Last year I moved for the 14th time in my 27 years of life.
Every move has taken me to another place. Another state (sometimes another country). Another house. Another job. Another school. Another set of friends.
As a result of this transient upbringing, every 2-3 years I feel the clock ticking. I wonder how long it is until I can escape the dreaded normalcy that has developed and move to a new place.
Moving has become so natural to me that in some ways I feel like I don’t know how to stop…
And all these moves have cultivated in me an almost indescribable tension.
A tension between wanting to be known and wanting to be out of context…
If you’re a fellow TCK (third culture kid) who’s reading this you might be nodding your head in understanding. Moving to a new place is normal, natural even. But for those who have had the equal privilege of growing up in one place, let me explain a little more.
As a TCK, I feel a deep and urgent longing to move, to not stay too long in one place, to not allow myself to become too “known” by the people I’m in contact with.
Because in some ways moving can be so freeing.
It can be liberating, knowing that when you move you’ll no longer be confined by the perceptions that people have previously placed on you.
Let me explain a little:
When people meet you and as they get to know you, they like to label you. Not necessarily in a bad way, just in a way that lets them put you in categories in their head. They associate characteristics with you using words they can understand (kind, blunt, introverted). We all do this. It’s a way to help ourselves understand people.
But the thing is, none of these words or categories can portray the full spectrum of experience and life and quirks and the full range of characteristics that make up YOU. And as these labels and perceptions are spoken over you by people, you find yourself conforming to them, even being formed by them, until eventually you become the person that they see, or maybe just become it more fully.
You gradually sink into other people’s perceptions of you because that’s easier than answering questions and accusations about how you’re not who everyone thought you were when you act differently.
When you’re an introverted person who is learning how to branch out people say, “Oh you can talk to people?”
When you’ve notoriously been a stoic, unemotional person and you all of a sudden feel deeply about a topic people say, “Oh you have feelings?”
When you’re an even-keeled person and you try to learn to assert your opinion and argue about important issues people say, “Oh you get angry? You have an opinion?”
When you stay too long in one place you feel like you have to maintain the status quo, to not shift who you are, to live into the category that people have placed you in.
Sometimes people’s perceptions of you can feel suffocating.
Sometimes it feels tempting and freeing to escape these perceptions and recreate yourself in a new place, with new people – even though these perceptions and categories inevitably will be placed on you again.
I think this is one of the most powerful reasons that as a TCK I have felt the longing, the need even, to get out of a place that I’ve been for “too long.”
But there’s also an equally powerful and urgent part of myself that longs to be known, to settle somewhere, to be a “regular” at a coffee shop, to have a friend group who knows my quirks, to just. stop. moving.
Because in reality it’s a beautiful thing to be known.
It’s a beautiful and rare thing when you know people long enough and deeply enough for them to know who you are, truly. To know you – good, bad, and ugly. To have people who see the person you are beyond the labels and the initial perceptions.
Whether it’s the people who you’ve known since you were 5, even though you haven’t lived in the same town for the last 20 years. Or whether it’s the people who you met a year ago but have gotten to know deeply and quickly.
These people are the important ones. These are the ones to hold onto.
Yes it’s freeing to be “out of context.”
Yes it’s liberating to recreate yourself and start a new and different life.
Yes it feels so good to start a new adventure, meet new people, and move on from any drama and discomfort from the previous place you lived…
But as scary as it is to press into relationships…
It’s also a truly beautiful thing to be known.
So to the TCK who is itching with the desire for a new place, a new job, a new friend group…. allow me to gently challenge you to allow yourself to be known.
Allow me to gently encourage you to reach out to those people whom you have let into your true self, to thank them for pressing in, to let them know how thankful you are to be known by them.
Allow me to gently remind you of what an incredible gift it is to know so many people in so many places. What a gift it is to be deeply acquainted with so many people’s stories and ups and downs. It is an honor and a privilege.
And just as it is beautiful to know so many people and so many stories in so many places… it is equally as beautiful to allow yourself to sink into, dare I say it, the normal, ordinary miracle of being known.
It truly is a gift.
This post was first shared here on my wonderful friend Joel’s blog. His blog offers a unique perspective, as posts are written by a collective of TCKs or Third Culture Kids who have grown up in multiple global contexts. His blog encourages TCKs and non-TCKs alike to see the world a little differently.