New Kid On The Block

I opened my eyes and looked around the unfamiliar room. The walls were bare and for a moment I wondered where I was. Then with a jolt I remembered, and I could feel the knots in my stomach. I knew this day would come again, but I was never really ready for it. Today I was the new kid. Again.

– – – – –

Growing up a third culture kid (TCK) meant that being the new kid at school was just part of our lives. I attended 5 different schools all over the world; sometimes there were a lot of other new kids and other times there weren’t. Regardless of how many there were, it was always a difficult experience and a time when TCKs can feel very lonely. September came to be synonymous with these struggles as that was usually when we started at a new school and when the real challenges began. June was usually the sad month of goodbyes and September was the scary month of new beginnings. It is often a month of turmoil for kids moving somewhere new – settling into an unfamiliar house, finding their way in a foreign city, and most daunting, starting at a new school.

Growing up as a TCK, I was the new kid many times, and I know how difficult that is. So whenever I saw new kids, I would always go and ask them if I could help out. I would look out for them and if I ever saw one who looked lost or lonely, I would go introduce myself and offer to help them find their way, or just simply talk to them. Often the smallest gesture makes the biggest difference, especially when you’re feeling lost or alone.

Throughout my years as a TCK, I realized how much those little gestures of kindness and comfort make such a big difference, especially during transition periods. The countless teachers and students who reached out a helping hand when we felt lost and alone slowly made that new place feel more like home. And the way my parents were always supportive and reassuring, while making sure we were involved helped us cope with all the changes in our lives. With time, I also realized just how resilient and adaptable us TCKs really are. I’m not going to pretend that moving was (or is) easy and that there aren’t moments of sadness. But the truth is that, before you know it, you’ll know your way around school, you’ll be giving directions to tourists, and you’ll be calling that strange, foreign place home.

– – – – –

I opened my eyes and looked around my room with a smile. I knew that the dreaded conversation of leaving would happen again someday and that my heart would once again feel as if it were breaking into a million pieces. But I also knew that for now, I was home.

For now, I was no longer the new kid.

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6 thoughts on “New Kid On The Block

  1. Transitions are some of the most trying times of life. Filled with emotions from eagerness to anxiety to loss and also excitement. They sure do wear us out! Your post was so poignant. And this line is so true, “Often the smallest gesture makes the biggest difference, especially when you’re feeling lost or alone.” I’ve been where you are a number of times (though not as many as you, I expect!) and I couldn’t agree more. Now that I’m a mom, and I’ve had to start my young children at three different schools already (going on four next week), I’ve found those kind gestures are just as important for the moms as they are for the kids. I’ll always remember the first mom to introduce herself to me at my son’s second preschool. She became a great friend, and her children became good friends with mine. We have since moved, but I will always be thankful she reached out. It’s hard, because you worry so much about helping out your kids, knowing that the transitions are entirely different for them; they didn’t make the decisions. Both the parents and the children are faced with leaving friends behind — but as I said, the children most times do not get a say. All part of the mom guilt that is so encompassing. But I’m happy to say that we’ve made it through each transition, and I’m so incredibly proud of my kids for finding new friends each time. They are now friend experts — like you — ready to be the first to reach out. Very often I do the same, so to have that other mother reach out to me when I was new and everyone else already settled in their little groups — well, you know how much it meant, even to someone who’s comfortable being the first to say hello. Thank you for your post, and for your courage!

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment, Melissa. It’s always so wonderful to find someone who understands what you’ve gone through, and I loved reading about your experiences. I think someone stretching out a helping hand is important whether you’re an adult or a child – just having someone take that step towards you makes such a big difference. It’s really nice that your kids know when to reach out to others, that’s such an invaluable lesson and brings joy to both parties (in my opinion!). When you’ve been the ‘new kid/adult’ you know how difficult it can be, which makes you much more empathetic when you see others in your situation and makes you more likely to reach out to them. Even though as kids we don’t really have a choice, we can be quite resilient and when we’re older we are so grateful for the experiences and for how they shaped us. I hope that your kids have settled well into their school and that they had someone reach out during those first days to help them out and make them smile! 🙂 Thanks again for your lovely comment, I really enjoyed reading it!

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  2. Wow, another wonderful post. It makes me think of the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I was never a new kid in school, but I know the feeling from starting a new job or moving to a new town. Again, many of these experiences are universal but it’s so interesting to hear about YOUR experiences – while they must have been difficult at the time, they’ve obviously made you a better person and possibly more empathetic than some of the rest of us. I also love the comment above … she really nailed it too! Thanks for the life lesson … you just learned it much earlier on than I did. I do admire your resilience!

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    1. Thank you, Paige! Like I mentioned to Melissa, whether you’re an adult or a child, having someone reach out when you’re feeling most lost and alone is so important. We may have better understanding of the emotions as an adult, but it doesn’t necessarily make the situation easier. When you’ve been the new person (whether adult or child), you know how difficult it can be and so when you see someone who looks as lost as you once felt, it’s almost instinct to reach out to them. I think that’s something a lot of people will experience at some point in their lives, but TCKs and expat kids just go through much earlier and perhaps more frequently. Growing up as a TCK definitely teaches you a lot of life lessons and it’s something I’m very grateful for! Thanks again for a wonderful and kind comment, as always!

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  3. Lovely post and replies! The school I teach at just started a new year and each of my classes has at least 5 new kids. I usually ask the ‘old’ kids to look out for the new ones, especially at that really scary part of the day, lunchtime (you know, when you get to the cafeteria and look around for someone to sit with, but you don’t know anyone! So you sit alone, forlornly munching on your sandwich, and feeling so lonely as you see all the other kids greeting each other, laughing and chatting happily while you just eat in silence, wanting to cry). So I ask kids, if they see someone hovering uncertainly at the edge of the cafeteria, to call that person over- I know people have done that for me, even as an adult, and I could have kissed them in gratitude!

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    1. Whenever I read your comments I know you understand every word I say and that you’ve been there yourself many times. The way you described that lunch scene is EXACTLY how it felt time and time again (including the kissing them in gratitude part!)… Which is why I always tried to help out the new kids, because I know how difficult and lonely those first days can be. There seem to be quite a few new kids this year, if you’ve got that many in each class – hopefully there’s someone helping each one of them out! I do love the atmosphere at international/american schools abroad though – all the languages, cultures and customs mingling together, and the feeling that everyone around you ‘gets it’, because you’ve shared the same lifestyle. I definitely miss that here so I look forward to being in that ambiance again in the future!

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