Last weekend was my birthday. And, of course, I have been thinking quite a bit about what it means to be a TCK, and how it changes you as an adult. I had invited my friends over for some birthday drinks at a pub garden in Wandsworth. I looked around at my close friends sitting at the table, and realized something. I realized that as a TCK, when you finally settle down (if you do) for a couple of years in one place in your say mid to late 20s, you have to build friendships from scratch (AGAIN!) and work on keeping those friendships! And this takes time. So I was happy to see that after 4 years of living in London, I had managed to make and more importantly keep so many friendships (as you can see from one of my previous posts, this was hard in the past, as I’d often get bored).
As a Third Culture Kid, after university, perhaps you move to a new city for a job and you consider living there for a couple of years. I think that at first, you put yourself in the TCK mindset : these new friends are for the current period of time. I mean, come on, that’s how it’s always been. You stay 3, 4, 5 years in a place, make some friends for the time being, and then you leave them and the whole cycle starts again in a new city.
Well, the thing is, when you have been living in a place for 2, 3 years in your mid to late 20s (as an adult TCK), you start realizing, hold on a minute. I haven’t moved away yet; I’m not planning on moving in the next year or 2 years! Maybe my mindset should start changing. I guess for me, I found out I needed to start thinking of these friends as people I would have in my life for more than just a couple of years. Honestly, this was a foreign concept to me. And yet, I saw the necessity of it.
To start feeling ‘at home’ in a city, you need to start making some strong bonds with those around you, start building a community that will support you when things are rough. You will no longer be able to just run away to a new city from your problems, so you better have some amazing friends to get you through those harder days or weeks.
I will be honest though; as a TCK, I’m still struggling to use my close friends for support. Overall, I am a very positive and enthusiastic person, and that’s how I’ll be with my friends. However, on those rare moments where I am really upset about something that is not going right at school or something that has been really stressing me out, I don’t run to my friends. I first try and sort it out on my own (individualistic side I picked up in the American education system perhaps…) or if that really doesn’t work and the situation is still bothering me, I will most likely give my brother a call in Boston or to my sister in Paris.
I think as a TCK, you have learned to rely on yourself or on your family when there is a crisis, and not necessarily your friends. And I think the reason is that you know your family (who have always stuck around through the first 18 developmental years of your life) won’t go away so you can fully rely on them. Whereas, with friends, we have had the experience that every couple of years, either you would go away or they would. How do you build that trust that they will stick around? I think this is another aspect that I will choose to work on. I think this can only strengthen the relationships I have with my friends. And hopefully it also means that they can use me for support when they go through difficult times.
What do you think? Who do you turn to when you’ve had a rough day? Family or friends?