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TCK Diaries: Getting Laid-Off

Betty Chen is a Third Culture Kid who has lived in Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. For the next few weeks, she will be blogging on Denizen as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

Recently, a huge opportunity presented itself: I was laid off, hence, joining the army of advertising folks who had met the same fate. Initially, I was shocked. I knew the lay-offs were coming, but was under false pretenses I thought I would be immune from this. After all, I did know 3.5 more languages than the usual population (even though the only one I used was marketing jargon)!

This was not the ideal situation, but I quickly realized that it answered my long time desire for (temporary) “early retirement” and an escape from a job that I was miserable at. As a TCK with self-diagnosed ADD, I believed that life should never get to the point of staleness and complacency. This was my opportunity to make the change that I had been craving.

On my 10 minute walk home after the dastardly blow to my ego, I suppressed the nervous wrenching in my stomach, the “What should I do now?!” cloud hanging over my head, the “What am I going to tell my parents?” conversation, and allowed myself to dream.

I’m free! I can do anything! Go anywhere! For an inordinate amount of time! Or at least until my savings run out. I deserve this, I told myself. A new job can wait.

The minute I entered my apartment, I tossed all my papers aside and jumped on my computer, immediately logging onto all the travel sites I could find. This was an instant cure to the anxiety brewing beneath the surface. Within a few minutes, I had the next three months planned: New York, San Francisco, Kentucky, Costa Rica, and a whirlwind trip around Asia. Although each of these trips represented significance in my newly triggered second coming of my quarter-life crisis, the Asia leg of my “retirement” was going to be the crux of my self-discovery.

With my parents still in my hometowns of Bangkok and Taipei, I’ve had the luxury of visiting every year since I’d left at age 18 (?), but never really had the time to really get acquainted. A week’s worth of visit usually involved a flurry of errands, appointments, family and friends, and if I’m lucky, making the rounds of my favorite restaurants. Before I knew it, I was boarding a plane to travel 30 hours back to Chicago.

Once I got up the courage to tell my parents — they were surprisingly supportive of my new plans. Having grown up in an overachieving culture, I was nervous to reveal my premature “retirement.” My dad had worked at the same company in Thailand for over 30 years, and here I am, in my 20s and “burnt out” (read: bored). My now non-existent career aside, I patiently explained that it was blasphemous that I had only lived in four cities my entire life, when there was a world out there to be explored. If I was going to be a global citizen, I needed to start now.

This is a turning point in my life. I’m not sure where exactly I will be “turning” to, but the prospect of freedom without needing to count vacation days was incredibly appealing. I’m ready for a career change, a move, and anything unrelated to my present condition.

And I can’t wait to take you on this journey with me as I embrace the familiar, and explore the unfamiliar.

Share with us in the comments: Have you recently faced a big life change? What advice would you give Betty?


  1. Simon says

    This sounds all too familiar.. When I left my first job, I pretty much went through the same thing.. I was surprised to see how supportive my parents were as well!

    Since then, I’ve rationalized it by working to to get a career instead of a job.. something that I can continually strive to be better for. It’s a tough task for someone born as a TCK.. but if you play your cards right, you can use your experiences to your advantage.. best of luck to you.. and have fun in your travels!


  2. Although I just returned to the area I’ve wanted to live in long-term for a while now, the move comes at the end of a 3-year period that’s seen me living/working in 5 different states and countries and reading your article rekindles that desire to keep on moving :-). Good luck with this coming phase in your life! I hope it gives you firm foundations to build on!


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