How you can conquer that TCK restlessness

As an adult Third Culture Kid, I used to always think and say to others: I get restless. I get bored Olivia Charleteasily. I need things to constantly be changing around me. I always thought it was logical: I’d lived in Tokyo, Dusseldorf, Johannesburg, Vienna, and Hamburg, all before the age of 18, and was accustomed to variety and movement. Things changing around me felt normal as I’d done it all my life.  I grew up thinking this is the norm. And it also made me think, this is why I am like this today in my 20’s. I’ll always feel restless and want to move every two years. It’s in my DNA; it’s what I’ve always known. It also confirmed my belief that I needed my environment to constantly be changing to stay happy. I needed this constant motion around me to not feel restless.

Around three years ago, I came to a realisation that I could create that change where I was and within. Instead of constantly searching for change around me by moving countries, I could do it right here in this city. I had always felt this restlessness creep up. Looking back though, I had allowed myself to get into that state of restlessness.  I would spend weeks doing the same thing everyday, seeing the same things every day, taking the same route to work, and doing the same thing practically every weekend. And then, I would say: I’m so restless. I feel like I need to move countries. It turns out it wasn’t that the city that had to change, it was me!

As soon as I came to this hypothesis, I tested it out. I made a conscious effort to change my world and grow within it.  I had realised I had stopped challenging myself. For example, I love to learn. Learning is crucial for me to stay excited and energised. And yet, I had not put any energy into learning something new or something I was passionate about in months.  I went to the nearest bookshop that Saturday and bought a book on psychology (I absolutely love the stuff!). I spent the whole afternoon reading and loving what I was learning.

My workouts were also getting boring; I had been spending 25 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes using weights every single day. That’s it. I hadn’t tried something new in ages. By doing the same workout all the time, I’d fallen into a rut. The next week, I decided to change gyms and joined one that had back to back classes: barre, circuit, pilates, yoga, strength, dance, zumba. Everything you could possibly think of. And guess what? I loved it. I was meeting new people, trying out new moves I’d never done before, learning about relaxation and breath in yoga, and strengthening my core in pilates. It was exciting and fresh. I was definitely not feeling restless after a 60-minute circuit class, drenched in sweat!

The reason I write this piece on restlessness as a TCK is that I know that these thoughts come up quite often for us: I’m bored of this place. I want to move cities. I want to travel.  And, sure, that’s absolutely fine. If you’re desperate to move, and you’re doing it for all the right reasons, go for it! It will be an amazing adventure. But I’d like to ask you this. Are you doing enough for yourself here in this city? In this life? If you’re not, moving countries won’t change that. The first 6 months in a new city will be crazy, exhilarating, intense and then…Sure enough, the state you’ll be in will be the same state you were in the last city you lived in.

That’s the thing about life. We can decide to move and change our surroundings, but really it’s what we do every day that makes us feel a certain way.  I also wanted to bring it up as I strongly believe that our state, whatever it may be – restless, energised, peaceful, composed, grounded has such a strong impact on our romantic relationships or lack thereof.  Constantly feeling restless and wanting to move can make it hard for us to build those lasting romantic relationships. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but if you’re always wishing you’d be somewhere else, it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you in the present moment.

1 comment

  1. This was such a great read for me! Even though I’m not personally a TCK, both pairs of my grandparents and my dad are and my family has traveled all over the United States. Listening to the stories from my grandparents and my dad as I grew up I came to love traveling and learning about new cultures so I can sometimes relate to this feeling of restlessness. I plan on studying abroad within the next year and whenever I get bored of school I think to myself, “I can’t wait till I’m in Europe. It’s going to so much more interesting than Fort Collins.” After reading this article I’m definitely going to take your advice and try to spice up my every day routine and try something new to curb those moments. 

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