Hi, my name is Rachel and I'm a chameleon. Maybe you are too. Like many other Third Culture Kids, perhaps you developed early skills of observation and adaptation. You watch, you listen, to learn how to belong. You learn to 'pass' the multiplicity of spoken and unspoken rules that are your passport to acceptance and validation. Perhaps, like me, the seeking after that validation became your life's work. And so you spin.
How many times have we heard the Third Culture Kid experience associated with rootlessness? We know our transitory backgrounds can leave us with shallow roots, almost eager for pulling up and re-potting elsewhere. We can be adaptable plants with chameleon foliage, able to thrive in a variety of soils and with a variety of neighbour shrubs. Conversely, some of us have tired of exposed and fragile root growth and have instead sought out deep soil, from whence we now flatly refuse to budge.
I intended to write a post about decluttering today. You know the idea... it's Spring, let's declutter our physical and emotional spaces. And that's fine. And helpful. And a Good Idea.
But here's what I want to write instead. I want to throw open the windows instead. I want to open all the doors of full-to-bursting closets and let the chaos see the light of day.
I balance precariously... spreading my weight as evenly as possible and digging my heels in. The ice hides under the snow, and I inch along, avoiding what look like the weakest areas... I head instead for the deeper drifts, where I can sink deep and stand more solidly.
If ever there was a life analogy... this one hits me hard. My week has been completely overthrown by the snow that has hit the UK. With schools off and my work all but cancelled as a result, I find my careful and precarious snow walk reflected in my own emotional disarray resulting from the disruption of my routine.
We often talk about loving our Selves. Self Care. Nurturing our Selves. But which Self? The one that tries to earn its own worth? The one that fears failure so so much? The one that is undisputedly worthy? We focus our energies on the face that we make up, expertly hiding imperfections and flaws we feel would offend the world.
Some of us are such chameleons that we wouldn't recognise our face without the disguise. We have made ourselves up through fear; fear that without our amendments we simply wouldn't 'pass' in the world. We fear our original faces would deny us love and acceptance. So we deny ourselves; an ultimate betrayal that beats the world in the race to reject those 'unacceptable' elements of ourselves.
I didn't expect to write that title. It just came out as I began to type. The last decade of my life has been dedicated to the pursuit of deep, meaningful and (wait for it...) lasting relationships. I grew up as a Third Culture Kid, like many of you readers, and mobility was my stability. I knew that I was good at initiating friendships but long-lasting ones were less comfortable for me. For a start, they were unfamiliar. Either they left or I did... this was the rhythm of my life. While this sounds painful, I'd built up some pretty sturdy callouses. Goodbyes weren't that hard for me and I was confident in my ability to rebuild social connections at will.
"Balance". It's been a buzzword for a while now, but especially comes into its own around January. The core of so many of our resolutions aim to bring life "back into balance" in some way. So, on this last day of January, how's it gone for you? Are you feeling more balanced? Or are you still feeling wobbly, precarious, about to topple? For Third Culture Kids, and any others who have lived through multiple transitions, balancing all the varying expectations and demands of life can feel like a game with perilously high stakes.
Morning all! Or whatever greeting is appropriate for whatever time of day it is while you are reading this! Welcome to this corner of my mind. Pull up a chair, grab a coffee (I'm nursing a honey and lemon drink) and let's allow our minds to wander together... When working with Third Culture Kids, we often discuss Identity Props. This is a term I use to describe those things (both physical objects and behavioural characteristics) that we possess that communicates our identity to those around us. Part of our identity challenges stem from the fact that so much of who we feel ourselves to be is invisible. I don't look any different from my peers, nor do I sound different. So how will they understand that I am different - and how can these differences be explained? So I use art from my host countries as identity props. Someone enters my home and they can 'see' that I have experience from elsewhere. When parts of our stories feel so otherworldly that they almost feel unreal, even to us, it's important to seek out and nurture identity props. And this is where vision boards and joy jars can come in.
There is something about this time of year that encourages a shedding of past experiences. We are told to leave the past behind us and to look forward towards a new and (hopefully) better future. I'm not disputing the validity of this approach, but I would temper it with a little moderation.
Too many backward glances causes us to stumble. How many times have we watched children especially collide with lamposts because they were looking behind them whilst walking (or even running!) forwards? Indeed, for fear of falling, some of us have learnt that we can keep safe by standing still whilst we cast our backward glances. In this case, we are safe but we are also static. And so, in a bid to encourage growth and movement, we cast our eyes ahead of us, resisting the pull of what lies behind.
With December comes a stripping away, a rawness, a transparency that lays bare the world around us. Can we, do we, mirror this? Can we take up the silence it offers and enter it bravely? Silence and reflection can be terrifyingly stark, and yet so often they are where the quiet opportunities for change begin.