A few week-ends ago while at a friend’s house, I browsed through the books on their bookshelf. It was then that I first saw “Third Culture Kids, Growing Up Among Worlds” by Ruth E. Van Reken and David Pollock. Mildly interested since our sons were Third Culture Kids (TCKs), I started reading it. My friend later joked that pretty soon I would say I was a TCK. Having sped read the first few pages, I retorted that I already knew I was an ATCK (Adult TCK). I really didn’t know that days later that line would literally take on a significant and new meaning for me. It would define me.
That visit ended with me putting the book back on the shelf. I had no intentions of reading another book as I was already then reading two. The folks in that house pointed out to me that they had three copies, one for each of them. It was apparently required reading for them by their different mission groups. That was an interesting point, why wasn’t it a known book nor required reading for our organization?
I am currently half way through the book now. It’s a thick book and I have enough to do as we leave this country to go back to Canada in less than 4 months. Still, I started reading it because when I came in to work on Monday (following that visit), there sat a flyer in my office about a talk given by Ruth, the author. I turned on my computer and one email talked about a different talk (also by her!) held at another place. Both the flyer and the email referenced the book to introduce the speaker. By lunch time when I visited the friend mentioned above, I noticed another copy of the book in her classroom, I literally said, “AAAHH, this book is hounding me! What is it? Why does it seem to be following me?” It was then that I decided to read it. Six instances of either seeing it or reading about it and I thought I better pay attention! God does use books to instruct.
The book allowed me to understand who I am. It gave sense to confusing questions. All this time I could never comfortably say where I was from. I finally have a label, I am an ATCK. Having left the Philippines at 18, I no longer feel like I belong there, even though I will always cherish it and occasionally would feel patriotic and even protective of it. Living in Canada for many years gave me a home but I don’t feel like I’m Canadian (even though my passport says so). Instead, I belong rightly so, somewhere in between with a foot on each country. =) I know, it’s unusual, but it’s okay. I am just different because of all the places I’ve lived in.
Ruth wrote another book, “Letters Never Sent” and it made an even deeper impact than the first book mentioned. It helped to relive the grief and emotions that I buried. I am reading it a second time with my son Ethan who is 10 years old. We’d cried at different parts. It’s so refreshing that we could begin to talk about what we’d been through as we’ve left places and people we loved. At his age, he’d lived in 3 different countries. It's good to not let his grief or other feelings remain unresolved. I am so grateful to have understanding and to be able to give understanding. Thank you, Ruth! Praise you, Papa God, for your healing. =)
I now have a better way of handling the “Where are you from?” question. You know, deep down though, I still wish that I could just answer “heaven”. I know that’s where I’m going. Thank you, Jesus! Will you head there with me?