Seasons of Change – 2012

Autumn has often felt like a time of reflection, maybe because it’s a season of change. Change in the weather from the hot, muggy days of summer, to the crisp, cool days of fall; change from lazy vacation days to the start of school, college and new projects. The leaves are ever-changing, from green to all possible shades of yellow, gold, orange and red. Two years ago we arrived here just as autumn was beginning, at the end of September, so it’s definitely a season of change and reflection for us.

There have been a lot of thoughts floating around inside my mind during these constantly changing autumn days, but I’ve had trouble finding how to put them in writing. They drift around, like the leaves dancing in the air; the difference is that the leaves find their way to the ground, whereas my words are having trouble finding their way to paper. I’ve been in a pensive phase, as I often find myself at this time of year – it must be both the change in seasons and the approach of another year’s end. I reflect on everything that has happened during this year so far, and on how things have been these past years since we moved back to the U.S. It’s been a time of growth and learning for us, in so many ways. It hasn’t always been easy, but each struggle, each obstacle only made us stronger and more adaptable for the future. I’ve also been thinking of some of the things I’ve accomplished in our time here, because I think I sometimes forget what I’m capable of and to be proud of myself for what I’ve achieved so far.

I started my blog, something that would have never happened without the unwavering, rock-solid support of my wonderful husband. Starting a blog was a huge accomplishment for me and something I never thought I would do. I have always loved to write and to suddenly have a way to share my writing was amazing. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love blogging or for the overwhelming, kind and motivating support I would receive from the blogging community. My blog allowed me to improve my writing, to explore my love of photography and to communicate with people all over the world. The best part is reading comments where someone relates to what I’ve written – that’s what matters most to me, and I love when readers share their stories with me. I’m always excited to post something new but my favorite part is seeing the responses to something I have written and to feel connected on such a global level.

Something I wrote was published: two articles so far (I mentioned the first in my post Published, and the second has recently come out here). This particular accomplishment is really a milestone for me. It’s incredible to have a chance to do something I love and to have it published in a magazine. It’s all the more exciting because it’s a magazine that is made for (and by) TCKs, expats and travelers. You can see a preview of the 2nd article in the newest issue here, and you can learn more about the magazine on their website and in a previous post. These years have been filled with writing and accomplishing amazing things with my writing. I hadn’t written much for a few years and having my blog and articles published has given me goals to strive for with my writing.

In a non-writing area, in these past years I’ve settled in a new place, far away from my family and from everything familiar. I’ve done that without having a regular routine, like a job or school, which would allow me to meet people and find a structure to my days. This was the first move my husband and I did as a couple; a first leap into continuing our TCK lives as adults. That’s not a negligible accomplishment, but somehow I always seem to overlook it because moving someplace new and adapting was always a part of our lives. Yet I realize that all the other times I was in school or college; this time was a very different experience, but one I’m nonetheless happy to have. Every move allows you to grow as a person and to learn more about yourself. I know that may sound clichéd, but it’s true. This particular move has been a huge growing and learning experience for me. I realized that even after many years of being in the same place and not having to move, I’m still so resilient and adaptable. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about how much being a TCK shaped me and my outlook on life. I’ve also grown more aware than ever that I’m an adult TCK, which I mentioned in a recent blog post. Growing up we were somewhat aware of what we were getting from the TCK lifestyle, but only in these past years have I realized how much of an impact that life has had on us as adults. For all the difficulties it might present, I’m grateful to be an adult third culture kid because it’s given me the strength to take on any challenge and to overcome any obstacles, no matter where life leads me.

When I started preparing a blog post today, I had been planning on only posting some pictures I had taken of the beautiful autumn colors, accompanied by a few simple words. But it turns out I had more than a few words to say. Oddly enough, some parts of this post were written a couple of weeks ago, but they were in a post that would have been very unlike this one, and in a very different frame of mind. I’m in a much better place today – still reflective, but positively so. I know that things don’t always go according to plan, but a lot of times the unexpected path just leads to something better. If I had found or followed a ‘traditional’ path in certain aspects, it’s unlikely I would have started this blog or had articles published. Planning for the road ahead is always good, but you never know when a loop, fork or dead-end will show up on the path. When that happens, we just need to learn to see it as an opportunity to move forward down a new path and not as a roadblock that causes us to backtrack. It’s easier to believe that when things are going well and you’re in an optimistic mood – find me on a bad day, and I might disagree with myself. But I’ve been through so many changes in my life: by the time I was 18 and finished with high-school I had lived in 6 countries on 4 different continents. The changes didn’t end there, whether it was about where I went to university, the language I studied in, or the latest move back across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the U.S. I know change. I know how hard, heart-breaking and devastating it can be, but I also know how enriching and empowering it can be.

I both dread and welcome change. I am afraid of not being able to handle it, but I know that ultimately I’ll be able to deal with whatever is thrown my way. It’s part of growing up as a TCK – you learn very early on that change is a huge part of life, and it’s going to happen, whether you like it or not. You have to take it as it comes and make the best of the change, otherwise you’ll be miserable. TCKs realize very quickly that our whole life is made up of change and of adapting. It’s important to see the good side of the change and to know that no matter how hard it can be, it will make you so much stronger once you overcome it.

Adult third culture kid, pensive and reflective in the season of change, signing off.

Reflection and Transition: Becoming an Adult Third Culture Kid

It has been just over two years that we’ve been living in New England. Some days it feels like it’s been much longer than that, and other days it’s hard to believe it’s been already two years. This move was a big change in so many ways and really played a huge part in my transition from third culture kid to a third culture adult (or more commonly an “adult third culture kid – ATCK). I was an adult before, in all ‘official’ senses of the term, but I still had the comfort of the family home, I could return to a TCK environment regularly and was still in a familiar place. Coming here was when I truly entered the adult world, in so many ways. And although I find it odd to consider myself an adult and to realize I’m 27, well on my way to 28, I know I am an adult and a capable one. I still don’t really feel like one, but I seem to be doing a good job pretending…so far.

This move didn’t just make me transition into really being an adult, but it also made me acutely aware of how I was officially an adult TCK. I realized just how much impact my TCK life had on me when I was no longer in a TCK environment. I had already noticed it when I went to university, but I could (and did) return often to my high-school and I was still at home too. I was also in a city and country that has many foreigners, so even if they weren’t TCKs, we weren’t completely the odd ones left out. Moving over here was a whole different story. We’re in a relatively small, very American town and foreigners are very rare. This has a much wider reach than university and it’s been a big challenge in the transition. That’s when you really feel how different you are and just how much perception is impacted by the life you lead growing up.

The years here have made me reflect upon my life growing up as a TCK. I’ve become much more aware of how grateful I am for that life and how much I love it, despite the challenges it presented, then and now. I’ve also realized just how different it makes us and how much it changes the way we see the world. I’ve also learned how easy it is to be misunderstood by non-TCKs and to modify my conversation accordingly. It’s definitely been an eye-opening and challenging experience so far, but I know it only makes me better at adapting and tackling whatever comes my way.

Two years later and I’ve figured it out a little. More than last year and the year before, but less than the years to come. I know I’ll never have it fully figured out, but as they say – it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

Here’s to the journey and to figuring it out a little more each step of the way.

The Other Perspective

Recently having spent a much longer time than usual away from a TCK environment, I’ve realized just how different perspectives can be. When you talk with a fellow third culture kid it’s very normal to talk about the different countries you’ve lived in and your experiences there. It’s an integral part of the conversation because those countries are where you’ve spent your life; they are where you’ve made your memories. Another third culture kid would not judge you for mentioning the places you lived and will even possibly ask you questions about them or mention that they lived there too or somewhere nearby. They are connections that bring us together – even if we didn’t live in any of the same countries, we have still lived the same lifestyle, and that is a much stronger understanding than many people might expect. It’s comforting, comfortable and familiar to be surrounded by third culture kids, even if they’re strangers and you’ve just met. When you suddenly find yourself far away from any TCK community and from any third culture kids, it’s a very different situation and experience. Now you’re the odd one out and people don’t really understand you or the life that you’ve led so far. That’s when the real challenge begins.

Hence the other perspective, that of a first culture kid, who lived pretty much their whole life in the same place and you almost seem like a foreign species to them. You can get different responses – some are amazed by such a lifestyle, others think it sounds awful…But whatever they think, they definitely don’t understand it or how it changes you and shapes you as a person. But perhaps the biggest thing they don’t understand is the way we refer so many moments and memories to the countries we lived in. I’ve realized over many conversation with first culture kids that this mentioning of countries, which is simply normal for us third culture kids, is deeply misunderstood by non-TCKs. They seem to think we talk about the places we lived or what country we were in at a certain date or event because we want to show off. Perhaps they think we are bragging or being condescending, as if we think we are better than them because we’ve lived in different countries. But that’s not at all what we’re doing. We built our memories in those countries, we can’t help that. We connect dates and events back to the country we were in at the time. Someone who’s lived their whole life in the same place just can’t understand that. They lost their first tooth in the same place they met their best friend, went to middle school, saw movies, had their first crush, their first kiss…We did all those things too, just spread over 3, 4, 5 or more countries. So when we have a conversation with a first culture kid and they share a memory, we want to share our similar memory…Yet sometimes when we do, we wonder if we shouldn’t have or if we should have modified what we said to not mention the country, like we’re so used to doing.

Now, I do feel I should mention that not all first culture kids react like that, and first culture kids from certain countries are even more open and receptive. I only wrote about those experiences to mention how differently the same comments and conversations can be perceived depending on the background of the people involved. It’s been interesting to observe and I’ve noticed the change in myself and how I speak with certain people. Sometimes it’s frustrating to feel like I need to modify how I would naturally have a conversation, but I’ve also learned that often it’s just better like that. It’s definitely been a learning curve and one that’s not always easy, but I know I’m not alone in trying to figure it out. I will never stop being grateful that my husband is also a third culture kid, because that makes all the difference. I know that no matter where we are there will always be at least one person who understands me, in every way.

Third culture kid, still learning and still growing, signing off.

The Search

Sometimes I think I would love to live on a farm or a ranch, surrounded by nature and fulfilled by a day of satisfying physical labor. Enjoying the wide open spaces, breathing in fresh air, riding horses through the beautiful land, working the soil, getting my hands dirty and my mind free. But then I wonder: would I truly be happy with a life like that? The answer I find is a little more complex than a simple yes or no.

I believe that part of me would be happy and at peace with such a life. The part of me that loves nature and wildlife, and craves a much closer connection to them. The part of me that loves physical activities and being outdoors – working in the garden, helping to build things; real, sweaty physical labor. The part of me that longs for wide open spaces, rolling hills and serenely beautiful landscapes for as far as the eye can see. The part of me that loves peace and quiet, hearing only nature’s sounds and being in awe of its endless beauty. I think it’s the gratifying and seemingly peaceful qualities of such a life that call to me.

But then there’s the other part of me…

The part of me that would probably feel lonely and isolated with such a life. The part of me that might eventually tire of the same landscapes. The part of me that knows I would never truly feel at home or as if I belong in such a place. Most people would have lived there all their lives, or grown up there or come from not too far… I wouldn’t be any of those. I would forever be an outsider and I would feel that. That’s the TCK part of me. The part that craves interaction with similar souls, with those who understand the life that has shaped me. The part of me that sometimes wonders if it will ever be possible to truly and fully fit in somewhere.

Growing up as a TCK has positive and negative attributes. In my opinion, the good far outweighs the bad, but as an adult TCK I have found myself often wondering how and where I would truly fit in. I have already found part of the answer – I know it’s much more about communities and the people who surround me, rather than specific cities or countries. I also know that certain countries have a much higher chance of making me feel at home, whereas others truly make me feel like a fish out of water. But I still wonder if I will ever feel as if I fully, truly belong somewhere.

None of these thoughts or questions mean that I am unhappy or can’t adapt to different places, they just mean that my soul is still searching for THE place. The place you know is right, where everything just fits. Maybe I haven’t found it yet, maybe it’s not yet the right time for me to find it, but I’ll keep looking.

One of these days, I’ll find it.

A Sense of Belonging

I’ve come to realize something in my years as a TCK: there is no period of adaptation. It’s just a continuous cycle; you’re never actually finished adapting. Just when you think you might be, something else happens to make you realize that you’re a foreigner in this land. But what happens if you feel like a foreigner wherever you go? Being fully detached from a TCK environment has been an interesting process. I didn’t realize how big of a difference it made. Even in the times I wasn’t regularly in a TCK environment (when I was studying at the French or English universities), I was still immersed into it often enough. Then I went fully back into that environment, as a substitute teacher and tutor at my old high school in Paris. But out here, it’s a whole different ballgame, and sometimes it’s tougher to figure it all out.

Sometimes it’s just silly little things that bother me more than they should. Things that are actually more than ok, but not of my standard. It’s frustration at myself, frustration at feeling so foreign and different, and showing it. Feeling like the whole world can see just how strange and out of place you are, just how much you don’t fit in. They probably can’t, they might not have any idea at all, but that’s how it feels sometimes. As a TCK, something I pride myself on is being able to adapt, being flexible, but I don’t always feel like I succeed. And those days are never easy.

Then I realized something else. It’s the people you’re with and the little things which make you feel like you belong. It’s finding pleasure in simple moments, enjoying the warm sun on your face, looking out the window at the blue sky and thinking ‘what a beautiful day, and I’m lucky to be here’. At least for me, that’s what helps me feel like I belong. Two days ago when I started writing this entry, it was much more melancholy. Then the sun came back out – literally and figuratively – and I realized that no matter how long it takes me to adapt, I am happy here. I’m happy to have a home with my husband, a place to really call our own. After all the years we spent apart, only seeing each other every few weeks or months, falling asleep by his side every night and waking up to him every morning is a source of profound joy for me. I love those morning drives to drop him off at work, because it’s just a few more minutes with him before he’s gone for the day. Starting my day by his side is the best way to start it; he makes me feel like I belong.

Kickboxing and Iced Coffee (ok, ok, ‘Frappucino’)

For those who know me well, part of that title will make sense and the other part, not at all. I love kickboxing. I just started a few months ago, but I love it. Coffee, not so much. Not until a few weeks ago. What I’m about to say will sound very American, and so unlike me; clearly I am adapting better these days. A few weeks ago, I tasted a Java Chip Frappucino from Starbucks. Just writing that I feel like I should be on one of those reality TV shows, don’t ask why, I just do. But I digress. Back to the Java Chip Frappucino. I originally ordered it by mistake, and only realized once they were making it that I had asked for the wrong one, since this one has coffee. I know, that would seem obvious by the “Java” part, but I didn’t really think this through while ordering. My mistake. But I took it, and said I would taste it to see what I thought. I figured that either it couldn’t be that bad (I do love tiramisu, after all, which has coffee and chocolate), or that my husband would drink it if it really was that bad, since he doesn’t mind coffee. Lo and behold, I loved it. Not only did I love it, I’ve actually had cravings for it since then. Which, trust me, is very weird for me, since I’ve NEVER liked coffee, in any way, shape or form. Which brings me back to my title and kickboxing.

So, what does my Java Chip Frappucino have to do with kickboxing? Well, my kickboxing instructor recently had to change location, and has been closed for 2 weeks. She re-opened last Friday, but due to certain circumstances (mostly dental ones), I couldn’t make it back until today. And I was super excited about finally getting back to kickboxing! So I was pumped up and ready to kick some butt, or some bag, rather. Off I went to kickboxing, and to make up for our late start, she just made the workout more intense. But that made it all the more worth it to have finally gotten back into it. I loved it. Yes, more than I love the Java Chip Frappucino (can you tell I love writing the name though?). And still, you must be wondering what that frappucino has to do with kickboxing. Here’s what. After kickboxing, and some mingling before heading home, I had a longing for an ice cold drink (I get warm easily and sweat a lot, I’m sure you were dying to know that). And what better drink than a frappucino? Especially one with coffee. It’s cold, with crushed ice, energy from the caffeine, and let’s be honest, it just tastes good. Now, not only am I not a coffee person, I’m not at all a regular Starbucks person either. Occasionally I’ll go for a hot chocolate or a chocolate frappucino, but it’s actually quite rare. Ok, and I also know that there a lot of better drinks than a frappucino, especially when you want something ice cold after sport. But in my defense, I mostly drink only water (a lot of it!) and very rarely drink frappucinos, so it was a special treat today.

Kick butt, then cool off. Lovely.

The point is though, that it was a really nice way to start my day, and it shows yet again that we can truly adapt to any place. It might seem silly that it’s getting my frappucino today that makes me note that, but it’s not just that. There were a lot of things I did this morning that I never did before moving here, and that I didn’t imagine myself doing. I drove to kickboxing. I didn’t drive before we got here. That in itself is a huge feat for me and a great source of pride. I’m doing kickboxing. Never did that before, and it feels awesome. I’m meeting more people, chatting with them more often; that’s a huge part of settling in and feeling more at home. And yes, I got that frappucino. But I didn’t go through the drive-through. That’s still a bit much for me. I parked the car (getting better and better at that! At least front-parking…rear-parking, not so much yet), locked it, of course, walked to Starbucks and bought my drink inside. Not a big fan of drive-throughs; it’s not that difficult to park the car and get out. Oh, and it’s often faster too. Try it and pay attention, you’ll see.

It may seem like a strange topic to blog about, and that it doesn’t have much to do with being a third culture kid, but it actually has a lot to do with that. It goes hand in hand with my last entry, about settling in and feeling at home. I’m feeling more at home with every passing day, and it feels good. I’m excited about our home and about what the future has in store. Oh, and I’m definitely looking forward to more kickboxing and Java Chip Frappucinos.

There’s No Place Like Home

About a week ago we marked the end of our first year in Connecticut, entering our second year here, and I’m excited about that! This past year was about settling in, figuring out all sorts of logistics, slowly furnishing the apartment, back and forth trips to France too, and planning the wedding overseas. I’m looking forward to this year because all of that is done. It was fun and tedious, easy and complicated, good and bad, all at the same time! I’ve had a lot of good moments this past year, but I’m definitely ready for year two. We’re now happily settled in (and married!), and instead of focusing on the basics for the apartment, I can enjoy looking for those little extras to really make it home. We know the area, where things are, how to get around, but we still have lots to explore. I’ve found somewhat of a routine and I’ve made some nice acquaintances. Oh, and I drive. I’ll make sure to write more in length on that some other time.

On a more “near-term” outlook, I’m excited about my second fall here! I know I’ve already mentioned how much I love autumn, but I can’t help saying it again. The trees have started changing color, and although the weather is still too warm and muggy for my taste (I’m ready for the fall weather too, not just the colors!), it’s starting out beautifully. I’m really looking forward to being able to see autumn in all its glory this year, from the first flickering flames until the last burning cinders before the fire dies out for the winter. Last year I had to travel back to France in October, and although I was only gone 2 weeks, that was enough to miss quite a spectacular show. I’m happy I get to really enjoy that this year. I’m just looking forward to really having a year at home.

I know that my last entry was perhaps more serious than a lot of my other entries, and as much as those thoughts do go through my mind once in a while, I do know how important it is to enjoy where you are in the present. As my mom so beautifully and truthfully told me, “home is where love lies”; she couldn’t be more spot on, as always. That’s how we were always brought up, and that’s what kept us close in such a whirlwind life. That’s probably something most TCK’s feel, or at least should feel. Being a TCK means growing up with change, in a perpetual cycle of adapting to, learning from and accepting those changes. The one constant in all that is family. I was lucky to have a family who made all those changes easier and who reminded me that home is where the heart is, and to embrace every experience, even if some where embraced more in hindsight. I have parents who understand what being a TCK means, even if they weren’t actual TCKs, in the conventional sense. My older sister was, and continues to be, my best friend; even in the worst of our teenage arguments, the comfort of her presence through every move cannot be put in words. As for my younger brother, although there were 9.5 years of my life when he wasn’t around, I can’t remember a time without him and it seems strange to imagine he wasn’t always around too. He brought joy and comfort when everything around was unfamiliar and daunting.

My husband does all of that and so much more. He understands the complexities of my TCK mind, and all the challenges that come with adapting to a new place. He is always there, unwavering in his love and strength, no matter the time or distance. He’s my biggest fan; it’s his love and encouragement that gave me the final push I needed to start this blog. It’s his constant motivation and belief in me that keeps me writing, that keeps me striving to be better at everything I do. He’s my rock to lean on, my source of laughter and comfort as we settle into our new home. He makes this home, just like my family always made each place home.

Home Sweet Home

However you want to look at it, whether it’s Pumba’s dignified “home is where the rump rests”, the more classic “home is where the heart is”, or my mom’s “home is where love lies”, it’s the people you love who make a place home. Home isn’t a building, or a city, or any fixed location; home is the place where you feel loved and safe. That’s how I grew up, that’s why every place we lived in was home, and every home became a part of me. That’s how I’ll continue to live, and how I’ll raise my children, because it’s truly a beautiful way to grow. It made me the person I am today and for that I’ll always be grateful – for the amazing experiences I had, for how I was brought up to embrace them to their fullest, for the true love I found along the way, and for my parents, for everything they’ve ever given me.

How could I ever regret any of that?

Third culture kid, lucky, grateful and happily enjoying home, signing off.

The Sound of Silence

I love talking, listening to music, hearing kids running around and playing outside, but I must admit that sometimes I really love silence. Or at least the absence of man-made sounds. No chatty radio shows, no phone ringing, barely the sound of a car passing by. That doesn’t happen very often, but today I decided not to turn the radio on, and it has been a thoughtful, serene and soul-searching afternoon. Apart from the occasional car marring the moment, all I can hear are the crickets, chirruping their way through the last hours of summer, joined in chorus every once in a while by a bird or two. It’s quiet, peaceful, silent.

It’s in those moments of quietude that I find myself reflecting on my life so far. I run through memories, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to not be a third culture kid, and I think about the future. I don’t think about it in very concrete terms, I just ponder it more than anything. I ponder how the present and the future would have been different if I had not lived the life I did, as a third culture kid. I sometimes wonder if it would easier to be content, to not always compare or wonder how it would be or how it was elsewhere. It’s a good thing to be aware that each and every place has positive and negative aspects, but there are times I do wish I could feel an absolute attachment somewhere. That one place would be THE place, and I would love it unconditionally, and either be blissfully unaware of its downfalls, or at least not really notice them or care about them. I’m not saying I regret my life as a third culture kid or that I am unable to find contentment, but those quiet moments of reflection lead to many complex thoughts. Thoughts that are always present, hidden somewhere in the back of the mind, waiting for the opportune moment to surface. The change of seasons brings with it changing winds, propitious to self-reflection and soul-searching. I love the life I’ve led and continue to lead, but of course I sometimes wonder if the grass isn’t greener on the other side, or if ignorance is indeed bliss…

Copyright - Raya Fayad

I do ultimately come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t trade my life for another, and that I would probably do it all the same if I had to do it again, but that doesn’t stop those thoughts from creeping into my mind during those moments of silent contemplation. Those thoughts generally arise in periods of adaptation, or after an event or simple conversation makes you realize yet again how different you are as a third culture kid, when you’re no longer in a third culture environment. I love how my life here is unfolding, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s been tough to adapt, to fit in. There have been endless challenges to overcome, vast adjustments to make and a lot of effort to put in. When you’re not at school, working or at least have kids going to school, it’s a lot harder to meet people, to settle in, to find a routine. But I’m here, I’m doing it, and it gets better, trust me. If there’s one thing you learn as a TCK, it’s to adapt, to be flexible. Like I said in an earlier entry – we’re resilient, and that’s a key factor to our success. It may be tough, there may be moments of doubt, but ultimately it’s definitely worth it.

Seasons of Change

Last year I got to see my very first New England fall. It was even more spectacular than I had imagined. I have never seen such an array of yellows, oranges, reds and golds; it was as if the trees were bursting into fire. When I was moving around, for a long time I didn’t have a “real” fall, as the climates I was living in didn’t always have 4 defined seasons. Then we moved to France, and I could finally enjoy all 4 seasons again, as I can here in Connecticut too. I love every season; each one is beautiful and fantastic in its own unique way. But I had never yet experienced an autumn quite like the one I got to see here. I’m looking forward to seeing the trees change color soon; I don’t think I could ever tire of nature’s beautiful art.

Nevertheless, as much as I love the fall, I don’t necessarily love everything here, just as I didn’t love absolutely everything in every other place I’ve lived in. But the fundamental thing I’ve learned is how important it is to focus on all the good things and truly take advantage of enjoying them. As TCKs, I think we have a more acute awareness than others that no single place is entirely perfect or entirely awful. While it’s important to be conscious of the more negative issues, it’s crucial to focus mainly on the positive and to make the most of those. We could live somewhere for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years; it doesn’t matter how long you live somewhere as long as you truly cherish that experience and take everything you can out of it. There will always be drawbacks and complications in every place, but there will also be magnificent opportunities, beautiful places, fascinating people who make your time there worthwhile.

It’s often easier in hindsight to see the things we missed out on and possibly regret that later; try to see the good in the present and you won’t have regrets. Well, maybe you’ll regret not having more time there! It may sound cliched, but the only way to really make the most out of any situation, any location, is to seize every opportunity it gives you, no matter how big or small. The humid, tropical climate of the Philippines was not a particular favorite of mine, but the vivid colors of the exotic flowers all over the garden will always stay with me. As will the taste of the juiciest, most delicious mangoes I’ve ever eaten in my life! Those may seem like minor details, and insignificant in the big picture, but I tend to think it’s the small things that really matter. We should never overlook the power of the smaller details in life; they’re the ones that complete the big picture.

Every place, like every season, has something to love, something to look forward to, something to enjoy, no matter how big or how small. Those are the things we have to hold on to when the going gets tough. Being a TCK isn’t always easy; changes are imminent, they’re just part of our lives. It’s how you deal with those changes that make all the difference. You can think that the trees will no longer be green, that the days will get shorter and the temperature colder; or you can think that the trees will paint the skyline with flames, that you’ll have more time to look at the starry night sky and that you can snuggle under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.

Life is only what you make of it, whether you’re a TCK or not. Enjoy every moment, and cherish all the beauty there is in this world. We’re lucky that we get to see so much of it. Don’t waste your time thinking of what isn’t there, or what could have been or where else you could be. Learn to appreciate what each place can offer; it will make your journey an exciting and fulfilling adventure.