Third Culture Kid Dating; adults who have spent their developmental years outside their parent's culture

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Are you intrinsically motivated?

I watched a TED Talk yesterday by Tony Robbins titled Why we do what we do?.  He mentions that when we tell our boss we haven’t finished an assignment.  We haven’t completed that project on time.  Or even the goals we set ourselves.  Still haven’t written that blog post. I haven’t signed up to that language class I meant to a year ago.

It’s not because we REALLY didn’t have the time. It’s also not because we REALLY didn’t have the resources. It’s often because we weren’t that motivated to do it in the first place. There was no emotion there. No drive. No passion. No real interest.  If we had really wanted to do it, as he says, we would have found the resources. We would have asked for help. We would have found a way to do it!  And I think the biggest incentive to do something, as he points out in his talk, is when it comes from within, when it’s something you care about. There’s a real ‘want’.  Yes, you’re being asked to work on that project. But you fully understand why you’re doing it.  You’re excited to get it done because you’re interested in the journey or you can’t wait to see the result. That’s what you want.

And it’s made me think why we choose to do what we do in our lives.  Specifically why we choose the job we do.  Is it because we are actually interested and passionate about it? Are we motivated intrinsically to do the job? Or instead, are we lured by the money, the status, the social connections that it brings?  Why do you do what you do?  And does the way you grew up also have an effect on this? For example, if you’ve grown up moving around Europe, does it mean you’re more likely to want to work in a role that involves travel? If you lived in Africa as a kid, and have seen how poor and deprived people can be in certain areas, will this have an influence on whether or not you choose to work in a non-profit organization?  Are you more likely to choose a job where you can use your language skills? In sales perhaps? If you grew up as a global nomad, does this influence your career choice?

Or are there certain events in your life that dictate what you end up choosing to do as a career?  A tragic event in your life that might affect your choices. Or an internship that turned out to be really rewarding.  A study abroad program perhaps that opened your eyes to a different way of doing things.

Is it conversations you have with people you admire that impact your decision? Your dad, who you admire and look up to, who wants you to be a doctor.  Is it your high-school history teacher who inspires you and has a serious conversation with you at the end of your junior year of high school?

But the thing is, how much are we missing out on? How many jobs do we not know about ? Because we made a decision when we were 18, 22, 24 years old; we might still be stuck on that same path. What if there’s something else out there that can actually feel like a vocation? Something you are truly passionate about. Something you care about. Something you’d even want to work on on weekends!

What if we were to open our eyes again like we did at 18, 22, 24?  And strive to have new conversations and attend new events and meet unique people that might reshape your view of who you thought you’d be and what job you’d end up having.  I think we should test ourselves. Are we really in the right job? Are we really living the life we want to live today? Not when we were 18, maybe more easily influenced by others. But what about today, are you where you want to be? And if you aren’t, how about stepping outside of your comfort zone and discovering what else is out there? You could go to a career fair. You could go to a house party of people you don’t know very well. You could go to your alumni event.  A start-up event.  Those networking events you’ve been invited to.  This might trigger ideas as to what could feel more rewarding and more intrinsically motivating.  We should spend our lives doing what we really want to do. Not what we thought we wanted to do at 18. Or what others felt we should do.


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Challenge accepted

As I mentioned in my previous post, I fractured my ankle over the weekend playing football.  I’ve been told by the doctors that I need to wear a boot cast at all times, keep my foot elevated, and spend as much time as possible resting on a couch or bed ie. don’t leave the house at all for several weeks.  So for those of you who read my earlier posts about how I am incredibly restless. Well, this restless feeling doesn’t stop at just having a niggling feeling of wanting to move to new cities and discover new places and meet new people (as a result of being a TCK). That feeling of restlessness is accentuated when I am faced with obstacles like this one that stop me from being productive.

So this fractured ankle and rest I have to do for the next 3-6 weeks, well, needless to say, I’m seriously struggling.  I’m one of those people, who if I’ve watched two episodes of The Good Wife, I feel like I should get up and do something. Read the news.  Finish up some work for my Masters.  Do some work on my business. Catch up with friends. Go workout.  Get stuff done.

A person once asked me why I constantly felt I needed to be productive and where the motivation came from to keep working and at the time I wasn’t quite sure what the answer was. After thinking about it though, I realized that the reason for my need to be productive and get things done is that I’m doing it to achieve my bigger goals in life: staying fit and healthy, making a difference for people with the business I am working on, learning every day and building strong and lasting relationships.  And to reach those goals, it means I need to work towards them. And this means spending some minutes every day going on a run or doing a circuit class. It means meeting friends for dinner, giving them a call when they’ve had a rough day. It means connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs at start-up events. It means reading practical books on how others have managed to build a successful company. It means successfully completing my Master’s so that I can move on to other things.

This fractured ankle has forced me to stop. To pause. And to wait. It’s funny how sometimes things are completely out of your control.  After watching The 3 A’s of Awesome Ted Talk by Neil Pasricha, it dawned on me that when something like this happens to you, any small event that creates an obstacle in your path and slightly changes your plans for several weeks or months, it’s the attitude you have with regards to it that affects you and your happiness.

For example, I can choose to be absolutely miserable about the situation that I’ve found myself in. I can mope around my flat. Think back about how I could have avoided the tackle. Sit around and feel awful. Or I can realize that in comparison to so many other things in life (just watching the news and seeing the conflicts happening in other parts of the world), a fractured ankle is really nothing in comparison!  There are so many worse things that can happen. And sometimes it surprises me how we can get really bogged down in the small things rather than looking at the bigger picture. But maybe that’s just a human thing. Instead, I have decided to change my attitude, listen to Neil Pasricha, and use this time wisely. I’m going to find ways to be productive without having the use of both legs for the next couple of weeks in my flat.  I’m taking it as a challenge. And I’m ready to make this time count.

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An awful lot of pain

The man came over to me to ask me if I was ok. I looked up and realized I’d unintentionally been breathing quite hard.  Just a couple of minutes ago, I had been dropped off by the Uber driver at the A&E close to where I lived.  I was in a lot of pain and just focusing on breathing and waiting for the doctor to call my name.  It felt like a long time.  I was trying to watch The Big Bang Theory episode that was playing on the TV in the waiting room, but it was surprisingly difficult to focus.

Finally, my name got called on.  I hopped over to the nurse’s office.  She asked me what had happened when looking at my incredibly swollen ankle: “I was playing football and twisted my ankle”.  She looked at it and looked back at me: “You look like you’re in a lot of pain. I’m going to give you a double dose of paracetamol and codeine.” The thought that went through my head was completely irrational. I thought I’d rather not take that big a dose; it’s not good for your liver.  I took the pain-killers after she said it was necessary.

After I had an X-ray done, they found that it was an ankle fracture. The doctor asked me if there was anyone who could look after me at the A&E. I told him I was fine. And remembered that the Uber driver had asked the same thing while driving me to the hospital.  Later on, the nurse asked me if there was someone who could buy me the pain-killers from the pharmacy.

This is when I realized I really don’t like asking for help. And maybe everyone feels this way. The people I do feel I could ask for help from is my family.  But having moved around so much as a Third Culture Kid means that my family is dispersed. My parents live in Germany. My sister just moved from Paris to Belfast. And my brother moved from Boston to London to then leave again for Zambia for a volunteering project.

It dawned on me at the hospital that as Third Culture Kid Adults, we’ve often learned to grit our teeth and deal with a new city, a new school, a new university, a new place, new people so many times that we sort of learn to rely on ourselves to get through things.  I’m sure plenty of people do this, TCK or not-TCK. But I do wonder if we aren’t more likely to not ask for help, when we really should! It’s weird really. And when you think about it logically, it makes no sense. Why not rely on others in situations that are difficult? Why not get support from your friends? You can always offer them the support in return later.  I’d be curious to know if there are other global nomads out there who feel the same way.

The second thing I realized when I arrived home from the hospital on my own was how many people had reached out to me to offer their help. The girls on the football team, my coach, my close friends, my friends from my old work, and my boyfriend (who went above and beyond). I have always had such a huge amount of support from my parents and my siblings. But I guess I’d never built the relationships I have today with friends.  Because I’d never expected to stay in one place long enough to build strong friendships, I never thought I’d have those relationships. But that day, every single one of my friends was incredibly supportive and reached out to me to find out if I was alright. It was an amazing feeling. And it made me realize that something really has shifted in my life as an adult Third Culture Kid. I’m maybe not quite ready to ask for help yet, but I have let people in in a more long-term way. And I am starting to see relationships that will last a very long time.  This is new for me. And a wonderful realization for someone who has moved so much growing up.


Would you move back to your ‘home’ country?

You know that country your parents are from… How would it feel for you as an Adult Third Culture Kid? Just thinking about it now, packing your bags, saying goodbye to your friends, and going back to your roots, or maybe they’re not your roots, maybe it’s where your parents are originally from.  But it’s still a link that you have.

After spending 5 days in the South of France for some holiday fun with the family, I thought about what it might be like to move back to France in the future.  As a Third Culture Kid, the only real connection I have to it is my that it’s where my dad was born, where he grew up. But it’s more than that. It’s the songs we listened to in the car when we were kids.  It’s the small town in France that we visited every summer and and every Christmas to visit our grandparents.  Also it’s very simply in the food we had for dinner, in the expressions my parents explained while at breakfast, the novels we read at home.  I remember watching the news on the French TV channels TF1 and France 2 at 8pm in the evening.  We didn’t live in France, and yet so many bits and pieces of our life were influenced by French customs.

Every time I’ve gone back to France, and met people from there, I can’t help but think how different we are (my brother, my sister and I) as Third Culture Kids.  Although we speak the same language (my parents were adamant we spoke French at home and taught us how to read and write through additional courses after school), we had an American-ness that meant we didn’t feel we fit into that French world.  Some people I’ve spoken to never understand this. They think there can’t be that much of a difference, especially since our Dad is French and we speak French. But there’s so much more to a culture and a country. It’s the small things.


However, what I did realize is that even though we did not feel completely ‘at home’ in France, and we were not necessarily as ‘French’ as those that had lived there their whole lives, it didn’t mean it couldn’t be interesting to dive back into a culture that had been such an important part for our family.  Who knows, I may never move to France. I am so happy in London; I don’t see myself moving anytime soon or anytime really! But I can tell that little by little, I’m more open to the idea of reconnecting with certain parts of it.  If that means rereading novels I read in French when I was younger or listening to new French songs that have come out over recent years. Or even pulling out a French history book!

Of course, since my mom is Belgian, I would have to add that to the plan as well! And what about reconnecting to the place I was born and visiting Japan?  What are your thoughts about this TCKs?  Have you ever considered moving back to your ‘hometown’?