My Lost Identity

Mambo!  I am so sorry, I haven't posted something in what feels like forever!  We are back in Tanzania, busy with absolutely everything under the sun, from meetings and exams ICSA football tournaments and basketball games with rival schools.

This next post is something that is super hard for me, because there is so much that could be said on this topic, and not enough space!  I'll guess I'll go ahead and jump right into it.

As the name implies, Third Culture Kids do not belong to one single culture or country that they call home.  They just have a jumble of multiple cultures and selective traits, characteristics and outlooks from each one. The official definition of TCKs (according to Wikipedia, of course) is:
Children raised in a culture other than their parents' (or the culture of the country given on the child's passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years. 

For example, I lived in America for 4 years, so I still have an American accent.  Growing up in SA, I adopted several of their views, but I still have American culture ingrained in me because of family.  Now, living in Tanzania and going to an international school, I am surrounded by over 30 different cultures.  I've found myself looking at the world through tons of different glasses, and they all have a slightly altered hue.  I have phrases and words that I certainly didn't pull from my American heritage, and this funny accent with about a million different "odd' pronunciations and lilts.

Bottom line, TCKs are a separate culture within their own right.  Does that make sense?

TCKs form their own culture, but as a result of that, they feel as if they have lost their identity.
 When you're asked to give a brief description about yourself, what do you say?  Most likely, something along the lines of: "Hi, my name is Naomi Stone, I'm 23 years and I am American."  Now, here's a TCK's introduction: "Hi, my name Rosalie Dinsmore, I'm 15 and, well, ummm, I guess--I don't know where I'm from."
                                          Cricket, cricket.  
 Most often, that greeting is met with awkward silence and a couple embarrassed coughs from the listeners.

TCKs will understand better than anyone the frustration when you have to fill out a paper and the question "home country?" appears.  We just sit there and stare for a moment.  Do they want the one we were born in?  Do they want the one we lived in the longest?  Do they want the one we liked the best?

When a form requires you to enter a "permanent address"
We don't know where we belong!  I'll say it right now, loud and clear.  We feel torn between our passport country and the country that has been our childhood home.  We have lost a part of ourselves in the process; we have lost a piece of our identity that can never fully be recovered.

Okay, I know this sounds depressing and disheartening.  Looks like a rather bleak future, doesn't it?  I can assure you, it is anything but that.  What we have to do is find our identity in who we are, rather than where we come from.

I know, the first and foremost answer is that we should find our identity in is Christ.  It's true.  That is the only place we can find true and complete identity.  However, doing that--and nothing else--leaves unfinished ends.  There are still things TCKs must do; they still have to find a way to navigate the cultures that are a part of them without crumbling.

I've seen a million TCK memes about "home is where the suitcase is open" or "one does not simply have a place called home" and so on.  Every single one rings true, even though they are depressing.  Very, very few TCKs are ever able to call a specific place home.  If you are one of those, you are very blessed, and I am so insanely happy for you.

If you struggle with lost identity, I want you to know first and foremost, you are not alone.  There are many, many others out there who have also been wading through these waters.  Secondly, if there's anything I've learned about finding identity--it's where I am.  Looking behind me will do me no good, and wallowing in self-pity will just make it harder.  My identity is where I choose to stand, not which country I choose to support.

     You know you're a third culture kid when...

No one can ever force you to choose a country.  Your identity is not in a country; your identity is not in a place called home.  Guess what.  Some kids have a nice home that they grow up in throughout their whole childhood--a house filled with family memories.  Others, like you and me, can claim the world as our home.  How many kids actually have to choose between countries to answer where they're from?!  Not to brag, but that sounds kind of cool.

I will share a little secret: posts like these are hard to write for me.  This isn't a blog full of funny pictures and light stories; this is who I am.  These posts are not struggles that I've read about in books and decided to share my opinion about--these are my struggles, my heartbreaks, my grief, my loss, and my tears.  These are the unspoken hardships that all TCKs struggle with.

I admit...I've thought about saying this
If you are not a TCK, I apologize if this post was not applicable or relatable.  I am hoping that maybe this post shed just a little more light on the struggle that TCKs deal with as they grow up in different countries.  If you have learned nothing else from this post, just remember: please, please, please, never ask a Third Culture Kid where they are from, where they consider home, or which country they liked best.  For some of them, it's like asking an annoying question that they don't have an answer to.  For others, it's like a small dagger, poking and prodding.  It's almost like silently reminding them that they don't have a place they call home.  Pleassseee, don't ask it.  You won't get the answer you were expecting, and they will never open up to you.  Every time someone asks me that question, I mentally shut down.   It's my inner TCK saying "how dare they!" and my hurting heart saying "why did they remind me?".

I tried to lighten this post up a little bit with funny pictures and memes, but, to be honest, this was a post where I was holding back tears while typing.

While you might not be able to relate to this post, I can assure you, this is not some blown-out-of proportion tragedy that TCKs complain about.  As so many of my friends say, #TheStruggleIsReal.

...Also, if you're a TCK, I updated the weekly laughs page (the tab at the top) with tons of hilarious "you know you're a third culture kid when..." pictures that had me rolling on the ground, laughing.  If you're not a TCK, I apologize, they might not seem that funny.

I leave it at this: TCKs are a beautiful blend of cultures and traditions, woven together to form something unique never before created.  They grow up blessed and cursed, never having a place to call home, but instead having the world at their fingertips.


  1. I can really relate to this. And I'd just like to say, thanks for writing this. :) Because it made my day.

    -A fellow TCK.


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