Ask any Third Culture Kid (TCK) where they are from, and the expected answer is, “I don’t know.”
In fact, as a TCK, I feel that in the books, podcasts, and other talks geared towards my tribe, we are told that we are supposed to be on a quest for this illusive idea of home.
I used to believe this was the case. I moved back to Canada when I was fifteen and started attending high school in a small town where the rest of my classmates had been together since kindergarten. My husband’s parents still live in the house they brought him home to when he was born.
Surely, this is what it means to have a home, right?
I would beg to differ.
Despite the fact that the longest I have ever lived in one place is four years and two months, I can easily answer the question: “Where are you from? Where’s home?”
Let me share three insights I have had about this concept called home.
We have the ability to choose the place we call home.
When I headed off to university, I met a diverse group of people who had come from all over the country – some even outside of the country – to attend this university.
Now, thanks to social media, I see that we can be divided into three groups:
- The first consists of those who returned to the city or town they originally came from – the place they grew up, the place their families still live.
- Another group has stayed in Calgary, and despite a lack of family they have chosen to stay. Maybe it was because they got a good job there or because they just liked the vibe of the city.
- The final category is made up of those who have moved to an entirely different location and put down roots there.
While it may be a simple idea, realizing that I am able to choose where I want to call home was revolutionary.
I don’t need to wait for a home to be assigned to me or spend my formational years all in one place in order to have a home.
I get to make the decision. For me, home is where my husband and my children are. It is as simple as that.
Why limit myself to only having one home?
Third culture kids often describe themselves as citizens of the world – many speak more than one language; they are comfortable navigating new situations and are able to observe and imitate the social dynamic around them.
Rather than seeing this ease with living in different contexts as the reason you are home-less, why not embrace multiple homes?
Doesn’t the world seem like a much friendlier place if you have more than one place to call home?
After getting married, my husband and I moved across the country to London, a city where we knew no one. My husband had found a job there and so we settled in and started to make friends. While we no longer live there, whenever we go to visit, it feels like home. A number of times since arriving in North Africa I have felt so homesick for London and the friends we have there. It will always be labeled ‘home’ in my heart.
I think we can all agree that no matter what our age is, walking into your parents’ house feels like coming home. You walk in the door and there’s just a sigh of relief knowing you don’t have to “adult” quite as much as you do outside the walls of their home. Let’s add this to my list of places I call home.
When I was in my early twenties, I was able to visit a city I had called home for three years as a kid. Despite the fact that I hadn’t been there in over ten years, I still knew exactly how to get from the house where we lived to the school I had attended. I knew the way to our favourite restaurant and to the American recreation center where we passed many a relaxing afternoon. This too felt like home.
Rather than considering myself poor because I don’t have one house to call home, I see myself as rich because the list of places and people who feel like home for me is long.
We have the ability to make any place our home.
We may move around for a number of reasons – some that feel like our choice, others that feel like a requirement – but whether we feel excited about a move, or we’re dreading it, we have the ability to make a place our home.
As we prepared to move to North Africa, I collected a number of items that I use to make any space feel like home. I packed up a number of our favourite Christmas decorations that we use each year to bring with us. We had photos of favourite places made into aluminum prints to bring and hang on our walls. I brought the ‘Happy Birthday’ banner that we have hung for each of our birthday’s every year since we were married to be a part of our celebrations on this side of the ocean.
There are rhythms that also make a place feel like home.
Early on in our marriage, my husband started making pancakes every Saturday morning and so that tradition continues no matter what city we find ourselves in. Daily walks through our neighbourhood is another activity that we do wherever we live and helps us to learn about our new surroundings and put down roots.
As we settled into our apartment on this side of the world, putting a curated assortment of photos on our fridge with our magnet collection and assembling our kids’ foam tile play mat in the living room felt like a declaration that this is now our home!
Maybe you still feel like you’re chasing the illusive concept of home or looking for a person or place that feels like home.
As TCKs who have trotted all over the globe, I think it is a normal thing to feel rootless, but we never need to feel home-less.
We have the agency and the ability to plant a flag and declare, “This will be my home!…At least for now.”