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.
The last time I hit a quarter-life crisis, I moved across the country to a city where I knew only three people and started a job in a company of 1,000 employees. Just because I was bored.
Now it’s quarter-life crisis #2. Having just been laid-off, I began re-prioritizing my life. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. With my 100 hour work weeks, I used to dream about what I would do if I could just take one day off. Sleep in. Go to the park. Read in a coffee shop. Make dinner. Call an old friend. Finish a bottle of red wine by myself. I was overjoyed to realize that for the first time in my life, I was able to do all this… and more.
Now that I was in charge of my timeline, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I booked a flight home to Bangkok. But with the massive floods going on, I had to make some adjustments. So, the first stop was my secondary home base of Taipei, Taiwan.
While I was born in Taipei, and visited frequently growing up, I had not spent much time there as an adult. I had grown detached from my own home country, and this was my chance to reclaim my roots. In a TCK world, it is not uncommon to find our families fragmented around the world. In my re-prioritized life, I wanted to spend time with family, and finally make those family reunions I had been missing.
Returning to Taiwan felt like any other previous visit: Eating at favorite restaurants. Gathering at family dinners. Shrieking over how cheap shoes were. Showing my 90-year-old grandma exactly where in the world Chicago was, and then patiently explaining to why I lived so far away.
But yet, something was innately different about my visit this time around. Having allowed myself more time there, Taiwan was ripe for rediscovery. I traveled around the island sightseeing new places, and revisiting familiar sites. I paid attention to Asian history and its impact on my own country. I discovered new food (a feat in itself considering that I’ve done my share of eating). Above all, I deepened my relationship with my very big family of loud relatives, cousins and nephews. I was no longer a foreign object they saw once in awhile who flitted in and out of the country. I became one of them, of the family.
To me, Taiwan represented a neglected relationship that had grown apart, mostly because of the lack of effort on my part. This three week trip was the longest I’d ever spent there since I was a child, and the forlorn country proved to be charming, fun and even romantic at times.
With the floods finally receding, I will be heading to Bangkok, Thailand next. It’s the city I spent 18 years in, but because of its fast-paced growth, it’s perpetually foreign each time I come home. This time I will be able to see home through the different lenses of friends visiting and my 10 year high school reunion. I know, right? Say it isn’t so.
I often find it ironic and a bit difficult to explain the fact that I find my own home countries so foreign, despite spending the majority of my life there. This journey of homecoming and self-discovery will hopefully, and finally, give me the chance to belong somewhere.
If you had an unlimited amount of time to explore the world — would you go home? What would be the first thing you’d do?