In-between Club: Tomoka Mori — Part 2 of 3

Tomoka Mori (Image courtesy Tomoka Mori)

​​Your “normal” is just a reflection of the world that you choose to see. This is one of the most powerful perspectives that I have come in touch with, in my life as a Third Culture Kid/Cross-Culture Kid (TCK/CCK). In fact, it was what made my entire life make sense as an insecure child with a shaky cultural and self-identity.

(Image courtesy Tomoka Mori)

At the age of three, I moved to the United States with my family for my father’s work. I recall identifying myself as somewhat American (although I was not), even before recognizing my Japanese identity. This eventually came to be the game starter of my lifelong self-searching journey. After leaving New York and returning to Japan at eight years old, I went to a public elementary school. This wiped out everything I knew of myself and turned my world upside down. I was targeted by the male bullies and was often left out from my female classmates as the “different kid.” 

Rather than believing in who I was, the best thing an eight-year-old girl had known at the time was to kill myself internally and to erase all of the colors I held. No piece of me felt proud of the fact that I grew up in the U.S.A., nor did I even think about it anymore myself. Without even noticing, I started to hide my background and feel ashamed of the fact that I had different backgrounds. Eventually, I started treating others without respect, just as I couldn’t respect myself. My self-esteem had fallen to the ground and the strong hatred toward myself took over me.
However, little did I know that the next six years in middle/high school were going to bring back the glimmer in me. I recall a vivid memory of being startled by my friends who shamelessly expressed their personas, being fearless of attention and humility.

Slowly, with time, I learned to be comfortable in my own skin. It allowed me once again to acknowledge my cross-cultural background, also reviving my sense of respect and worthiness. Being surrounded by such strong, accepting, diverse groups of people, it became the closest place I could call “home.”

(Image courtesy Tomoka Mori)

I still did not know which culture I belonged to long after this. However, the sense of belonging to a culturally undetermined space was what ultimately salvaged me through the challenging paths of reversed identity loss and inner child grieving that came later on. Although it may have taken an ample amount of time and struggle, at the end of the day, where I ended up was being comfortable in being a Third Culture Kid and a Cross-Cultural Kid. That was who I was: I belonged “in between” cultures.
It was when I struggled to find therapists that understood my TCK/CCK background, that it hit me that individual storytelling was the key game-changer. I felt that too many things were being generalized and that they were killing the individual contexts, which are indeed everything.

I quickly realized that everything that mattered in people, every color that they held were hidden in the shadows of abstract ideas and so-called norms of society.

Along with considering my TCK/CCK experiences in a relatively collective society — Japan — I thought of how phenomenal it would be to feel seen, feel validated and to even enable the individuality to become a blueprint for growth through democratized content. Without much doubt, I decided to start a podcast called the “In-between Club” with precious friends of mine.

Even as time flows, I know that I will never quit on following my passion and purpose. I strongly believe that I will continue my love for learning, and engage with the TCK/CCK community in a way to uplift the overall empowerment of cross-cultural individuals.

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