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.

Pine Needle Crowns and Piles of Leaves

Moving back to the States after last living here as a kid (I left when I was 8 years old) has been an interesting and enlightening experience. I’ve been back here since then, but only to visit, and trust me when I say that visiting has NOTHING to do with actually living somewhere. In some ways I feel like my life as a TCK has been one big anthropological expedition. Hm, come to think of it, I’m sure that TCKs would make great anthropologists, but maybe I’ll cover that some other time. Being back in the U.S. as an adult has opened my eyes in a lot of ways, and has obviously led me to make a lot of comparisons with other countries I’ve lived in, especially France, as it’s the only other country I lived in as an adult. Some of those comparisons are positive and others, not so much. But moving back here has also conjured up a lot of childhood memories from when we lived in the States.

When we lived in Wisconsin as little girls, fall meant piles of leaves all over the yard. Those leaves meant a lot of hard work for dad, and a lot of fun games for me and my sister! He would rake up the leaves all over the yard and make different piles to make them easier to pick up. But before they could be picked up, we loved to let ourselves fall into the piles and just watch the leaves fly up around us. To be fair, I believe we did help him put the leaves in the bags later (I hope!), but until they went in those bags, they were a joy to play in! Another favorite of ours with the autumn leaves was to look for the most beautifully colored leaves lying on the ground. We would scour the back and the front yard, looking for the reddest or most golden leaves. And every once in a while we would fall upon a real treasure: a transparent leaf. I remember we loved those, they were something special and rare. Those leaves were the ones we would press in books to dry them so we could admire their beauty whenever we wanted.

We were lucky to have a big yard, with lots of space to run around with our dog, and a swing-set to play on endlessly, but one of our favorite places in the yard was our hidden pine tree ‘cove’. To get into our secret lair, we had to crawl or crouch under some of the low-hanging branches, but once inside we were surrounded by 2 very large and beautiful pine trees. We would sit on the carpet of dried, golden pine needles and make all sorts of stories in our heads (and out loud!). While we were sitting there, lost in our own little world, we would make crowns and even bracelets out of the fresh green pine needles. It was delicate work and a talent acquired with practice, but we were diligent crafts-girls. Those crowns would adorn our heads, and those of our parents. Our lovely and patient dog might have had one too, if we could get him to sit still long enough. He was a patient and kind dog, but not stupid enough to let us put one of those on his head! How we loved those pine trees, complices to our princess-like fantasies, secret-keepers to our hidden world.

Now in Connecticut, there are a lot of those same pine trees around as well as those glorious autumn leaves, and oh, the memories they bring back to me. The smell, the sight, those golden pine needles carpeting the floor, those beautiful pine trees, green even in the weary whiteness of winter. And those autumn trees, glowing brighter every day, slowly covering the ground in stunning shades of red, gold, orange and yellow. How I long to be a little girl again sometimes, if only for a little while. To throw myself in those colorful piles of leaves, to crouch once more under the low-lying branches of our pine trees and to make pine needle crowns while imagining stories of princesses, evil wizards and knights in shining armor.

Third culture kid, relishing the ‘kid’ part, signing off.

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.

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.