The TCK Unity Era

As Third Culture Kids, we are constantly examining the cultures of the world, even when we aren’t in the process of adopting them into our own Third Culture. We are cultural pirates, pillaging the pieces we want and leaving behind the parts we don’t. We talk about these elements of TCK life all the time, sharing reasons for what we take and why we love that aspect of a particular culture, yet rarely do we take a step back to examine the culture we have created.

We are natural adapters, capable of surviving almost any situation in almost any culture. It’s for that very reason that we are so ill equipped to turn it around and look internally at what we have done. We are a mess of chaos and unity fueled by self-driven cultural evolution. We are constantly changing, constantly altering the core of our existence without care to what we are leaving behind in the process.

But the reason we survive so flawlessly no matter where we are is exactly the reason we do not step back and consider the universe we have given birth to. Every single person is different, and thanks to the adaptation of a TCK, every TCK is different within a completely unique self-culture. Sure, we group those cultures together and call it the “Third Culture,” but the Third Culture is different for every single TCK, and it’s even more different from the outside looking in.

Until the final years of the 20th century, our ability to unite and communicate was limited to physical interaction and personal relationships. The only opportunity a TCK had to cross paths with another TCK was simple luck of the draw. There was no unifying moment, no sense of shared community, only the knowledge that somewhere else in the world was another person who had grown up similarly to yourself. However, despite this knowledge, the distance created by a lack of ability to communicate the TCK experience made it almost impossible for a TCK to feel anything but being alone.

Today, however, TCKs have finally started to come out of the bubbles of their personal worlds. And truly, they are highly personal worlds. The cultures that each TCK has created are so uniquely different from any FCK or TCK anywhere in the world. The unique experiences couple with our adaptive nature makes our Third Culture like a snowflake in the middle of a rainstorm; we are surrounded my elements of similar qualities, yet while each drop of water that’s so similar falls to the ground, we float casually and unseen through the mist, so uniquely different and so uniquely complicated.

The world is smaller now. Transcontinental instantaneous communication is standard. We are even capable of looking into the rooms of others thanks to the increasing speeds and global spread of internet access, meaning with a computer and webcam, two people can sit in front of each other and have a conversation as though there were no oceans or borders or thousands of miles between them. We can fly anywhere in the world at a moments notice, travel wherever we want without much hurt or hindrance. And when we don’t want to travel, we can view the detailed lives of others through collections of data and information about their personality portrayed through a variety of social media tools.

Because of this boom in technology, this shrinking of our world, TCKs are being presented with the unavoidable truth that a life that was once built around the exterior is finally coming back home to the self. We are no longer isolated from other TCKs, having the ability to interact with total strangers that truly and completely understand what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. And they know not because we have to sit in front of them for hours or days or years explaining our lives, the decisions we have made, and the type of cultures we love. They understand because knowing nothing about our history or who we are that they too are as similar and different to us as two snowflakes in a rainstorm. Though we are similar in our name, the crystals of our lives that shape us make us different to the core, but when floating through a sea of droplets of water, there is nothing more comforting than that person that is completely different, and yet so very similar at exactly the same time. And though we may never see the world through the same lens, we at least understand the way that lens was crafted.

People, everywhere, spend their lives looking forwards and backwards in time, saying that “life must have been so much more interesting for people back then,” or “life will be so much better in a few years.” But honestly, I think that with the evolution of communication allowing for you, a reader, to sit at your computer and read the words of a TCK you have never met and probably never will, and me, a writer, getting to hide behind my words and engage you all through your comments on my posts or emails you send me, makes this the most exciting time in the history of TCK life.

These are the first days of our coming together. And just imagine, in fifteen or twenty years when this collection of individuals that fundamentally understands the intricate dynamics of cultural environments comes together, how powerful our impact on the world could be. We are the birth of a new era of realization, the fathers of tolerance and the mothers of understanding. And while we may have grown up TCKs many years ago, it’s here and now that we are finally given the power and ability to find one another.

Honestly, I cannot imagine anything more exciting.

Post by: James R. Mitchener

8 thoughts on “The TCK Unity Era

  1. Paulette Bethel and Ruth E. Van Reken

    Very thoughtful post, especially the last paragraph. Thank you.

    Paulette Bethel

  2. Jackal

    I hope we can achieve as much for the world as we individually hope to, I would never want there to be too many people like us becuase of some of the emotional numbness and problems we have, but at the same time there maybe isn’t enough people like us through out the world, because if we’re going to make that much of an impact all the more people may be required to make it more effective.
    Thank you,
    I really appreciate your in depth writing and I couldn’t agree more and I would never hope for less.
    TCK:Jack Rios Brooks

    1. James R. Mitchener Post author

      Welcome to TCK Life, Jack. We certainly do have our fair share of problems, especially when it comes to emotions. The things I have found, however, is that when it comes to the human condition, TCKs have a fantastic understanding of what it means to appreciate pretty much everyone. We can find the elements of most personalities, despite the flaws, that are powerful and worth clinging onto. We utilize strengths instead of focusing on weaknesses. And in terms of romantic connection, I know that the woman I am connected to I love completely. Sure, we lose a level of connection to most people, and we are quick to let go or push away, but those are elements that, at least in my opinion, are worth the global understanding presented in each of us. Call it self sacrifice knowing we are destined to a more difficult life of exclusivity, or call it an unfortunate benefit. Regardless, I truly believe we were given a gift that was worth the sacrifices of our lives.

      Thanks for the comment, Jack. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and it was great hearing from you. I always love a good discussion!

  3. Julia Munroe Martin

    So good — I can so relate to the constant examination of culture. I guess I got the double whammy: growing up all over the world AND being raised by cross-cultural anthropologists. Let me tell you, no rest for the weary child! Such a wonderful post!

    1. James R. Mitchener Post author

      Thank you, Julia. Raised around the world AND by cross-cultural anthropologists. Now this is something I want to hear more about… I bet you have an ocean full of incredible cultural experiences! You’re going to have to fill me in a bit on the history of your TCK development. Thanks for the comment as well, they make the writing worth it all.

      1. Julia Munroe Martin

        Best thing I can say about my upbringing is it gave me a lot of fodder for fiction… otherwise, it gave me a constant longing for home, always searching. You get used to it, you know?

        1. James R. Mitchener Post author

          I couldn’t agree more with that; there’s certainly no shortage for fiction in the mind of a creative TCK! You say there’s a constant longing for home, but while we feel homeless, in a sense anywhere is our home. The beauty of the lack of attachment, the failing of normalcy in our lives, is that we are not confined to a single unit of time or space. We can be anywhere, do anything. We may have lost what everyone else in this world seems to have, but in exchange we gained the ability to never feel restricted. The best example I have is my ex, who simply could not leave her family because they were the staple part of her life, that one group of people, that one house, that one collection of friends. It’s endearing, sort of, but at the same time to me it’s absolutely terrifying. When I want to do go somewhere, want to see something, want to start a new life in a new place, I can just grab my things and go. I don’t think about goodbyes or never seeing my friends again or how long it will be until I see my family. My home is wherever my feet are at the time. And while that completely removes security and consistency, it’s those very things that prevent the global mentality that all TCKs are lucky enough to have. We are children of the world. Our home is wherever we want it to be!

          But I know what you mean… it would be nice to know what it feels like on the other side of the fence. The thing is, I can’t shake the feeling that the grass really is greener on our side. Or, at least, there’s a heck of a lot more of it to see.


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