Today’s Painting Pictures post comes to you from Bonnie Rose, a woman of incredible and beautiful talent. Photographer, hair stylist, beauty therapist, and world traveler as a TCK and now as an adult expat. I am excited to share her words with you today about the third culture kid experience as a military child. Her fabulous graphic says it all. Be sure to visit her blog to see and read more from Bonnie.
Passport to the World
Third Culture Kid. Just three words that are so easy to understand on their own. String them together and things get a bit complicated. I can explain it in a couple of minutes or in greater detail but that does not mean the person listening will fully understand. Which is often the case when you have not walked in someone else’s shoes. I became a third culture kid because I was a military child who was born overseas and grew up hopping around military bases in Europe until I was seventeen. I have tried explaining my military upbringing and the culture of military families to my in-laws during a conversation about our differences. It was met with a response similar to ‘I know a military family and they are not like that’. When trying to connect with people who have not ‘walked in your shoes’ it is like hitting a brick wall. Growing up as a third culture kid, living a nomadic life, I have learned that life is not simply black and white. People dress differently, eat differently, parent differently, and basically live differently. Just because something is different, does not make it wrong.
I bring up TCKs frequently when it comes to conflicts where my life or choices are judged negatively. It boils down to the lack of understanding and seeing the world only from a small perspective. I do not claim to understand the the full spectrum of every culture in the world but I do accept the fact that we are all different. Different can be scary but different is also beautiful. There is no cookie cutter mold for how life should be lived and I have seen the negative outcomes when one forces a mold onto a different culture then it was intended for. As a TCK I can not fit in any one mold as I claim ownership over every country I have lived in and in every culture where I have spent a significant amount of time. I never know what the future will bring but I get excited by the possibilities, the lands I have yet to explore, and the people I have yet to know. All the while I cling to my past. For Third Culture Kids our past does not hold us back. It defines our character and who we are in life.
One of the biggest misconceptions about third culture kids revolves around our unintentional name dropping. I commented to someone about their trip to Italy with how I had lived in Italy twice and went on to recommend a great place for pizza. A third party chimed in with ‘no one cares where you have been’. Which was easy for me to dismiss as I know they are not a TCK and therefore do not understand what places mean to us. There is no home I can go back to, no house to return to for the holidays, and no one street that will contain years of memories and stories. My lifetime of memories is scattered across the globe and are as changing as we are as third culture kids. It has even molded the way I travel. I cannot go to a new country and not experience it organically as someone who grew up in that location. I do not want to stick out as a tourist in another land. As a TCK we mention places, not because we had the opportunity to be there, but because we left a part of our heart and our soul in the footsteps we left behind.
These past two years I have lived in England, my world as a Third Culture Kid has been met with a sense of normalcy. Something I had not experienced in the last ten years living in the USA. In my parent’s home country I was constantly a hidden immigrant. I looked and sounded American but was always an outsider. Here in England I am constantly running into other expats and other brits who have lived abroad. Even those people who have never lived outside of England have vacationed throughout mainland Europe. As a TCK I carry that nomadic free spirit and will always have an intangible sense of ‘home’. It will make my bonds with other like minded individuals attract more quickly as we share the same passport to the world.
Bio: Bonnie Rose is the author behind the blog A Compass Rose. She writes about her childhood as a military brat, her life as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), her travels around the world and the expat life her family now lives in Europe. She currently lives in Bath, England with her husband and are raising two sons who are also TCKs. She works as a Photographer and Hair & Make up Artist. As of this post she has yet to ever live in one place for longer than three years at at time.
Connect with Bonnie Rose