MK & TCK Book Club discussion

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds
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The "Third Culture Kids" Book > Chapter 1: Where is Home? Erika's Story

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message 1: by mkPLANET (last edited May 26, 2015 10:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mkPLANET | 85 comments Mod
Kilian Kröll
It's a pleasure to introduce our first facilitator, Kilian Kröll, a TCK from Germany, Austria, and the U.S. As a certified professional coach, he runs a company called Third Culture Coach , guiding organizations through seasons of change and transition. He's currently the president of Families in Global Transition (FIGT) , and has led important and inspiring initiatives in this role. Kilian has a B.A. in English and a Masters in Cultural Studies. He's is also a dancer and published author, and currently resides in Vienna, Austria. You can find him on Twitter at: @3rdculturecoach .

message 2: by Kilian (new)

Kilian Kröll | 12 comments Hi everyone! It is a pleasure to start off our discussion about Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Throughout the week, I know we'll get to know each other more closely, and I will be happy to share my own personal stories related to Chapter 1: Where is Home?

To get us started, I'd like to throw out the following guiding questions:

1. The "pain point" of TCKs is identified right on the first page: the "feeling of not fully belonging anywhere in the world." Having experienced this feeling, even fleetingly, causes us to ask deep questions about identity, human belonging, and the physical, relational and spiritual dimensions of home. How have you used this feeling of not fully belonging anywhere to gain deeper insight into your life?

2. Erika says that the "Andes mountains gave her a deep sense of security each morning when she woke to see their towering peaks looming over the city..." (pg 7.). How have topographical landscapes shaped your identity, particularly the landscape(s) of your childhood?

Looking forward to starting a rich conversation!


message 3: by Deanne (new)

Deanne | 21 comments The "pain point" was very real (and difficult) for me as a young person. And even now as an ATCK/MK who is still living a transient, cross-cultural lifestyle, that "feeling of not fully belonging anywhere in the world" is something I continue to have to deal with regularly. I don't like feeling like I'm only a visitor all the time, an outsider looking in, never able to forget that wherever I am at the moment is only temporary. But there are positive aspects to it that have helped me gain a deeper insight into my life and who I am personally.

The first is in how much I truly value all the places I've lived and the people I've been privileged to share a slice of life with over the years. So, even if it’s something no one else understands, and regardless of the emotional pain of all the goodbyes, I VALUE the people and places that have been a part of my life. And THAT gives my life great personal value. The simple fact that I treasure those people, those places, those experiences, makes me value who I am and is a source of pride, contentment and internal strength and resilience. I'm not sure if that makes sense - I've never tried to put it into words before.

Secondly, it has caused me to cherish my family more. They give me my sense of “Being at Home,” as opposed to any particular geographical location. And in fact, (as strange as this may seem), as I am entering the “empty-nest” stage of life, I find that it doesn’t really matter anymore where I live – I feel free to just enjoy the adventure because I’m no longer looking to put down roots or worried about being “uprooted” anymore. Life, rather, will revolve around when we all see each other again ... wherever it may be.

And last but not least, not belonging anywhere has helped me grow closer to Jesus. He is a “constant” who never changes regardless of where I am in the world. He goes through everything with me, including all the emotional ups and downs. The more I love Him, the more I look forward to being with Him in Heaven. And that really does change my perspective regarding all the transitions and goodbyes here on earth.

message 4: by Cynthia (last edited May 25, 2015 02:51PM) (new)

Cynthia Shigo | 19 comments As a TCK who grew up in West Africa and then spent 12 years as an adult living with my family in Hungary, I sincerely believe that there is no place like home for me. I do not feel like I belong to anyone except my own family, and I have a small family. For the past 3 years I have been back in the states, working on my PhD in Education at the University of Kansas, and, as usual, find that the middle of America is the place I feel I fit least well of all.

Perhaps the greatest loss, to me, in all the moves I have made (Over 40 houses in six different countries on 3 separate continents) has been a loss of identity, of a sense of who I am. I feel like every time I move to a new place I have had to recreate for myself an understanding of who I am here, in this place. Even though I carry my dearest possessions with me and have even bought a house here in Kansas, I continue to feel homeless, a wanderer without a destination. I have been in Kansas 3 years and do not feel like I have even one real friend in this place. It is difficult because on the outside I look like a little old lady who grew up here, but inside I am an alien, always a stranger who will never belong.

I have lived in so many different topographies that I do not find particular comfort in any landscape. I have lived within a stone's throw of the ocean in Togo. In my home in Colorado I could see the sun set over Pike's Peak every afternoon from my kitchen window. My apartment in Budapest overlooked the red tiled roofs and flowered gardens of my neighbors and in the distance I could see the Danube winding its way between Buda and Pest, flowing down from Vienna and on to the Black Sea. I have lived in the mountains, on the beach, and in the plains. While I do not find comfort in these places now, I find that I feel deeply the sorrows of the whole world. When I hear of flooding in Bosnia, I can see the streets of Sarajevo becoming rivers between the bombed buildings downtown. When I hear of an earthquake in Bulgaria I know the geography of the land in upheaval. When I read of terrorist attacks where hundreds of little girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, I am overwhelmed with grief. I, too, was a little girl in that land. It is as though it was my childhood and innocence that was stolen there.

The only place I have ever felt at home has been among friends who have shared this experience of leaving so often, of never staying long enough to fit in, of homelessness. My husband and children, my brother and his wife, all my nieces and nephews are TCKs. These are the people among whom I have friends and to whom I feel the fiercest loyalties.

Thank you so much for leading this discussion of Third Culture Kids, and for giving us all a place to make sense of our lives with others who will understand.

message 5: by Julia (last edited May 26, 2015 06:45AM) (new)

Julia | 20 comments Deanne wrote: "The "pain point" was very real (and difficult) for me as a young person. And even now as an ATCK/MK who is still living a transient, cross-cultural lifestyle, that "feeling of not fully belonging a..."

I feel like you do Deanne. My home has always been my own small family that travels around with me. Now as empty nesters, it still seems as home is where we are now as a family of two. I wonder how a mixture of grandkids will change my feelings about being 'home'.Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family

message 6: by Kilian (new)

Kilian Kröll | 12 comments I am curious about this dichotomy between intense identification with physical surroundings and people (house one lives in, family) and the simultaneous freedom from attachment to places and people. It's a divine paradox. How have you learned to approach or reconcile this paradox? How could you help a TCK/ATCK differentiate between healthy attachment/detachment and counterproductive attachment/detachment?

I love your comments so far!

message 7: by Jen (new)

Jen Harris | 1 comments I found home with my parents, wherever we went - and as ESL teachers, they traveled. From age 6 on, home was with them, whether during long summers in a hotel for a weekend, visiting friends in Canada, England, France or Italy, on a cruise or on a plane, or by late August settling into a new school on another continent.
I was often told how precocious I was - world-informed and confident, flying unaccompanied minor from 9 on... but really? Adrift sometimes, no tribe or culture to introduce myself as one of THEM. Now as an adult, I'm glad for that - too many wars are over us vs them.

message 8: by Dee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee Miller (takecourage) | 32 comments I am not a TCK, but a PK who grew up with the understanding that home was where my current house is. It was wherever my nuclear family lived at the moment. We moved several times with no more than 2 weeks notice--it was always in America, of course; yet I don't call any place from my childhood "home" and never did. Fortunately, I was one of those kids who felt that having 1-2 good friends at a time was all I needed. I learned to love variety very early in life, and still get bored easily--something I attribute to that "vagabond" childhood.
Yet, being the parent of TCK's, I realize that it's different for a TCK, even with a personality that adapts easily because the cultural changes are so much greater. There's also the tendency for many TCK's in childhood to develop very strong bonds with other roving families, increasing the grief when uprooting happens. My children have a sense of a "home" in the traditional way far more than I do. To them, it's where we lived in Africa. They have shared it with spouses through a return visit and hope to do that with their children. I hope they can. Ironically, I've never returned with my children to see any of the houses where I grew up. Neither have they expressed an interest in me taking them, though I could easily do so.

message 9: by Kilian (new)

Kilian Kröll | 12 comments All the wonderful stories and comments so far speak to how mobility has shaped our lives and those of the people around us. Most of you have written about very personal bonds (with nuclear family, with a few friends, with Jesus, with a house) and simultaneously about your awareness of how different our experiences can be, even within the same family (different geographical identifications, "vagabond" life vs rooted life, shifting family patterns -- eg "empty nest" stage). Some of the elements of your stories are universal transitions, and others are very particular to your very personal biography.

My questions for today bring us back to the text. Which part(s) of Erika's story seem universal, perhaps to TCKs and non-TCKs alike? Which parts are specific to her particular upbringing? Why do you think the authors chose to lead with Erika's account? Whom are they writing for?

message 10: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shigo | 19 comments I think the universal message of this first chapter is that all TCKs have "unresolved grief" that must be mourned in order to move on. It is our sorrow that we must continually have to say goodbye, and for so many of us, we never had the chance to return to the places we thought of as home when we were children. I have not returned to Africa since I was 18, but I have been all over Europe, the middle East, and even into Asia. It is partly because I am afraid I will be disappointed by feeling alien there now.

I also think that the repeated sorrow of saying goodbye, to places and possessions, as well as to people we have come to love, is the reason I, for one, do not put down roots in a new place. If I remain rootless, I will not have to be uprooted again. While we lived in Hungary I taught at an international school full of TCKs. Every year in Drama class when I discussed how to portray emotion on stage, I would ask one student to describe a time when they were happy or angry or confused, and the others would watch and mirror the facial and body expressions of emotion. I always asked about what made them feel sad last, because someone would always say, "Saying goodbye." And usually half of the class would end up in tears and I would spend the rest of the class allowing them to grieve that perpetual sorrow. It made me deeply aware that it is something we live with all the time, just under the surface. But it is a great resource for a TCK who wants to express sorrow on stage.

message 11: by Deanne (last edited May 27, 2015 08:00PM) (new)

Deanne | 21 comments Kilian wrote: Which part(s) of Erika's story seem universal, perhaps to TCKs and non-TCKs alike? Which parts are specific to her particular upbringing? Why do you think the authors chose to lead with Erika's account? Whom are they writing for?

(sorry, I'm not sure how to quote someone besides just copy and paste - is there a special way so that it shows up differently from the rest of your comment? Thanks.)

I think one answer is found is the delusion that what you experienced as a child growing up in a certain place is still there waiting for you, just as it was before. When Erika stepped off the plane in Singapore, everything felt so right - the sights, sounds, smells, the air. (I can SO relate to that!!) She was convinced that "those times of being an outsider were gone now because she knew where she belonged--in Singapore. How wonderful finally to be home."

But it wasn't long before a new reality or awareness crept in. She wasn't home. Every day Singapore reminded her that she didn't really belong after all. "The sad day came when she finally had to admit that she didn't fit in this country either.

This was a devastating thing to discover because she had put so much stock in Singapore being the source of her personal identity and stability. I know this feeling. It's like being betrayed by the one you love, and now you have no one. This is "infinite sorrow."

I think this is rather universal, even for non-TCK's. It's just impossible to ever go back and recreate that same emotional, secure, familiar world that you grew up in. And it's very hard to accept it when the truth of it sinks in, especially if you have no attachment anywhere else.

One of life's worst injustices, I used to think, was that a TCK lives and embraces life in a certain place, surrounded by people they love and value, and one day, they just have to walk away and that's it ... poof ... it's gone forever. How do you do that? How do you just let go of something that was your whole world, your life, your existance, and walk off a plane into another world, a new life, a different existence and be expected to just keep going as if nothing happened?

Most of us find ways to cope and we manage to survive, but deep down, we cling to that memory of "home" and "roots." But it's an illusion. Part of it will always be there - it's what makes us want to "dance and celebrate the joy of life" when we go back to visit again, and yet, it's not long and we realize that reclaiming "home" and "roots" is as elusive as holding onto a moonbeam.

I don't know why the authors chose to lead with Erika's account, but perhaps because this feeling of never being able to reclaim what we had growing up, the thing that defined "home" for us, leaves us feeling very lost and at times confused in this world.

This losing one's first sense of "home," "roots," "identity," is, in essence, where the "pain point" starts. And for many TCK's it's what they need answers for the most. We need to know how to put that pain in perspective, and how to respond to it in a way that will allow us to go on to live emotionally healthy lives.

I'm sure there's a lot more to it, but those are some of my thoughts.

message 12: by Deanne (new)

Deanne | 21 comments I'm not sure how to answer your other question, Kilian (message 6 above), so I'm just thinking outloud here ... Somehow we attach great meaning and significance to what we experience growing up - certain places we lived, people we lived with. It's our "world" and it shapes who we are. But we also grow up with constant change, and our transitions usually involve great diversity, so we develop coping mechanisms, such as detachment issues. So, on one hand we can "intensely identify" with a certain place and certain people, but that identity is actually an abstract thing we treasure in our hearts. That's why we can hang on to it. (even though time does play tricks and change our perception of things over time!) But the idea is, this sense of "identity" that triggers such a strong emotional response from us is not concrete. The concrete stuff, we've learned, can't be depended on since it's always changing on us, so we don't really feel inclined to cling to it, like we cling to the memories that shaped who we are. Perhaps???

message 13: by Deanne (new)

Deanne | 21 comments I agree, Nika. Also, to get back to Kilian's question about why the author's started the book with this account, I was just thinking that one reason may be because of how the number of people in society who are coming under the TCK umbrella is increasing. So understanding the significance of this experience is crucial to being able to reach out and connect with an ever-increasing slice of the population.

message 14: by Kilian (new)

Kilian Kröll | 12 comments Hi everyone, what strikes me in reading your deeply thought comments is that while every human can relate to feelings of grief, saying good bye, and nostalgia for times past, it's the person who has had to make sense of new surroundings over and over again who knows at some level that the past is not "real" -- that there is nothing in the past to truly hold on to. This can be a shattering realization for the mind that wants to preserve the past for its own survival -- because, if the past isn't real, then who am I, asks the mind.

Erika's story and the stories you've shared so far are illustrating the beginning of a deep journey of shattering illusions and glimpsing Truth with a capital T. My final question for this week (in anticipation of asking "Who Are TCKs?" next week) is: If the past is an illusion, and all I know to be true is here and now, where and what is home?

message 15: by Deanne (new)

Deanne | 21 comments That's the million-dollar question. :) I don't think our perception of home is always changing, so there has to be some underlying value system, or way of evaluating our lives, that provides the answer. Maybe it has to do with what our expectations are. A person who grew up in one place, surrounded by more or less the same people, will have a different expectation of what "home" means. For those of us who have had to redefine our lives according to the ever-changing props around us (culture, language, physical house, landscape, people, etc.) our perception of "home" is going to have to be based on something else, something more consistent and unchanging that we can hold onto longer, like your "permanent" family, which also changes when you grow up or when your own kids grow up, so it might just come down to a spouse. And perhaps a few momentos or physical items you carry with you to wherever you set up house-keeping. And the continuation of certain habits and traditions. We had these silly, flimsy plastic glasses with a nose and eyebrows on them that we would put on whenever we sang happy birthday to each other. We've used them in Australia, the States, and PNG - and it represents something constant in our lives. That in a way is how some of us maintain of a sense of being "at home" no matter where we are.

But most of the time, I think most of us just live with tension of not really knowing where or what is home.

If you have the answer to this question, we're all waiting for it! :) LOL

message 16: by Julia (new)

Julia | 20 comments I feel it has been our family traditions that has given my own children a feeling of "home' as we relocated them again and again.

Why do you think the authors chose to lead with Erika's account? Whom are they writing for? I think the hook for me was that feeling children have of places and things being magical and wonderful. With the authors putting us back into our own childhood memories, perhaps they wanted to help us connect with this feeling and how intense a child can feel about change. Adults often filter their emotions more so I feel they gave us the opportunity to really feel what relocation can feel like. I feel the authors were writing for the adult but wanted them to connect to their childhood feelings.

message 17: by Dee (last edited May 31, 2015 05:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee Miller (takecourage) | 32 comments Kilian, this is powerful. As a psychiatric nurse-writer who has worked a lot with MK, PK, and other survivors of abuse perpetrated by missionaries and other Christian workers, your words immediately brought to mind the words of survivor/song writer/singer Bette Rod in a song on her CD "Pieces." The lyrics, which she wrote about her response to her very helpful therapist's recommendation: " 'Let go of the pain,' he says. He makes it sound so e-e-easy; but if the pain is gone, who will I be?" MK survivors of abuse have a double whammy, of course--dealing with the abuse in addition to the TCK issues. Yet I think the words apply to all of humanity. Letting go of past identity has been very hard for me as an adult who was forced to leave the mission field primarily because of standing up for an MK survivor whose parents were unable to take that role for some reason. Grief is multiplied the more complex it is. There are layers of the onion that must be peeled in order to learn to embrace the present. Frequent moves for a child, even within the same culture, adds up to a traumatic childhood for most. Add to that the cultural changes--there's another layer. Add to that abuse or death of a parent or any number of other things in close proximity and you have additional layers. Identity, authenticity, and connections are all impacted when it's going on along with developmental issues.

message 18: by Shary (new)

Shary | 14 comments I grew up in Mali, attended Mamou boarding school in Guinea starting at age six. In 88 when I was 45 my Dad took me back to visit. We had lived in the bush. We went to visit the churches that had grown from one church of about 30 to 40 to 8 churches in surrounding villages the smallest having 75 members. In one of these villages I suddenly realized I was home. It scared me to think if left there I could live out the rest of my life and totally forget my family in US. True I was there a short time two weeks and don't know how I would feel in a year if I stayed there. But it did make me realize where home was. But I have chosen not to live at home. To me this made the past real not just an illusion. I saw the good and the bad of the physical surroundings. The toilet a hole in the ground the sky for a roof. Slept on a wood bed no mattress. Enjoyed a meal where Dad had given a 100 kilo bag of rice, and they had killed on chicken to feed a huge crowd. It was during a 20 year drought, knowing that they often went on one meal a day. But I could live with the bad because I saw the good. Their emotional support of one another, of Dad and me. Their joy of little things. That is when I realized my values in life were African not American. I find it is the values in US that make me feel so different. There is so little value to people. Value is placed on how much you can contribute to the "good" of society. Value in US is based on what you have, wear, look like. I very often find that confusing.

No I am not home now and don't ever expect to be home again. That is OK I don't want to try and make where I am now home for me but I do hope to make it that for my family. For me it is OK to always be a visitor. But it has taken me years to learn that. I understand the longing for home.

As far as living with my parents as being home, it wasn't. My parents were good but I spent so little time with them. The first six years, were spent with African kids. Then it was three month vacations which you never really settle into because you have to go back to school for nine months. Furloughs where parents are often gone, and everyone is on best behavior. I think from third grade on I have been on visitor behavior with my parents. Their outlook on life was so different that I do not talk to Mom, Dad has been gone for 8 years, about anything that is important to me. I would be devastated if my grown children could not talk to me about anything they wanted to talk about. I do miss memories of family together, the few I have tell me there should have been many more.

Michael Pollock | 21 comments I found that so much has been said that is insightful and I'd like to hi-lite some things heard and give some reaction-

Response to Nika, "But one experience made me think about this, if it is really only a question for TCKs."

Yes, the story of dislocation, loss, grief and not belonging is a common story for TCKs/CCKs and I think the book begins there bc. we can relate deeply with Erika's predicament. When the book was written, many people were asking, "What's the big deal? You grew up in these places and now you are in a new place...lots of people do that..." and the truth is the world IS more and more globally mobile. But not many people understood that the losses are deep, multiple, intense and often unresolved bc. neither the 'old' nor the 'new' community may have helped you process the losses which can lead to difficulty reconnecting, depression and deep isolation. (The idea of 'multiple funerals with you or your family unit as the only mourners' and no permissions/space to grieve.)

So the authors needed to set the stage for What Happened, Why that Matters and What are We Going to Do About It? - I think the authors would agree with Nika (and I teach this often), 'transition' is a human experience and therefore universal. However, the intensity, layers and unacknowledged aspects for TCKs need to be addressed for life to be lived abundantly.

And yes, yes, yes, those lessons can also be adapted and applied to many cross cultural and mobile experiences, therein the learning becomes broad and powerful beyond the self.

And 'Home'- ha, Kilian, you had to throw that emo-grenade out there. :) Well, for me the sense of 'home' is part compilation-a slideshow of where my childhood family was together, the scenery and the people we got to know- New Jersey, Vermont, Kenya, Vermont, New York- Then my own marriage and nuclear family, New York, Baltimore/Maryland, China, Maryland, Michigan. And the other part of home is in my faith, a rock that doesn't move, though I and my story evolve; an experience and story big enough to encompass all my other changes and still contain hope, and joy, and love. Sorry, my $.02 got long!

message 20: by Shary (new)

Shary | 14 comments Nika wrote: "I really like this discussion! I read the book 15 years ago and while reading it, I felt @ home ... So what ist home? A sense of belonging, an identity, being understood, sharing an experience, an ..."

I like the comfortableness of your confusion. To lose the restlessness would be to deny who I am. I also have trouble imagining my husband's same town homeness.

message 21: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments an maybe there is a difference with having a "home" as one place and feeling "at home" in many places? for various reasons, when I go to this place or that, I feel "at home" as being in chicago takes me back to teenage years and the wonderful friends I made in high school while living in our family 'home' with my grandmother and aunt while my parents were away, when I get off the plane in Africa, even if not liberia or nigeria, I feel "at home" with the beautiful skies at night where the stars actually shine or i hear the sound of African drums, and when I turn to corner to where I live in Indianapolis, I feel i am "coming home" to this place that holds other memories for me...anyone else feel "at home" is different from "where is home?" as one place or experience?

message 22: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shigo | 19 comments I do not feel there is a place called home for me. My very earliest memory is a moving day, and I was 2 and my father was trying to comfort me because I was sad to leave my home. Then when I was 7 we moved to a different culture, and I remember him saying, "You are too young to be so sad at leaving!" Like Shary, I did not feel like home was where my family was because my brother left when I was 12 and I spent so much time at boarding school that when I went to my parents' house on breaks, I felt like even they did not know who I was anymore. Then my father died very young, and all sense of family was pretty much gone, as well as all sense of home. I married very young to make my own family, and it is with this family that I can at times feel at home.

Now I feel almost totally rootless and restless. We have been in Kansas for almost 3 years now and by the end of next year I will receive my doctorate degree. And I am having trouble rejoicing because that means I have to find work at another university again. It means I have to move. I wonder if my father would tell me I am now too old to feel so sad at leaving?

message 23: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Duff | 10 comments I have two thoughts: 1). It seems the lack of a sense of home is made worse for some because of the necessity or a mission culture that demanded boarding school at an early age. Although I moved often, and had no geographical sense of home, I always felt at home with my nuclear family. Cynthia made a poignant comment about not really feeling like a family any more after her brother left for school. Shary also talked about being on visitor behavior with parents, again not really feeling at home even with family. Perhaps those who are able to stay with parents through developmental years can at least experience the feeling of home is being with family? Just thinking out loud. 2). My 2nd thought has to do with restlessness that often results from rootlessness. I married a very rooted man (3 generations lived in one town) and for him moving was a BIG deal. I was always pushing him that it was time to move someplace new. But we didn't move, and felt very restless and dissatsfied (bored?). Then one day after 10 years in one place I realized with a start that I was content to stay. I had for the first time put down roots in a community, instead of only investing in my family relationships. Then four years later we did move, and the pain was much worse than any of the previous moves in my life. So is restlessness a bad thing? Is putting down roots in a community more preferable than having a sense of home only in family?

message 24: by mkPLANET (last edited Jun 04, 2015 08:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mkPLANET | 85 comments Mod
I love all the comments here so far! Cindy, what you said about feeling at home with your nuclear family is undoubtedly true for me. My brother and I never went to boarding school. We stayed with my parents overseas, and also through many more moves after we came back to our passport country. At the most we spent a weekend away from them while they attended a conference. So I have an enduring sense that where my nuclear family is, that's where home is. The downside for me, as I've discovered since Dad was diagnosed with dementia almost 10 years ago, is that as I lose members of my nuclear family, I feel like I'm losing my only 'home,' the only place where I'm known. Losing them feels like losing myself... In a comical way, this reminds me of that scene near the end of the film Back to the Future, where the main character, Marty, is on stage. He has just seen his siblings disappear from the photograph he carries with him, and he's beginning to see his own hand disappear right in front of his eyes. Well, my situation doesn't feel as drastic as Marty's (that would just be strange, lol). But it does feel a bit precarious when my most stable sense of home is rooted in people. I wonder if anyone else can relate?

– Dana

mkPLANET | 85 comments Mod
Kilian, my apologies for being late with this, but I want to thank you for your wonderful leadership of our book club's first chapter discussion. You got us off to a fantastic start! This conversation has gotten our wheels turning, and has brought meaningful insights and experiences to our attention. Thank you!

A quick note to everyone in the book club: The facilitators have committed to participate during the week of their chapter, but may not be able to continue in our discussions as we move on. However, we'll keep these threads open for continued conversation. Thanks for all your fantastic stories and insights so far, Everyone!

message 26: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Yes I'm not facilitating for this chapter (keep commenting for chapters 2 and 3 please as well!) but I beleive you are raising important questions and observations. I do believe the chronic cycles of separation and loss from the nuclear family itself engendered by going to boarding school at very young ages do impact most of us profoundly. I see many who feel like you do Cynthia. For me, I went to boarding school at the ages of six and seven (and had to process that at age 39) but then my mom homeschooled me for the rest of my time in Nigeria and then when left in the USA for high school when they returned, I was with my grandma and aunt and so continued to have a strong connection to family to this day. But your thoughts about what happens when our deepest roots are with relationships, Dana, are very interesting...I'd love to hear what others think about that in terms of then what happens when they die, or move away or whatever...And thanks for organizing this for us all and yes, Kilian, you set a good model..i didn't quite "get" how this was supposed to work until you blazed a trail for us!

message 27: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Duff | 10 comments Thanks everyone for great comments. I think I'm ready to comment on one of the questions I posited in my post above, and to comment on Dana's point that she feels like she losing her own identity as members of her family die. I believe that the 16 years that my husband forced me to stay in one community (or should I say God used my husband to force me to consider putting down roots), helped me develop what some psychologists call an "individuated identity" for the first time. Because I finally made the effort to connect deeply with people within a community, and to really become a part of it, I became a person in relationship with others outside of my family! That was a first for me. Ten years later, when my father died, I was able to grieve his loss deeply, yet not feel that I had lost my sense of identity. It seems like 35 is a little late to start the process of individuation and identity formation, yet that is what happened in my life. It took someone (my husband) forcing me to deal with my restlessness by staying in one place long enough to learn how to connect on a deep level and put down roots. If I'd had my way, I'd have continued moving every three years just like we did while I was growing up. Remember, what we experience during our developmental years feels normal (though it may not be normal).

message 28: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shigo | 19 comments This conversation is fascinating to me on so many levels. I am writing my dissertation on the use of personal narrative to identity formation. Some of the scholars I am reading claim that the stories we tell about our lives not only describe our identity, they create it. I am working towards recapturing my own story, to create of myself the person I most want to be. I do think that it was when my father died, Dana, that I decided that I could no longer find identity, feel like I belonged, in my family. Part of the sorrow of that loss has been that there is no one in the world who wants to tell the story of my father's life with me. Part of the power of this group is the agency, the opportunity we have here, to tell our own stories and work towards becoming the person we choose to be.

message 29: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments neat, Cynthia...thanks for sharing these thoughts on the power of story

message 30: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments I did want to comment on Cindy's thoughts on learning to stay in one place...I do believe that for all we learn while living on the move, there are other very important lessons those who are rooted also learn in other ways and places ...and one good thing about having a partner of the 'other" side is we can teach each other and join the gifts of each experience...thanks for what you shared too

message 31: by Shary (new)

Shary | 14 comments I have lived in the same house since 83 same general area for just about 50 years. You would think I would have some identity in this community, western NY. But I don't I always would love to move. My husband grew up here. I don't feel like I belong but that is also this community. My mother in law moved to this community after WW2 from 60 miles away and people referred to their family as the new comers after over thirty years. So sometimes the locals consider you new even after years. I am content here but would jump at a chance to move especially some where without winter.

Ruth I definitely feel that boarding school steals a child's family idenity. In my total life I have spent only 12 years with my parents. As I said before vacations from boarding school I was on my best behavior, much as when visiting someone else. I am very happy I had a mother in law who became my mother. I feel very sad that my parent never really got to know me or I them.

message 32: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments I do hear your heart, Shary. I have often wondered who I would be if my parents hadn't chosen to homeschool us after my first two years in boarding school. But I know even those years had impact. I found my letters from boarding school after I had done the journaling that became Letters Never Sent and wondered if I had made up all those feelings that surfaced in my journaling. But as I read them, I see the emotion but expressed in a child's way. when my best friend died I reported it as a fact along with the informatio that Tessa, our school dog, had pups, that my sister had mumps, and oh, yes, we are having a feoneral for Barbie tomorrow....but the letter is filled from my signature to the bottom and across the back with X's and O' way to express the fear I remember that I too might die or they would and I would never see them again. AFter I return from the Christmas break, the first letter is filled with sorrow to be away from them, and after that no emotiona expressed again...I become a reporter about this or that, but the level of emotion in the first letter is gone. No wonder our folks had no real idea for children can't name what is happening...

But I also beleive from others I have heard from that when we move into a very "solid" place where folks and families have been there forever, it may well be the feeling of being the outsider does persist. As someone told my daughter, it's like Legos..there are only so many places we can hook relationships together and in long established communities people's legos are full so ther is no place left for a new person to attach. i'm Glad you had good mothering from your mom in law..I learned a lot from mine too, and especially how to grandmother well as I wasn't around mine growing up nor was my mom around mine...thanks again for your thoughts...

message 33: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shigo | 19 comments Just one more thought on my inability to find home where my family is. I think it relates to Ruth's comment about learning to "grandmother" from her mother-in-law. My nuclear family consists of just my husband and I and two daughters and two sons-in-law. We are almost never all together in the same place. My husband's family has never made any of us (even him) feel like part of them. My mother remarried after my father died and created a new family of which I feel an outsider, as usual. My brother and his wife have been missionaries in Romania for over 25 years. I do feel at home with them when I see them, but that is every five years or so. His oldest son is a missionary in India, and my great nieces are fourth generation TCKs.

The hardest part is that my daughters both have been unable to have children. Although I have two daughters, I had seven pregnancies that ended in miscarriage. My heart's deepest longing is to have grandchildren, but I am afraid that in this, too, I will be the alien, unlike all my peers. A lot of layers to this feeling that there is no place like home for me.

message 34: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Wow Cynthia...I am so sorry. I went through many years of suffering with one of my daughters through the incredible pain of infertility and never knew how hard that was until then. But what you say about the loss of grandparenthood and how that also leaves you as an outsider is another level to consider and I know it is very real and I am sad for you. Yes I can say "happy ending" for our daughter as she now has two adopted children and one birth child, but while we went through it, no one else's story brought comfort for we had no guarantees...sorry for the other losses of family too...All of these compound the already great TCK challenges of finding that place of belonging...your story truly moves me. Thanks for sharing it. There are so many levels for every story aren't there?

message 35: by Dee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee Miller (takecourage) | 32 comments I have often wondered if the enmeshment that seems to be more intense in mission families than in "more normal" circumstances makes for somewhat of a delay in individuation despite the fact that physical separations are often great. There is such an intense emotional need for parents to fill in the gaps left from the frequent traumatic changes. I believe, based on many conversations I've had with MK's, that parents tend to be kept on a pedestal much longer than with other families. I'm not sure this is the case for all TCK's, but I'm quite certain it is for MK's. So what Cynthia and Cindy are saying sounds like normal developmental process, given the experiences of most MK's. I would hope that recognizing this as normal for the circumstances that contributed to this need might be helpful. Traumatized kids, regardless of whether they are TCK's or not, grow up faster in some ways and have delayed maturation in other areas most of the time. That's OK. It just doesn't usually feel OK. It's part of that sense of being out of pace with the rest of the world.

message 36: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Very interesting thoughts, Dee...I'm wondering if non-MK TCKs who are on this post have thoughts here? I know my parents were on a pedestal the four years i was in high school and didn't see them but not sure I felt 'enmeshed" way was to pull the curtain down on them and Nigeria when they left but I knew as my friends went through the normal teenage things with their parents that if "my parents" had been there, those things woulnd't have happened. So I would agree that there was a time later to sort out that parents can be both terrific and have foibles unremembered...just as I have had, I know, for my grown kids to see about me!

message 37: by Dee (last edited Jun 08, 2015 06:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee Miller (takecourage) | 32 comments Pulling the curtain down is a defense that I've seen in adolescent psych when the need is intense, yet parents aren't available, Ruth. Some kids pull the curtain down and then act out, even violently. Others become very depressed while others manage to become intensely independent. It's a way to survive until the often-unrecognized need can be filled, either by the parent or a substitute.

There is another factor common for children of parents who are seen as highly successful. It's the fear that one can never measure up. MK's especially see their parents put on that pedestal by others who view missionaries, in general, as heroes and heroines. Some children seem to recognize the foolishness of this idealization that they see in others. Others identify with this image proudly. Yet, like the most recent MK who has come my way (one I knew briefly before she went away to college and had not connected again with until this year), there's this fear of somehow being lesser than all the role models, flawed and unacceptable--most of all by their parents.

message 38: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Good comments, Dee...yes, I know pulling the curtain down was a really only went up at age 39 when I did the journaling that became Letters Never Sent and realized that when my parents left for four years was the day that my family, in essence, died as we never lived again together as six kids and two you know, we do what it takes to survive the pain and the later can sort out the rest of the stuff around it all...thanks...

message 39: by Dee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee Miller (takecourage) | 32 comments How sad that had to have been, Ruth! I'm glad the curtain DID go back up. I believe it stays stuck with so many, especially those whose parents have kept their own curtains drawn. Plenty do.

message 40: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments I agree that it is harder when parents keep their curtains down. Certainly it was profoundly helpful to me when I showed my mom the journaling before it became a book, that she simply said "I read it and, of course, I cried. If we had known what you felt, we likely would have made different decisions. But you did a good job of explaining your feelings without blame" and basically blessed me to use my story in any way that was helpful. So that was huge for me.

But I have also seen those whose parents may never "get it" who choose to proceed with their own healing process and not stay in blame or accusation which only binds them to the past. That doesn't mean saying things were all fine, but it does mean we can make choices for our own journey despite the choices others may or may not make...and that, to me, is the hope we all can have even when the story has been far rougher than mine. Thanks!

message 41: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shigo | 19 comments I think, for me, after my father died it was my mother who put up a curtain. She left less than a month after the funeral for Belgium, where she began a new career in missions as an editor. She lived there for the next six years, while I finished college, got married and tried to start my own family. When we had been married 2 years, at a church valentines party Joel and I were asked to participate in a "newlyweds" game where he was asked to describe me in two words. He said, "fiercely independent." Of course, he is also a TCK, so we get along pretty well, anyway!

message 42: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Good thing he understands!

message 43: by Gill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gill | 31 comments Deanne wrote: "Kilian wrote: Which part(s) of Erika's story seem universal, perhaps to TCKs and non-TCKs alike? Which parts are specific to her particular upbringing? Why do you think the authors chose to lead wi..."

I so identify with :" I think this is rather universal, even for non-TCK's. It's just impossible to ever go back and recreate that same emotional, secure, familiar world that you grew up in. And it's very hard to accept it when the truth of it sinks in, especially if you have no attachment anywhere else. "

message 44: by Gill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gill | 31 comments well killian .... home is within ourselves, not outside ourselves. however .... if that sense of self has been dislocated with the geographical moves it can be a long journey home ....

one thing i wanted to share having read some of these posts. a number of people mention that family is home. my family completely dislocated and blew apart when we repatriated and never really stuck together again. so along with the loss of place and home i (or we) lost family too.

message 45: by Gill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gill | 31 comments Ruth wrote: "Good comments, Dee...yes, I know pulling the curtain down was a really only went up at age 39 when I did the journaling that became Letters Never Sent and realized that when my parents..."
Ruth. i identify with the the repatriation becoming the loss of family. For different reasons. I think the lifestyle and the life was what somehow held the family together. Back here in the UK whatever that was was also gone.

message 46: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Wow, Gill...huge huge losses for you. My family lived apart when my parents and four sibs returned to Nigeria when i was 14 and I stayed in the US with my grandmother and aunt but because it wasn't divorce or death, and I knew they loved me, I loved my grandma and aunt, etc etc etc, I never knew how to grieve that loss until so much later. but to have all of that loss of family come in the kind of disintegraton you talk about on top of the loss of your physical salute you for surviving and even now being willing to work with the reality of these factors in your life. Thanks for your honest sharing

message 47: by Gill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gill | 31 comments Ruth. thank you for your lovely feedback. I really like what you have written about unresolved grief and how you approached this. Which is what's going on for me. And as well as mourning the loss of my home I've recently realised I also need to mourn "the parents I thought I had" which I also lost. The TCK literature has helped so much. I can't believe that it's existed for so many years. Owning my reality, my childhood home, that I do and did remember and my identity as a TCK feels truly wonderful.

message 48: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Van | 64 comments Your letter gives me joy. I love that you have recognized and added the "hidden loss" of mourning the dream of who your parents were...a tough but necessary one. I suppose for many "traditional" adolescents, this is part of the rebellion phase of the teen years and ultimately part of the individuation process, but when the foundation is shaken either by a major move or, like you, loss of that ongoing day by day family presence, it is harder to do. I know I idealized my parents in these years so had to do this normal kind of work later when I realized they were fallible humans despite their many wonderful qualities. But in your situation, it seems to me it would be even more complicated. May you mourn well and find ways to come to terms with this loss so you can also see them for who they are now and somehow be in a more honest relationship or whatever you find you need.

message 49: by Dee (last edited Jun 16, 2015 10:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dee Miller (takecourage) | 32 comments Gill, my experience in working with families with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome taught me so much about how complicated grief is when the whole family is mourning. Of course, that helped me with some understanding in retrospect of what our own family had gone thru. I believe TCK families all have an element of complicated grief. The grief isn't even acknowledged in so many cases, yet it's there. It certainly gets compounded in situations like yours, requiring such strength and courage to even face it. You obviously have that, and it's inspiring.

When there's far more than just a change in continents involved, the grief can easily turn into clinical depression for some family members. Then there are added dimensions if more than one family is clinically depressed. If major family problems existed before the complicated losses (things like substance abuse or marital issues), marriages and other relationships are common casualties.

Hope springs eternal, however. I've noticed in my work with survivors of child sexual abuse that the positive outcomes can come decades later if the original bonds were strong enough to allow. Feel free to contact me through my website if you'd like. I wish you the very best.

message 50: by Lynette (new)

Lynette Pettitt | 5 comments Ruth wrote: "I agree that it is harder when parents keep their curtains down. Certainly it was profoundly helpful to me when I showed my mom the journaling before it became a book, that she simply said "I read ..."

I'm a bit late to this discussion... but my parents don't get it, the fact that I didn't start resolving the TCK experience until I got depressed in my late 20's, made it all the more difficult for them. They thought that part of our life was gone, and shouldn't be discussed- we rarely speak about anything from the past, so something that was nearly 20 years old wasn't relevant to them. I actually don't have a single family member (including my younger siblings), who have any real interest in how it impacts me.

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