Journey by Dawn

Becoming aware of my TCK identity as an adult. Are there more of us?

Finding a place to call home, is the hardest task of any TCK. By definition Third Culture Kids are children who spend a significant time of their developmental years travelling due to the work of their parents. The countries that I got to visit due to my mum’s job include Mexico (age 7-15), Canada (15-23). In my late teenage years I searched deeply for my identity, at last discovering that more than anything else I was Lithuanian (the country where I was born). Or so I thought…

Having returned there alone age 23, I lived for 10 years, trying to feel at home, trying to believe this is where I belong. Starting life from scratch was terrifying, since I did not receive much help from family members. Lithuania in 2004, had recently become independent from the Soviet occupation and family members and friends I had tried to keep close over the years (despite the distances travelled) considered it to be foolishness that I chose to give up Canadian citizenship to become Lithuanian by passport. It is not permissible to keep both. But I could not be an immigrant in my own homeland! For one, no one would employ me, for another, I could not get health insurance. Yes, I had acquired the Canadian one during the travels, but I was too young then to decide where I’d like to live and was not aware of this huge need that appeared in my life to find a sense of belonging.

It is now my 5th years living in Australia. I can say that spending time with other Lithuanians especially in Melbourne, I realised the crucial difference between adult immigration and childhood immigration or TCK experience. The memories other immigrants hold are filled with warm feelings, of home and belonging, of close family and friend ties. My memories of an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), although amazing in richness of language and cultural exposure, they do come with a feeling of pain and sadness, a kind of loneliness for having had to give up everything that is dearest. More than once in life.

Recently I discovered a book called: Third Culture Kids: the Experience of Growing up Among Worlds. It feels like reading my life story, providing a huge sense of understanding and BELONGING to the community out there of children who also have similar experiences due to travel among them parents who are missionaries and military brats. Honestly, this book made me notice that ATKC are everywhere – the latest one I met was an older lady in Kronstadt Gardens, Ruscare facility where I work here in Melbourne. Hearing about her travels as a child on one-way roads due to persecutions, I could not help but relate to this deep level of trauma-blessing that being a TKC really is.

It is true but very crazy: as the authors of this great book describe, our home is truly only in the hearts of other TCK. It is double blessing having travelled with siblings. That is why I hope, if I receive the blessing to have children, to have at least 2 of them. So that no matter what roads life takes, they can always have someone to feel at home with.



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