Third Culture Kids: When the winds of change blow

by | Sep 19, 2018 | Blog | 4 comments

The wind is blowing today. I mean really blowing. My black bin is probably halfway down the street as I write this. Ok. It’s really blowing for the UK. No hurricanes, but unusual enough for us. Or I should say, for me.

I don’t associate my England with windy weather. And I’m surprisingly unsettled today. For I associate this kind of wind with that found atop sand dunes, and that wind that rushes to fill the sky with the Sahara blacking out the sun. This is the wind that doesn’t just whisper; it positively shouts… a cacophony of voices competing, not from the sky but right up close, in the very air that whirls around me.

The wind’s voices call for change. They sweep all before them, chaotically rearranging debris caught in their pathway, arguing about where to set it down.

Change. Like the wind it can arrive as a soft breeze, gently moving us along, caressing us as it goes. Or change can arrive violently, with frightening wails in alleys and down chimneys, howling its presence and calling for us to move.

Change. For those of us who have lived highly mobile lives (Third Culture Kids) change is an old and familiar wind that has accompanied us on our journey. It has coaxed us, nudged us on, and occasionally beaten us. The winds of change have brought the new and novel, opportunities, hope… and confusion, chaos and fear. 

People speak of those trees that best survive the roughest winds as possessing two crucial characteristics… Flexibility and Rootedness.

Flexibility allows a tree’s trunk to bend and sway in the onslaught, and not split or break.

Rootedness allows a tree to move in the wind and yet remain firmly in the ground, grasping deep into the soil to hold firm.

For many with highly mobile upbringings the challenge is two-fold –

If we lack flexibility, we splinter or break in the face of change. If we are too flexible, we lack the strength or structure to stand on our own when the wind dies down. Our ability to adapt to changing circumstances must be matched by our ability to hold our own identities strong when the winds of change die down.

If we lack rootedness, a sense of groundedness in our communities, we are too easily uprooted by change and lose our sense of place in the world. If we over-invest in rootedness, our energies become so concerned with maintaining stability that we lack the energy needed to put out new growth.

Change disrupts, sometimes violently. And those of us who have encountered change may have felt our boughs groan with the strain of it. Those used to change may find calm more unsettling than the chaos.

What do you need today in the face of your calm, or chaos? Do you need increased flexibility, or an increased sense of strength in your Self? Do you need stronger roots, to keep grounded as you sway? Or do you want to loosen your grip a little, divert energies towards new growth and moment?

What one thing can you do today to get that need met? Get in touch with me here if you would like support as you encounter your own winds of change or calm.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Sharon Shaw

    I hear what you’re saying about rootedness… I’ve always prized my flexibility but my self-identity has always suffered when it doesn’t have anyone to mould itself around. I’ve been developing that for the last couple of years and I’m finding a solid foundation of self that I didn’t really know was there before as I never had cause to examine it. When the winds are blowing they can reveal some interesting elements lying beneath the leaves and dust.

    Reply
    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Thanks for reading, Sharon! Strengthening our boughs can take time (and a few gusts to help us see under the debris, as you say!)

      Reply
  2. Dan Elyea

    Useful imagery, Dr. Rachel. (And here in Florida, the winds DO blow strongly at times!)

    I seem to differ from many of my fellow TCKs in that I’ve never, because of a driven restlessness, felt the need to move or take on a different job . Since completing my schooling, I’ve held only three jobs, and moved seven times. All that since 1966.

    Apparently, I’ve worked more strongly on the rootedness than the flexibility . . . I hate most change. Different strokes for different folks.

    Reply
    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Thanks for reading Dan! And yes, definitely different strokes for different folks… so important to remember that just because we share an experience of mobility doesn’t mean we will all respond in similar ways. Rootedness is wonderful!

      Reply

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