Children raised in cultures other than those of their parents, who for a significant amount of their early developmental years are exposed to a variety of cultural influences are known as Third Culture Kids or TCK. Technically speaking we could argue such development is a privilege due to the richness of language and culture stimulating neuronal growth and self awareness… However as the title of an article in BBC Capital News describes well: they often call themselves ‘Citizens of everywhere and Nowhere‘.
A study made by Denizen for TCK found that most of these children have their first move before the age 9. As grown ups – the argument is that we are more attractive to employers due to various skills such as polylinguism, flexible thinking, greater self-awareness; however, I do share with other TCK the feeling of ‘home is everywhere and nowhere’. It is true that the need of belonging can be hard to satisfy not only for TCK. However I can’t help but feel relieved when a person tells me they have travelled as a child or have had to deal with and overcome the cultural shock at some point in their lives. I know already that we share something essential in perspective of life.
I always believed myself capable of settling anywhere. So here in Australia I did, and now this ever growing desire to return to my birth country. But especially around Christmas time, I ask myself: where is really my home for me?
Since age 7 I have lived in over 30 countries (according to Google in fact there are only 195!). My longest stays with approximate number of years in brackets: Mexico (8), Canada (8), France (2), Lithuania (10), Australia (4).
If home would be defined by citizenship then I could say that I was Canadian, now Lithuanian. Perhaps this was one of my most courageous steps in life. Renouncing Canadian citizenship – I was ready to fully give my heart to my country (you are not allowed to keep both passports). So I considered myself Lithuanian above all and still do… But with life being so difficult there I could not get by.
Working ridiculous 10 hour shifts 6 days a week, I wasn’t able to save up for study or even have the time to begin building a dream. My way out of that trap was to start working short term au Pair jobs across Europe and studying online. I completed by Bachelor in Psychology in 2015 without any financial debts and just a step away from distinction. It was a huge accomplishment – and I learned to speak French fluently along the way. To continue studying (to actually become a psychologist) I was getting too old (the au pair programs run only up to age 26) so while thinking I settled for more simple jobs but already had a dream to move elsewhere… this time to a country that I DO know the language of! And so, as the impossibility of life home continued and I decided to come live in Australia.
Here I arrived with a man who I loved deeply and I could easily say was ready to love for life. But he did not like Australia: he was not a TCK, just an ordinary local Lithuanian person, but that is why probably I loved about him, (or perhaps it was my country that I loved). He soon decided to return to Lithuania, ending our engagement and long lasting friendship.
And so I remained here. Studying, working, saving… The beautiful nature of this country was what kept me from loosing faith and courage to continue living and creating new meaning to my life. It was then, a few years latter, that another person came into my life, who offered to commit to a relationship and a future together. Despite my hesitations as we did not know each other for long, I agreed. I don’t know why… but perhaps I realised that love is not about knowing but about maturity and trust. I believed him to be that person.
I do know for sure that I did the right thing to let him go, as he changed his mind over and over not knowing if he wanted to stay with me, just weeks after his promise to love me all his life. But I must say this: he was not a TCK! A local person from Brisbane, Queensland. With no awareness of the greatness of our world or the depth of love we are capable of sharing. Or even the definition of love…
I’ve lived in Australia for over 4 years now and I ask myself: where is home? Or as the Prophet Isaiah says: ‘What kind is the place of my rest?’ Is 66:1.
In conclusion I’d like to share a story of one short experience I had a few years ago visiting my homeland in winter 2017 just before the wedding. In the past I used to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity offering meals and emotional support to the poor. Passing a lady selling flowers, we made eye contact, and I stopped to talk a little. She asked about life overseas and I said that it was a struggle, and she said to me: ‘if it’s a struggle, might as well struggle here at home’ as she was reflecting about her own life. But her words remained with me.
Perhaps my home is in the hearts of people who share the similar experiences of being TCK or who as adults have travelled and know of the depth and width of beauty.
Or as St.Paul suggests: ‘Being rooted and grounded in love, you may have the power together with all the saints to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of his love‘. Ephesians 17-18.
*Having shared this very personal story I can’t help but wonder what is it like for other TCK? The sense of belonging is more than cultural and psychological sameness… it is here, I believe, we can begin to speak about the matters of the soul.
The Holy Orthodox Bible