, and it’s all over the place. But so was my upbringing. So is the way I view the world and the people in it. And so is every single other aspect of my existence. Hey, I’m a Third Culture Kid. I wasn’t born this way, but I sure wish I could have been.

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Post by: James R. Mitchener

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