Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is misconceived to be something one “moves past” but it is something that has a lasting impact on how you view the world, for a majority of one’s adult life.
I am lucky enough to be roommates with a TCK, and he was thankfully willing to share his experiences and story with me for this article. My roommate’s name is Lucius, he is part Korean and part Mexican, so he grew up in a very interesting melting pot of cultures as a child.
Yet, he started the interview by highlighting how being a TCK had many negative impacts and made things harder for him growing up. Lucius struggled with his identity as a child because a vast portion of family events he attended had his mom’s side of the family and were culturally very Mexican events. But his father wanted Lucius to be influenced by his Korean culture as well, so he was caught in the middle of both of these cultures, unable to decide what to identify with.
As a child, Lucius struggled with this and viewed being a TCK as a negative thing in his life, yet with time and age, he has taken a new more optimistic view of it. When I asked him how his view of being a TCK has changed since his childhood, he told me the following.
“When I was younger, I thought it meant I didn’t have a real identity, but now as I’ve been able to take a step back and understand it all better, I look at it as I get the pleasure of participating in both cultures of my parents and I am not locked down to one the way I thought I was when I was a kid.”
This comment was extremely insightful, as I got to understand how this change occurred and caused being a TCK to start to play a positive role in Lucius’s life. Being culturally fluid is a skill that many people take most of their lives to learn. Yet, Lucius was able to understand how to become culturally fluid out of a need to have one foot in both of his parents’ cultures.
I look at it as I get the pleasure of participating in both cultures of my parents and I am not locked down to one the way I thought I was when I was a kid.
This skill comes naturally to him and allows him to not only apply the lens of culturally fluidity to his own life, but to apply it to others as well. This means Lucius has grown to be very good at empathizing with people of other cultures and he has even taught some individuals how to better embrace being a Third Culture Kid.
Providing guidance as an adult
He went on to tell me, “Now I see kids like my younger cousins going through the same internal dilemma that I went though as a child, not knowing my identity. It hurts me to see that, but now that it’s them going through it and I know how to assist with that, I can provide them the guidance I wish someone was there to give me when I was a kid.
“So today, I am in a weird way glad that I went through the struggles I did as a kid because now it manifests in a positive way, helping others realize being a TCK is a blessing not a curse,” he added.
The way that Lucius told me this was somewhat beautiful. The struggles he had faced and the ways he thought being a Third Culture Kid had weighed him down, actually ended up being his launchpad and helped him unlock a part of himself he did not know he had.
I am in a weird way glad that I went through the struggles I did as a kid.
Helping others is something Lucius is very passionate about today and while he doesn’t yet know what he seeks to do as a career, he hopes it ties into helping Third Culture Kids realize their full potential.
Being a TCK can be something that gives you drive and purpose, and one must simply harness it and understand that, like it was for Lucius, and can be a serious blessing.