Our lives are littered with stories. The fairy tales we are raised on. The stories we tell our friends at school about our lives, our families. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we want.
We tell farces, tragedies, romantic comedies and thrillers. We tell stories to educate, entertain, moralise and comfort. We tell stories of our histories, and of our imagined futures.
Some people tell stories easier than others. Some of us rehearse those stories that are better understood, those that resonate easiest with our audience. Some of us tell stories to confuse and challenge our listeners. Some of us stand mute, holding our stories close; we are reluctant to let our stories be misheard, misunderstood. So many of us have felt misunderstood.
For Third Culture Kids, this is often because our lives have not followed a culturally coherent trajectory. Or because our stories have somehow been narrated with a voice not our own; meanings mutated and subtle characterisations trampled.
We can become consumed by the incoherence of our stories. Why don’t I make sense? Why does no one understand me? Why don’t I translate? Or perhaps our stories feel as though they have abandoned us somehow; taking on a life of its own and dragging us through unforeseen plotlines. We begin to feel our story doesn’t matter.
And yet your story does matter. I have had to privilege of hearing many stories, many Third Culture Kid stories. Your story matters because it’s a meaning-making work of art, a truth-seeking narrative. Your story matters because it precariously straddles multiple worlds and cultural realities.
Your story matters because it is yours; because you matter.
“Or because our stories have somehow been narrated with a voice not our own…”
This struck a real chord with me; having our constantly-changing lives dictated by others when we were young – often (to us) faceless institutions that even our all-powerful parents were under the control of – can really leave a legacy of feeling that our decisions, even our presence or absence, make no odds either way, and a sense of surprise or confusion if someone actually invests in our story.
Having therapy was a powerful experience for me because someone wanted to hear my voice telling my own story. Making friends who took an interest in my past, as well as what I was doing now or plans for the future, added another layer to the importance of my narrative. And now I feel like taking control of the next chapters is not only possible, but something I’m excited about and looking forward to.
This is so wonderful to hear, Sharon. Yes, our voices can feel dimmed because the past has somehow taught us that we can’t or won’t be heard. Making decisions based on our own needs, desires and agendas can feel not only foreign, but futile. But just as we learnt one way of being, we can learn other – just as you have done! We can have voice in our now, and in our futures too. Wonderful.