Tag Archives: The Illusive Home

The Question I Can’t Answer

I feel that today, of all days, I must address the single issue that has plagued me with complication my entire life. As a writer, a knowledge seeker, a sharer, and an educator, I have dedicated a large portion of my life to fully understanding what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. There are just so many of us out there, all scattered around the world with such a small idea of what the gifts our upbringing have handed us along the way, and so it only made sense for me to do everything I could to help spread that understanding to anyone who wanted to know about it. It has been a difficult journey, one that has forced me to confront countless aspects of my past, my present, my future, and my highly subdued consciousness in order to become the educated TCK that I am today. But it has been rewarding, too. Because of my willingness to stare that bitterness in the eyes, I have been fortunate enough to develop a strong and consistent fan base, give advice on a personal level, and even have been asked to be the featured writer for the ThirdCultured website, creating all the ThirdCultured Blog copy targeted towards the importance of growing up a TCK.

Regardless of how much I try, though, how much I learn and understand, there is always this one tiny place in the recess of my mind that is just untouchable to my logic. It has hidden away so quietly, protected itself so well that no matter how much I try to use common sense or logic to break it down and explain its importance to the world, I find myself struggling to describe the impact it has on me as a TCK. I fit it in to these posts as often as I can, a word here or a sentence there, but the explanation never follows, and it only works to support an argument that already has enough backing to stand alone, without this tiny fragmented addition. The thing that gets me, that I hope confuses other TCKs as much as myself, is love.

I will try now, because I believe given the fact that this blog is about TCKs, but also about me as a TCK, to use my experience yesterday to explain why the topic of love confuses me to no end. I know that it plays a crucial role in the life of an Adult Third Culture Kid, that it plays a crucial role in the life of anyone, but even though I cannot explain why, I just know to my core that the way it effects a TCK is unlike the way it effects anyone else on this planet. It’s more than just love to us. It’s a gateway to something terrifying, because the entire principal of it all requires so much access to things we as TCKs have given up to be who we are.

Statistically, TCKs are the group with the oldest first-marriage rate. We don’t do it young, and we generally wait until we are in our early 30’s before jumping into the marriage game for the first time in our lives. Likewise, we are also one of the most stable marriage groups on Earth. We generally don’t get divorced, and we generally don’t want to. So far, I can explain why to all of these things. The problem comes here: If all these things are true, then what is it about us, or perhaps just me, that makes love so terrifying?

It’s time to give you the background, I suppose. It has been scattered in fragments throughout this blog, and detailed a little closer in The Illusive Home, but it’s time to put it all out on the table so that the potential for understanding is right before your eyes. I fell in love with a girl, we will call her Lara for the sake of not putting her name out into the world, the very first time I laid eyes on her. That’s not a joke, and is important to understand because like many TCKs, I’ve always been the guy that falls for people very quickly, but falls in love slowly. That tactic gives me the ability to open up enough to see their value, but close the door too if I don’t find what I’m looking for without pain or frustration. So when I first saw Lara (and this is difficult because I’ve actually known her her entire life, but went many years without seeing her until she came to visit America with my cousins well over a year ago), I had no idea what was happening. Love at first sight is such a stupid concept, a foolish one that leaves you open to so much hurt, but there it was, unavoidable and uncontrollable.

Lara felt the same. We said “I love you” after 15 days, of which we had seen each other for no more than six of those days. She left America, then came back three weeks later. We had a long distance relationship, and it really didn’t bother me except for not getting to lie down beside her at night and kiss her when I woke up in the morning. We did well, and violated every standard relationship protocol and wall that TCKs are so fantastic at creating. Then we broke up. Neither of us wanted to, but it happened. It’s complicated, and I still don’t fully understand what happened.

I spent six months and sixteen days working to get over it. I’m usually pretty good at that. A couple weeks, maybe a month of heavy drinking and spending far too much money followed by a whole lot of writing and severe depression, and then one day I wake up, anything from 3 weeks to several months later, and I feel fine. It’s just… gone, plain and simple. I still love the person, but the TCK side of me has conquered it all and cut the emotions and ties out of my life. A remarkable skill, one that I love so very dearly in times like that.

With Lara, that didn’t work.

I arrived back in England on Thursday, and we met up yesterday. My TCK side did what it always does, it put up walls and protected me. And like always, my level of perception or situational awareness or whatever you wish to call it had already mapped out exactly what would happen. We would meet, we would talk, and all those days in the recent past as my return to England grew closer and her saying she missed me and loved me got stronger would fade away, because like me, she would have protected herself. And like usual, I was right. Down to almost every minute detail, I was right.

So here’s where it all comes together. here’s where curiosity and developing a TCK understanding hits its wall. I understand how we behave, why we behave the way we do, and why we are so good at letting people go that have meant so much to us. So why, then, is it impossible for me to do so here? Why, when love comes into the equation, does it become so nearly impossible to do what we do every single day of our lives without any issue or frustration at all. I ask only because the collective minds of TCKs are just such powerful tools. I mean, I understand that to me, she was always the closest thing to home I could ever ask for. But why should that matter? I’ve never wanted a home before, and I don’t want one now. So the real question, the one I want to leave everyone with to ponder or respond to or mock me with, is this: Why when you love someone more than you ever thought possible do all the skills of cutting loose and letting go you developed in your life fail to work? What about that situation makes our unbreakable castle feel as though it was built out of Lego bricks?

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Post by: James R. Mitchener

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The Price We Pay

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.

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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.

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Post by: James R. Mitchener

A Little About Life

This isn’t a blog about what Third Culture Kids are. Well, I suppose it is. But it’s not a direct definition of us or our perceptions of the universe. I did that in The Illusive Home. It did well, got a lot of attention, but it was just a demo piece to a larger work. I realized though, starting the larger work, that it really needed more development. A little tweak to the story development, maybe a flair of something more human. But the human element wasn’t enough. Ignorance or standard description would have never cut it. It needed the flair of a Third Culture Kid (TCK).

So this time, I’m going to write about the life of a grown-up Third Culture Kid. This is me: I’m 24 years old. I’m a freelance content writer. I’m a travel agent. I’m a Search Marketing specialist. I’m a Social Media Business Consultant. I’m a traveller. I’m an English Citizen. I’m an American Citizen Applicant. I’m a dog lover. I’m a thinker. I’m a knowledge collector. I’m an information gatherer. I’m a novelist. I’m a fiction writer. I’m a non-fiction writer. I’m a fantasy writer. I’m a big-picture-thinker. I am a person-reader, a seer, or simply intuitive. I have no home. Seriously, I have no home; I live between four different residences. I am a 24 year-old Third Culture Kid.

I was born in England. Milton Keynes, to be exact. I moved to Hong Kong when I was a baby. Then to Singapore. Then back to England for the birth of my brother, Robert, when I was two. Then off to Hong Kong when I was four. Then the USA at seven. Then Paris, France. Then Hong Kong again. Then Houston in the US. Then San Antonio. Now I live in New Braunfels, Texas; San Antonio, Texas; Houston, Texas; and soon Eton Wick, England.

I work several jobs. I got a double concentration Bachelor of Arts Degree in English: Emphasis in Creative and Professional Writing. I did this for two reasons. The first was because I absolutely love writing. I’m also pretty good at it when I have a strong idea that I just can’t shake. The other reason was because I’m a communicator. In fact, communication is my fifth strength as seen in the Strengths Finder 2.0 test. My top five are Strategic, Maximizer, Ideation, Input, and Communication. Strategic means I’m a big picture thinker. Maximizer means I don’t waste time completing something, but instead find the most optimal and beneficial path for all parties involved so that we get the most out of it. Ideation means I’m extremely creative. Input means I see things more than just at face value and can provide ideas. And the one that brings them all together is Communication, meaning that I can not only do all those things, but I can explain exactly why I did them.

Those traits, those top 5, are very uncommon together. They are seen in only one group of people. They are seen in TCKs.

Why am I writing this? Because the world needs to know what it’s like being in our minds. Third Culture Kids are often extremes. We almost never sit in the middle. We are either extremely introverted or extroverted. We are either loud or quiet. We are either noticed or hidden. But we are never flip floppers. We know what we believe and we stick to it. Why? Because we have lived in so many places, seen so many different cultures, lost so many friends throughout our lives that we are conditioned to believe that our lives are always going to be that way.

That’s why I don’t have a home. That’s why I don’t hold one job, but instead do three, four, five, ten, twenty different things in a day. I do it because I am completely addicted to change. So that’s why I’m writing this blog. I’m writing this blog so you can see what happens to one type of Third Culture Kid when he grows up. And I hope you see what I want to convey. Because to many people, I look like a mess. It’s chaotic and crazy, full of random little self destructive elements that make my life constantly changing. But you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being a Third Culture Kid is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So if you want to know who we are in a textbook format, read The Illusive Home. If you’re like me, and you want to know the way a person’s brain works, through-and-through, then come here. Here I will show you the Life of a Third Culture Kid when he’s no longer that sad and lonely little boy being forced to travel around the world.

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Post by: James R. Mitchener