JUXTAPOSITION PHOTO SERIES – Part 2 of 3: Smitha Day’s Life Challenge as a TCK

I’m not as clingy as pet cat. I’m wandering on the street. I don’t belong to anyone. I belong to the earth. Photo taken by Xiaoya Cheng

As discussed in Part I of this series, A Street Cat Photo Series – Part 1: “I am who I am” Without Perception, Interview with Chumba Limo, I started my story from Mimi, the street cat, and then continued my topic of perception on the basis of Chumba Limo’s life experiences.

I mentioned in the part I that I couldn’t keep Mimi because of my allergy. While, the biggest concern was that she’s ultimately a street cat. It’s hard to make her a home cat. She couldn’t fit in the environment which has the opposite style of living. Taking away of her natural instincts and freedom sounds cruel. Another reason was, my parents were not welcoming to a street cat like Mimi.

Photo courtesy of Smitha Day

The theme of being “welcome” hits home through the story of Third Culture Kid Smitha Day, whose upbringing presented challenges:

The challenges included not being fully understood and accepted in my birth country both by family and the society at large. And by accepted, I mean there was an expectation I dress and sound like the larger community. When living abroad I learned languages and accents to fit in… what this did was let people assume I was from the local place and hence that part of me that was Indian got hidden…”

Photo courtesy of Smitha Day

Smitha Day overcame the difficult times, she claimed both Kentucky and India as her home.

She was born in India, lived in several countries growing up as her parents chose to build their career overseas. She moved to the Middle East approximately when she was three, and then on to Zaire at five and lived there until 14 years of age. At 18, she came to the U.S. for undergraduate studies.

“I attended International schools which contributed to my understanding of a global world,” she said.

She’s currently the executive Director of Global Bridge which is a non-profit organization that focuses on the mental health of international students in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of global-bridges.org

Talking about perception, Smitha said she taught herself to work through her own immediate perceptions and stereotypes by getting to know the individual, because no one wants people to have negative perceptions.

Smitha thinks having perceptions and stereotypes is not all bad. It helps have a beginning reference, but it becomes dysfunctional if we use those perceptions to cloud our ability to understand or make negative or positive assumptions about people based on what  category we think they belong in. In today’s diverse society, it’s very important to embrace diversity and embed a range of cultures, to achieve this goal, everyone needs to have the awareness of avoiding negative perception. We should always try not to follow the stereotypes, instead, thinking objectively.

Mimi’s life is a metaphor for such objective thinking.  She  is no ordinary cat – flouting the feline stereotypes of selfish, aloof, and antisocial behavior. I’ve seen so many sides of her. She could catch rats, she could also sit quietly and look at me just wanting a treat. She could be a responsible mother; She could also be like a kid, rubbing my leg just because she wanted to be touched. She could teach us so much about how to treat each other – objectively. As humans.

No matter how you think of me. I’m just me. Photo Taken by Xiaoya Cheng

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Celebrating Cross-Cultural TCK Identity
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