young hands

young handsThey are usually spoken, and they are always dreaded.  One is an unanswerable question.  The other is often the feeling of death.  Among the people in the Third Culture, there aren’t any more dreaded words to speak.

They’re constantly anticipated.  They are constantly dreaded.  They are almost always connected.

When greeting a new person, the first almost always slips out.  The simple question, “Where are you from?” can strike horror and paralysis into the heart of the TCK.  She wonders, “Does she want to know where my parents live—when they’re in this country?  When they’re in our other country?  Where I went to school?  What my passport says:?  Where I was born?  WHAT?!?!?!!?”

The other dreaded word is the flip side of any salutation.  If there’s a hello, there must be a good-bye.  Hellos are easy to say if you don’t know they have grief and, yes, sometimes anguish connected to them.  But if this TCK gets to know you, and you get to know him . . . there will be pain and dread when it’s time to say good-bye.

Some refuse to say most hellos.  It’s not that they’re insecure or stuck up.  It’s that they already feel the pain of the farewell.  Others hide from leave-taking.  They think it will be easier that way.  They’re wrong.  Avoidance only leads to pain that takes much, much longer to heal.

Do you know a Third Culture Kid?  Try to help their dread.  Be more specific about what you want to know, or pursue their vague answer to a place of clarity.  When it’s time say good-bye.  Say it.  Help them say it.  You’ll both be better for it.


Today I did a 5 Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama.  (I really needed a prompt.  Yesterday my words couldn’t find coherence.  The prompt helped today.)  After you’ve left me a comment, head on over to her site and see what others have to say about Good-Bye.

photo courtesy of lusi on rgbstock.com

9 responses to “Dreaded”

  1. “Where are you from?” ugh. I always let Michael answer first and hope that the conversation changes before the asker gets to me.

  2. Oddly these words strike me harder than they have in many, many years. In recent months two of my closest friends up here have moved. Suddenly. One day here, completely committed to this life we share in this idilic town full of dreams, hopes and excitement for the future. The next day, homes sold, moving trucks packed and new dreams followed. I’m still here, waiting for my call to move but longing to feel comfortable with the call to stay. Home is not four walls, a zip code or a place at all. Home is where God’s calling is. When the calling is a season of waiting it is hard to sit still. Watching people come and go never gets easier!

  3. Wow, this is a perspective I hadn’t considered and I appreciate your challenge. Glad you linked up today so I could read this. Your words will go with me.

  4. Christie–At least you have Michael to deflect! That’s a blessing. It seems like it should give you a minute to think of something to say that sounds vaguely coherent.

    Tirzah—Isn’t it strange how some days one thing will fly right through you, and other days it just lodges right in your heart. You’re right—home is where God wants you to be today. Some days it’s quite a difficult concept for me to wrap my brain around.

    Jessie–I’m so glad you stopped by! I think if you haven’t had a highly mobile life, the question seems fairly innocent and even innocuous. It’s normal. If you ask and see the other person have a look of sheer panic, chances are you’re talking to a TCK. I’m pretty sure if you realize it, you’ll have a new friend if you ask a qualifying question.

  5. sheryl, after reading this article, i realize i must have been really socially unaware! at some point, i realized people really didn’t want a recital of all the places i had lived, but i don’t think they realized how complicated their “simple” question “where are you from?” was.

    it was all the more complicated b/c the town where i was born was only where my parents lived the first year they were married…sort of an internship. it was in the midwest and far from any place we ever lived when we were in the US. interestingly, it wasn’t all that far from where my husband was growing up at the time.

    I suspect I’ll be back to visit again. thanks.

  6. I agree with Jessie… your perspective is one I too had never thought about.

    Tirzah made a good point when she said “Home is not four walls, a zip code or a place at all. Home is where God’s calling is”… I was speaking about “home” the other day to a colleague at work. I’ve had 7 house moves (all to different locations in the UK) over the past 13 years. I find it difficult to settle – not because I don’t want to but because I wonder if my husband’s job will have us move again. I was explaining that I find it difficult to call anywhere ‘home’ these days. However, I appreciate what Tirzah shared and am going to record this in my Bible.

    Ultimately, our final resting place will be with the Lord in eternity and that is the home we can all look forward to expectantly some day.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. It was lovely to have you drop by and I appreciate your lovely comment Sheryl.

    Wendy xx

  7. Perhaps we need to learn to ask people where did you grow up? Would that bring more comfortable results? I think that getting to know anyone brought into our lives should have the unspoken love and concerns that come from the heart. As christian people we need to be concerned about how our speech can effect others, TCK’s and others need to be shown Christ’s love to them.

  8. Christie, I often take things a step further. I just let my wife explain it for me. The only thing that varies is the awkwardness of the silence or the vagueness (to the point of being meaningless and confusing) of the answer that precedes her explanation.

    (“Are you from around here?” is a question that I tend to treat as straightforwardly as possible: “No.” Likewise, someone might learn that I lived in Oregon or Kansas by something I mention in passing, and ask if I’m from there. Usually, that’s answered with, “I have been,” or, “I was at one point.”)

  9. Where did you grow up is a much better question, I think. 🙂 I know there’s no way to look at someone and know they’re a TCK. That hidden immigrant thing can really make things interesting. I’m not a TCK and I find the “Where are you from?” and awkward question. Am I from Colorado? I have a CO driver’s license and this is where I vote . . .now. Am I from Florida? Am I from NY? And where does Cote d’Ivoire fit in? Mobility has it’s benefits; answering seemingly easy questions isn’t one of them.

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