When I was finally 18 and at home from my first semester of college I told my parents I wanted to try alcohol. It wasn’t planned, it just came out – it was time. All my friends were fairly deep into their drinking careers having started much earlier, 14 to 16 being about the norm for most Third Culture Kids.
You may not know how to drive, but odds are your new American friends will be more than willing to drag you on a crazy cross-country bender courtesy of the nation’s interstate highway system. Adventures and hilarity will surely ensue in the land of Route 66.
While I can certainly see the death of Bin Laden as retribution and understand the solace it brings, it doesn’t make me want to shout “U-S-A!” or belt “God Bless America”. It doesn’t send me scurrying to don my most patriotic red, white, and blue ensemble. It doesn’t make me high-five guys or pop champagne. This wasn’t a sports victory or the Fourth of July.
Other TCKs may declare, with varying degrees of bravado, how an almost insatiable wanderlust propels them to exotic locations around the globe. In my case, the impetus was a critical need to flee the scene and rebuild.
A terse U.S. immigration officer informs me of a mistake on my form – after a year and a half studying in China, my country of residence is no longer the USA. I apologize as she grunts and waves me through. I feel very welcomed.
I’ve avoided doing this for so long and for good reason. But here I am, saying goodbye at an airport, breaking my cardinal rule because I can’t help but use up every second I’ve got with her. We get off the bus and walk hand-in-hand into the terminal, luggage in tow. She checks in, her eyes starting to water. I can feel mine moisten, but I get it together as the ticket agent looks taken aback. I take a few breaths, trying my best to be steady even though the realization of what this moment means starts settling in, the anxiousness gathering momentum. Airports have never been complicated for me. I’ve always been indifferent about them; the only things worth getting emotional about were flight delays and exceptional (or terrible) food at the gate. I’ve rarely been upset at airports, even when leaving a country that had been home for the past couple of years. If I’d felt anything at all, it was intrigue and excitement over what awaited on the other side — but …
In today’s world, we’re targeted for many reasons. Most of the time it’s as simple and obvious as where we’re from. We’re singled out because we represent our passport countries, even though many of us have barely lived in them (if at all).