Letter from a TCK

Hi. My name is Emily and my family is a cross-cultural worker family. Worker in the Matthew 9:38 sense of “send out workers into his harvest field.” I realize that my family’s very lifestyle puts all kinds of preconceived notions into different people’s heads, and so with every relationship I have, I am already working against stereotypes in order to try to get you to see the real me.

One of my largest struggles is loneliness, but I try to be strong and not let it show. In my home country, the friends whom I consider my dearest and closest friends consider me as just a casual friend who pops in and out of their lives once a year. If I come across to them as clingy, or when I’ve sent ten texts to their one response, understand that I am just so hopeful that someone from my home country will accept me, receive me, understand me—that I won’t be forgotten. I still want to matter to you. My fears are not related to the safety and danger aspects of my host country, but rather my fears are being forgotten from my loved ones in my home country, as they learn to do life without me and no longer leave room for me in their lives. I know I’m not physically there all the time, but I still need to be considered part of your lives. I need to still belong.

All that to say, I still consider my host country to be one of my homes, and I feel at home there a lot of the time, despite the cultural and language barriers. I get out and talk with people and make friends and live life, and I love my life. But in the same way that I have to struggle against stereotypes and preconceived notions in my home country, I have the same struggle in my host country with suspicion and misunderstanding and culture stress thrown in. But this is the life I have and the life I know, and I am trying to adapt, to blend in, to make myself fit in to this new culture.

And I do fit in. My home country corners get rubbed off of my square shape the more I live in my host country, and I lose some of my square shape. Yet I really don’t know that I will ever take on the circle shape of my host country. So I live, sometimes blindly even, in my state of a roundish square or a lumpy circle.  You may notice this shape changing more than I do. For when I come into my home country and greet you with hugs and kisses and want to hold your hand or hold onto your arm, I forget that you may not be comfortable with that closeness. That’s simply how we show friendship in my host country. So I have to remind myself to take a step back and shake your hand and be content to just walk or sit beside you.

As I speak with you, I’m not trying to be awkward on purpose. I don’t throw in random foreign words into our conversation to make you feel like an outsider. And I don’t forget my first language to be cute or eccentric. I have two languages running inside my head every day, and sometimes the wrong language comes out at the wrong time. And sometimes the only word that comes to mind is my other language. I have words in one language that don’t even translate into the other language. My mind is constantly navigating which words to use in which contexts. If I take a little longer to greet you or to respond to you, I’m just trying to figure out the right language and customs to use. I’ll get there as quickly as I can.

When it comes time to say goodbye to you, I can’t predict how I’m going to handle it. I may stare blankly into nothingness, too numb to feel. My tears may stream out of my eyes from deep within my core, and I may lose the control to pull myself back together. Goodbyes are so hard, and they never get any easier.  I feel the loss of each goodbye intensely. I’ve heard it said that children in my situation experience more loss by the age of twenty than a mono-culture person does in a lifetime. Thank you for being patient with me as I process yet another goodbye, another loss.

I hope this helps you understand me better. Please reach out to me. Please let me fill a place in your life. Notice me. Accept me. I want you in my life more than you know.

3 replies
  1. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    Having moved several times ourselves, I have a slight glimpse into what you are feeling. Change is difficult, good-bye’s are difficult, and different cultures can present unique challenges. I know that God will be faithful to provide what you need. And I am proud of your positive outlook and reliance on God through these challenges.

    Reply
  2. Toby Clark
    Toby Clark says:

    Well Emily, you have succeeded in helping me see the real you, your real thoughts and experiences. Thank you for your expression of surrender and vulnerability. I see you. The Lord sees you, right where you are. He is El Roi- The God Who sees.
    (I would LOVE to become pen-pal buddies and or text buddies with you….let me know)
    Hugs! And keep sharing through your words.

    Reply

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